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.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
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. . .