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.
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. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .