If I didn’t spend every morning writing about things that bug me, I’d have more time to write about new books . . . Which, in the end, is probably more interesting and useful. So here are three more September titles:
We’re going to be running a review of this title in the near future, but instead of describing the book, I want to point out Danish Accent Fogtdal’s excellent blog that includes some info about The Tsar’s Dwarf.
The Tsar’s Dwarf is the story of a Danish dwarf who is given to the Russian Tsar Peter The Great as a gift. She is brought to the Russian court where she falls in love, is humiliated, and treated like a toy. It’s a funny but gruesome story about human dignity. At least, that’s what it says on the cover, so it must be true.
Also on his blog is an excerpt from the book, and a sweet rant about the Olympics that includes making fun of Americans for not getting badminton (one of the sports I wish NBC had covered better, along with table tennis and team handball) and this bit about Michael Phelps:
What’s wrong with Michael Phelps? I worry about him. Sure, he has won eight gold medals, but what’s up with the greed? Can’t you get enough, Michael? Aren’t you aware that you’ve won eight times as many medals as fucking India? India is a continent, Michael. It’s not a dump in Michigan. Have a little respect.
I wouldn’t say Ann Arbor is a dump, and I don’t think India is its own continent, but still, this gave me a chuckle.
Although their book production has changed a bit (compare one of the new titles to Unger’s The Maimed and you’ll know what I mean), Twisted Spoon Press still produces some fine looking books from some very interesting European authors. We have a couple TSP reviews coming in the near future, and this sounds like a book we should take a closer look at as well:
Taking its cue both from Joyce’s Ulysses and Hrabal’s freely associating stream of anecdote, Of Kids & Parents is about a father and son taking a walk through Prague, over the course of which, and in the pubs and bars they stop into, their personal lives are revealed as entwined with the past sixty years of upheaval in their corner of Europe.
And this Boyd Tonkin quote doesn’t hurt: “Anyone who has ever crawled from pub to pub in Prague — or anyone who wants to — should read this utterly beguiling novel of uproarious surfaces and melancholy depths.”
Along with Dubravka Ugresic, Drakulic is one of the few female writers from the former Yugoslavia whose books are routinely published in English translation. And along with Ugresic and three other female Croatian authors, she was labeled a “witch” in the infamous 1992 Globus article that lead to at least Ugresic and Drakulic leaving Croatia to live in exile. Drakulic made a name for herself first as a journalist, but has since become a respected novelist.
The Frida in the title is Frida Kahlo, and this is a fictional book that blends Frida’s paintings and imagined interior life. The San Francisco Chronicle recently gave it a decent review, though admitting that the book doesn’t always succeed.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .