After a bit of a hiatus, Tom Roberge and Chad W. Post are back to discuss what we mean when we say that a book is “difficult.” They use a range of examples, from Finnegans Wake to Mrs. Dalloway to define a few different categories of reading “difficulty,” such as, not being compelled, and having to read a book like a puzzle.
For a Three Percent podcast, this one is pretty serious, and even more interesting than usual. And for those who are interested, here’s a list of all the books/artists discussed this week:
Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector
Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolff
P.T. Anderson’s movies
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Hawthorne & Child by Keith Ridgway
Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
A Wilderness of Error by Errol Morris
This week’s music is Breezeblocks by alt-J (∆), which is a cool song, with a really disturbed video—but one that fits this week’s podcast pretty well, since the narrative technique employed forces the viewer to puzzle things out, with the end changing the viewers understanding of what happened quite dramatically.
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.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .