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.
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
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. . .