I floated the idea of starting some sort of monthly book club in my year-end poetry list, and after Tom and I talked about it on the latest podcast, I convinced myself that this would be a fun and interesting idea to try and implement.
My general idea is that every month we would feature two Reading the World Book Club books2 here on Three Percent: one prose work (mostly fiction, but not necessarily) and one poetry collection. Every week there would be at least one post about each of these books, ranging from some general observations to interviews with the translators or authors, guest posts by booksellers and readers, podcast discussions, whatever.
I’m not sure exactly how this will develop, in part because I don’t want to overthink it, but would rather see how it could grow organically through input and participation from all of you. Here are some general thoughts though:
1) For both prose and poetry, I’d like to include authors from twelve different countries throughout the year (with maybe a maximum of two [or three?] Spanish titles);
2) There will be an equal number of books by men and women;
3) After the first few selections—which are listed below—I think it would be great to have people vote on which titles to include;
4) It would be great if the cool bookstores across the country would help support this by displaying the selected titles each month, which is why I think we should try and restrict this to mostly new titles that are likely to be in stock;
5) It would be amazing to feature at least twenty different presses throughout the year, and as wide a range of books as possible (sci-fi to literary to noir, although I’m sure it will trend towards literary); and,
6) The weekly posts could include any number of things, but mostly I don’t want them to be overly academic, or too much like book reviews. Book clubs function somewhat differently, and it would be fun to gather reactions from a lot of readers who aren’t necessarily evaluating the books on the same criteria as a professional critic. I think this will work itself out over time.
Other than that, I think this should just be fun and interesting and another way that we can move this website/blog away from news about the book industry (which I’m burnt out on) into more discussion of books that are being published.
In terms of the books to include in this, it feels like a good idea to announce the first four months right now, in hopes that this will give participants time to plan ahead. Then, at the end of February, I can post some possibilities for May and June, and everyone can vote on them.
So, first off, here are the four prose titles I pulled out from the database:
January 2016: The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz, translated from the German by Adrian Nathan West (Dorothy Project)
February 2016: On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (New Directions)
March 2016: The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith (Hogarth)
April 2016: Horses, Horses, In the End the Light Remains Pure by Hideo Furukawa, translated from the Japanese by Doug Slaymaker with Akiko Takenaka (Columbia University Press)
And for poetry:
January 2016: Twelve Stations by Tomasz Różycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston (Zephyr Press)
February 2016: Monospace by Anne Parian, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan (La Presse)
March 2016: Days When I Hide My Corpse in a Cardboard Box by Natalia Chan, translated from the Cantonese by Eleanor Goodman (Zephyr Press)
April 2016: Absolute Solitude by Dulce Maria Loynaz, translated from the Spanish by James O’Connor (Archipelago)
OK, let’s see how this goes. If you have any suggestions, comments, questions, initial reactions to The Weight of Things or Twelve Stations, just email me at chad.post [at] rochester [dot] edu. And later this week I’ll post introductory remarks for both of the books.
1 I still have two lists that I want to put together—the main one being one on noir in translation—but this may have to wait a bit. I have to finish creating all the tipsheets for our September 2016-March 2017 titles and then have to spend a week in Texas at MLA, Brazos, and the Wild Detectives. Oh, and when I get back, classes start!
2 Some of you old timers might remember the Reading the World program that Karl Pohrt and I launched way back in the mid-2000s. It was a way of helping booksellers display literature in translation during the month of May (which PEN had declared Literature in Translation month once upon a time). We worked with ten publishers to promote twenty different titles at over a hundred indie stores across the country. We produced brochures, posters, web materials, and even threw a swanky party at BEA. Anyway, that idea fizzled out when I quit Dalkey and Karl got sick, but right now Michael Reynolds from Europa Editions and I are scheming up a plan for RTW 2.0 of which these book clubs could play a part. Stay tuned for more details!
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. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .