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.
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .