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.
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .