Ever since the year 2000, every year seems less believable to me . . . When I was a kid, I never thought I’d see the year 2000, much less the year 2010, after which, 2011 seems sort of anti-climactic. Sure, this technically marks the start of a new decade, but since we never named the last one, it feels pretty non-inspiring. (I mean really, “The Naughts”? WTF? Give me the “Roaring Twenties” or something that makes the time I’m living in sound totally BADASS.)
Nevertheless, the start of a new year is a great time for year end lists (LOVE) and resolutions of the diet and reading variety. I usually don’t do things like this, but when Carolyn Kellogg of the L.A. Times asked for my literary resolution of 2011, I came up with two goals: 1) to give away more books than I acquire this year (good luck! As of this morning I’m already a book and a manuscript in the hole) and 2) to read at least 52 translations over the course of the year. Which seems doable . . . maybe. I’m hoping to post reviews of most of these here (where I’m hoping we can review 100 titles over the course of 2011—a third goal for the new year), but will definitely post short write-ups on Goodreads (username: Chad Post), which has become my latest neurotic pleasure. (Seriously, as soon as I finish a book and/or start one, I log it in at Goodreads. So weird.)
So far, over the weekend I finished re-reading Manuel Puig’s Heartbreak Tango, which is by far my favorite of all of his books, and which I plan on using in the “World Literature & Translation” course I’m going to teach this spring . . . One down, fifty-one to go . . .
Going back to Carolyn’s post for a second, I would like to point out a few of the cooler resolutions for 2011:
David Kipen, former NEA director of literature and owner of Libros Scmibros bookstore in Boyle Heights: Find my Kindle.
Rachel Kushner, author of the novel “Telex From Cuba”: One of my resolutions is to finish the Recognitions, by William Gaddis. I’m on page 650. I have a ways to go, since it’s almost 1,000 pages. I’m not sure why I need a resolution to finish such an incredible novel: it’s startling on a line by line basis. I think I am almost afraid of its cumulative effect. So slick and erudite is it that it may pose some worldview that’s entirely retrograde or demonic or at the very least curmudgeonly, and I won’t know it, and will have internalized whatever its message is, and by the time I realize this, I will have been thoroughly indoctrinated. Because the tone of it, the one that can be grasped, convinces the reader she is in the hands of the Subject Supposed to Know.
The staff of Electric Literature: Our book-related resolution is to stop drinking so much.
I have a better chance of this 52 translations goal if I sign up for resolution number 3 . . .
But in terms of literary resolutions, Michael Orthofer called my attention to this piece by The New Republic senior editor Ruth Franklin on “being a better reader in 2011”:
3. Learn a new language. I have a degree in comparative literature and read a few languages well, yet even I didn’t review many books in translation this year. Critics love to bemoan the dearth of foreign literature available in translation in this country, and to avow our support for presses—like Open Letter or Archipelago Books—that devote their resources to promoting global literature. But how often do we actually review it? This year, I pledge to devote more space to work in translation.
Finally, to close this first post of the XXXX 10s, here are a few things I’ll be posting/launching over the course of this month: new update to the Translation Database, the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award Fiction longlist, a new series covering each of the BTBA fiction longlist titles, reviews of Hotel Europa, Sixty-Five Years of Washington, The Box, Primeval and Other Times, and at least four more, and more info on untranslated books from around the world. Also going to start a new Friday feature of excerpts from new books. Probably start with some Open Letter titles, but hopefully this’ll expand quickly to include other interesting books and presses.
So there. Welcome to 2011.
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. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .