We’re all about Melville House . . . in addition to the forthcoming post about Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai, we also just posted this new review of Kevin Vennemann’s Close to Jedenew another book from Melville House’s Contemporary Art of the Novella Series.
This review was written by Douglas Carlsen, who is the director of Whitman College Bookstore and has been making his living from books in one way or another since 1970. He’s also an actor, director, poet, short story writer, and co-owner of Willowbend Farm.
His very thoughtful review begins:
“We do not breathe.”
So begins Kevin Vennemann’s Close to Jedenew. The story of an event. A day in July, 1941. A moment between evening and night. Between “what was” and “nothing remaining.” A survivor’s tale—of movement from the “we” to the “I.” A story of loss—“in the evening we sit, nine in number, at night we are six”—until no one but the narrator remains.
Living just outside the small farming community of Jedenew in eastern Poland, a Jewish family
“[sits] behind the house in the midsummer evening sun on the narrow wooden dock that leads out into the pond behind the house, [they] sit and lie and swim in the sun and sit together reading and drink the first and last summer punch of the year.”
The first and last summer punch. The last evening. The tale of a family’s personal Kristallnacht, and following holocaust, at the hands of longtime neighbors and friends—
“On this evening, this last evening, it is Antonina who says softly: They’re coming.” For hours the Jedenew farmers sit in the woods behind the house and drink and laugh and sing and play, and only after hours go by do we finally hear them coming out of the woods, singing at the top of their voices and marching over the ridge into the garden.
What happens in the twilight we are never told.
The rest can be found by clicking here.
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .