On this week’s podcast, Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times joined us to discuss Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, Bleeding Edge. All three of us are Pynchon fans, and all three of us really liked this latest book. Although, as we talk about, the fact that we experienced a lot of the cultural items Pynchon references makes this a bit odd . . . Like, Pynchon’s watched Office Space? He is aware of Pokemon and Beanie Babies?
In our conversation, we also referenced two images, the first is of the insane military tower in Montauk:
And also, Tom’s beard:
This week’s music, which will make sense when you get to the discussion, is Semisonic’s Closing Time.
Finally: Tom wanted to respond to my über-pissy comments on the last podcast blog, which is only fair. So here’s his final word:
Ok, fair enough: “intentionally esoteric” was an unfair gut reaction. This is not, however, a straight mea culpa. While I admit that you have done, as you said and stressed, “lifelong research” on international literature, and that said research has translated (get it?) into unmatched enthusiasm for these books that definitely deserve wider audiences, I do think it’s fair to say that it comes off a bit like two West Village record store employees geeking out over import LP’s from obscure Next Wave bands. Which is fine. But it does—and this is, as devout listeners know, something of a persistent issue of mine—smack, ever-so-slightly, of elitism. I’m not suggesting that in the act of composing the list you intentionally set out to demonstrate that your taste in translated literature is far superior to anyone else’s, or that people who do read and love the books included in _Flavorwire_’s list are flat-out ignorant, but there’s a hint of that sentiment.
The only reason I made the statement in the first place is because I believe that there are tons of books that fall somewhere between the predictable ones on the first list and those on Chad and Stephen’s on the spectrum of translated literature. Books that aren’t in the canon (yet) but that also aren’t so under-appreciated that the average literary reader hasn’t heard of them.
In the end, like Chad or anyone who toils in this poorly-lit corner of publishing or book selling, all I want is for people to 1) know about good books they might like; and 2) read those books. The problem with any and all lists is exclusion; working within finite confines, you chose what include, and were thus obligated to exclude others. So it goes.
In Josep Maria de Sagarra’s Private Life, a man harangues his friend about literature while walking through Barcelona at night:
When a novel states a fact that ties into another fact and another and another, as the chain goes on. . .
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
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. . .