8 August 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over at the New Yorker, there’s a really interesting interview with cover designer Peter Mendelsund, whose new book, What We See When We Read, sounds amazing:

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading—how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader.

What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like? The collection of fragmented images on a page—a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so—and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved—or reviled—literary figures. In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf’s Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature—he considers himself first and foremost as a reader—into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this, and I’m sure I’ll write something up about it after I have a chance to read it, but the part of the New Yorker interview that I really wanted to share is this part about the forthcoming new editions of Calvino’s books:

You’re in the middle of repackaging the work of the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Can you tell me how that project came to you?

A year or so ago I received an e-mail from Giovanna Calvino, who is Calvino’s daughter, and she said that she had read, in an interview I gave somewhere, that I loved her father’s work, that she was working with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to repackage the backlist, and would I be interested in doing it? I can’t tell you what a shock it was to have the name Calvino in my inbox. Obviously I jumped at the chance to work on these. So then I did what I always do when designing a backlist series: I started to reread all of the books. This is, by far, the most fun part of these kinds of projects—the reacquainting oneself with not just some of the work but all of it. But finding images that could represent all of these books, and make them work as a series, is a particularly tricky problem, because there are three distinct stages to Calvino’s writing: a realist phase, a fantastical phase, and a kind of semiotic or metafictional phase. So it was a challenge, but a really fun one.

I’d been working on my monograph, “Cover,” which is primarily photos of my book covers, and I wondered if it would be meta, in a way very appropriate for Calvino, if each of his books featured a photo of a book on it. The first idea that came to me was completely absurdist in a way that I imagine Calvino would have loved—to photograph each of the old editions of Calvino and frame them, so that you’d have a sort of catalogue of old Calvino books. Then it occurred to me: If we’re going to take photos of Calvino books, wouldn’t it be better if we made Calvino books that don’t exist? The next stage was designing imaginary Calvino books. “The Path to the Spider’s Nest” was going to be a kind of young-adult pulp book; “The Baron in the Trees” an old, eighteenth-century-style Italian cloth-wrapped, foil-stamped book; “Cosmicomics” a comic book. I could make them not just books but written artifacts of various kinds—“Six Memos for the Next Millennium” could be literally memos. We would make one copy of each book and photograph it for each cover. I don’t normally collaborate, but there’s a wonderful designer, Oliver Munday, who is also interested in Calvino, and we worked together on this project.

What came next?

At the beginning of “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller,” the narrator is addressing the reader in the second person, and he tells you that you see the steam from a locomotive go over the opening paragraph of the book. I loved the idea of the text itself interacting with specific imagery, and I thought maybe it would be interesting if I actually set the opening paragraph of each book on the cover, with an illustration intermingling with it. “The Baron in the Trees” would have the branches weaving through the words.

But somehow I worried that they wouldn’t sell the book properly—that they might be too visually busy to be viscerally affecting. So I started thinking about doing illustrations of abstract shapes that by themselves don’t necessarily have a ton of meaning, and on each one drawing a line or two that would add to that meaning, or bring it into focus. I made a tree-like thing that was just a blob, then inserted a little sword into it, like a sword a child might draw, which becomes a tree trunk. This seemed to work. I made some more of them. They have a kind of Calder-like feeling. I like their seeming naïveté.

And these were chosen for the finished covers, correct?

Yes, but in the middle of that I had this crazy revelation of how I thought these books should be, a kind of bolt from the blue, while I was on the subway. I just had this crystalline vision of the whole series. The covers would be all type, and each one would have a description of an imaginary book jacket on it, each one written by a different author. We would get a bunch of great writers I know who are huge Calvino fans to write them. The jackets would be ekphrastic. Everything would have to be imagined by the reader. No actual imagery on the covers. Robin Desser, an editor here at Knopf, said it was the most Calvino-esque idea she’d ever heard.

In the end I showed Giovanna all three ideas—the photographs, the illustrations, and the ekphrastic direction—and she liked them, and her mother, Calvino’s widow, agreed to the all-type direction. But then there were some objections that they would be hard to see as thumbnails on Amazon. I think honestly the publisher was looking for something a little poppier and user-friendly. In the end I was happy enough with any of these directions that it didn’t really matter to me, though I still think that the all-type thing was one of those once-in-a-lifetime ideas. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have Calvino himself write those descriptions. But I’m happy with the finals, and I think they will really stand out on a shelf.

Calvino is an all-time favorite of mine, and these reissues are a perfect opportunity to reread him and write up a bunch of stuff for Three Percent . . . The first three books — Into the War, Collection of Sand, and The Complete Cosmicomics — come out this fall, and we’ll post more info about them then.

6 August 14 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Vincent Francone on A Musical Hell by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Yvette Siegert and published by New Directions as part of their Poetry Pamphlet series.

Here’s the beginning of Vince’s review:

The best way to review Alejandra Pizarnik’s slim collection, A Musical Hell, published by New Directions as part of their Poetry Pamphlet series, is to begin by stating that it is poetry with a capital P: serious, dense, and, some might say, difficult. Take from that what you will, but I’m going to follow an idea from Julio Cortázar who, in a letter to Pizarnik (reprinted as a preface to this collection), wrote: “You’ve heard of this reviewing method where you page through a book and cite various verses and passages, then make some comment to praise or shoot it down? I don’t care for this sort of thing.” Okay, point taken, Sr. Cortázar. I’m going to avoid that kind of review this time and try to capture instead the impression of Pizarnik’s art, a truly foolish endeavor on my part but here goes:

bq, The poems are not formal, though they are earnest, surreal, indebted to artistic traditions that broke with tradition, which was quite a thing in 1971 (when the poems were first published in their native Spanish) I am sure, but in 2014 I must admit that the effect is diminished. Poets have been liberated by the likes of Pizarnik and her forbearers Vallejo, Lorca, Desnos—really most post Victorians you can think of. Subsequently, it seems that the most radical thing to do in the 21st century is to turn away from this sort of free verse.

For the rest of the review, go here.

6 August 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Although it wasn’t all that long ago that László Krasznahorkai and Elisa Biagini won the Best Translated Book Award, but it’s already time to look ahead to the 2015 iteration—the first step of which is announcing the new group of judges.

Similar to years past, the fiction panel will consist of nine members, and five for poetry.

The fiction group consists of: George Carroll (Northwest Publishers’ Representative, Shelf Awareness), Monica Carter (Salonica), James Crossley (Island Books), Scott Esposito (Center for the Art of Translation, Conversational Reading), Jeremy Garber (Powells), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (Asymptote), Madeleine LaRue (Music & Literature), Daniel Medin (American University of Paris, Cahiers Series), and Michael Orthofer (Complete Review).

Poetry is made up of: Biswamit Dwibedy (poet), Bill Martin (translator, co-founder of The Bridge), Dawn Lundy Martin (poet), Erica Mena-Landry (poet, translator, managing director of ALTA) and Stefan Tobler (And Other Stories and translator).

For all publishers/authors/translators out there who want their book(s) to be entered into the BTBA, all you have to do is send a copy to each one of the judges (and one to me so that we can log it). You can send either a physical copy OR a PDF/ebook. Just make sure you send it before December 31, 2014.

Any work that’s available in the United States for the first time ever (no retranslations, new editions, etc.) that’s published between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014 is eligible. (Even if you don’t send in a copy, but your chances of winning increase exponentially by letting more judges read your work.)

Click here for mailing labels for the fiction judges, here for labels that include email addresses.

Click here for mailing labels for the poetry judges, here for labels that include email addresses.

In terms of dates, the longlists—25 fiction works, 10 poetry—will be announced on March 2nd, with the finalists—10 fiction, 5 poetry—on April 13th. The winners will be announced on April 27th and we’ll have a celebration in New York City on May 1st.

More info soon!

5 August 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The American Literary Translators Association, which is finally really trying to get its shit together in terms of its public and web presence, just announced the 15-title longlist for this year’s National Translation Award.

If you haven’t heard of the NTA, here’s all the necessary info: this is the sixteenth year the award is being given out; in contrast to the BTBA, it’s the “only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of the source text and its relation to the finished English work”; the finalist judges are Barbara Epler (Publisher, New Directions), Elaine Katzenberger (Publisher, City Lights), and Jessica Cohen (renowned translator from the Hebrew); the winning translator will receive $5,000; and the finalists will be announced in October, with the winner being announced at the ALTA conference in Milwaukee from November 12-15.

Here’s the full longlist!

Poems of Consummation by Vicente Aleixandre
Translated from the Spanish by Stephen Kessler
(Black Widow Press)

Cavafy: Complete Plus by C.P. Cavafy
Translated from the Greek by George Economou
(Shearsman Books)

The Dark by Sergio Chejfec
Translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary
(Open Letter Books)

Theme of Farewell and After-Poems by Milo de Angelis
Translated from the Italian
by Susan Stewart & Patrizio Ceccagnoli
(The University of Chicago Press)

Life’s Good, Brother by Nazim Hikmet
Translated from the Turkish by Mutlu Konuk Blasing
(Persea Books, Inc.)

Distant Lands: An Anthology of Poets who Don’t Exist by Agnieszka Kuciak
Translated from the Polish by Karen Kovacik
(White Pine Press)

A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski
Translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
(Archipelago Books)

Between Friends by Amos Oz
Translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Girl with the Golden Parasol by Uday Prakash
Translated from the Hindi by Jason Gruenbaum
(Yale Univeristy Press)

The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
Translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray
(Yale University Press)

Four Elemental Bodies by Claude Royet-Journoud
Translated from the French by Keith Waldrop
(Burning Deck)

Light and Dark: A Novel by Natsume Soseki
Translated from the Japanese by John Nathan
(Columbia University Press)

Crossings by Habib Tengour
Translated from the French by Marilyn Hacker
(The Post-Apollo Press)

An Invitation For Me to Think by Alexander Vvedensky
Translated from the Russian by Eugene Ostashevsky & Matvei Yankelevich
(New York Review Books)

A Schoolboy’s Diary by Robert Walser
Translated from the German by Damion Searls
(New York Review Books)

5 August 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s podcast focuses on two main things: This article by Tim Parks about the sales of Knausgaard’s books, and the sale of BookLamp to Apple for an obscene amount of money.

This week’s music is MTLOV from the new A Sunny Day in Glasgow album.


30 July 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

A lot of people are going to have a lot to say about this, but for anyone interested in the inner workings of publishing, ebooks, and pricing, it’s worth checking out this open letter from Amazon about their ongoing dispute with Hachette.

Just to recap: Hachette and Amazon are currently negotiating over terms, a situation that entered the public consciousness when Amazon stopped accepting preorders for Hachette titles. This led to Stephen Colbert encouraging people to order Edan Lepucki’s novel California from Powells.com, and generally revitalizing the spirit of independent booksellers.

There have been numerous rumors about what Amazon wants from Hachette, mostly focusing on Amazon charging Hachette to have “buy buttons” on their books, demanding larger co-op payments (basically a kickback on books sold that’s then used to market other books from that publisher, a common practice with booksellers of all sizes for decades now), and a larger cut of ebook sales.

Who knows what’s true and what’s misinformation, but Amazon’s letter is an attempt to address the ebook part of this:

With this update, we’re providing specific information about Amazon’s objectives.

A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. [. . .]

So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger – how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% — we did have a big problem with the price increases.

I highly doubt this is the only thing holding up the Hachette-Amazon negotiations. And, because I’m a dick, I think the suggestion to Hachette to split their ebook royalties 50-50 with the author (spoiler: they don’t do that now and probably never will) is a funny jab. But the thing that’s most interesting to me is the price elasticity bit of this.

Again, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt—Amazon is releasing these numbers to help sway public opinion while negotiating with a major publishing house. But, at the same time, if anyone has the data to plot out the impact of price on sales for ebooks, it’s Amazon. And something about this feels right to me.

There are a few things at play with the $9.99 thing that are kind of interesting to me, starting with the supply-demand math to figure out the ideal price point. With enough data, you can plot sales for books at various price points, graph this against the variable costs for producing the ebooks, and find the number at which you’ll make the greatest profit.

None of that is how pricing works in the book industry. At best, one might do a simple calculation involving fixed costs, advances, printing bills, distribution fees, marketing costs, projected sales, to come up with a price that will give you an acceptable profit margin. (E.g., if a book costs $45,000 to make and market, and you’re expecting to sell 10,000 copies, you could price it at $15, which will give you ~$56,000 after discounts and other fees.) Even typing that out feels really low-rent. Sure, every book is different, and audiences will pay different amounts for different things, but you’d like to think that by this point in publishing history, more of that is quantified and understood. (I don’t work at a Big Five publisher, obviously, so they might tell me that it is and that I’m full of shit, but I doubt it’s all that sophisticated when compared to most other industries.)

What makes this all difficult to figure out mathematically is the interplay between printed books and ebooks. If you price your ebook optimally, at say $7.99, how many print book sales is that going to cannibalize? There are ways to figure out how to optimally price the two goods—the print book and ebook—to maximize revenue, but again, I kind of doubt many publishers are trying to figure this out.

One reason there’s some resistance to this sort of thinking and calculating is because it would upend the current business model for a lot of big presses. The system of expensive hardcover, cheaper paperback, sub-rights sales, has worked so well for so long . . . What Amazon, through the wide adoption of ebooks, has done is create a pressure that shifts some of the profits from that model to the customer. Readers are now accustomed to discounts, to ebooks costing $9.99 or less, and never paying suggested retail value for these books.

Which is what I find really interesting . . . There’s a bit of a socio-cultural element to the $9.99 price, the feeling that this is what is “right,” that books shouldn’t cost more than that. Which is weird, and partially stems from the relationship to music prices—remember when CDs were $18 a piece? No one would pay that today with $10 iTunes albums and free streaming services—and partially to the idea that a lot of the money you pay for a book goes, not to the author, but to a handful of corporations along the way.

If I buy California for $26, Edan Lepucki probably earns about $2.00 back on her advance. The rest of that goes to the bookstore, the publisher, the agent, the distributor, etc. And although there are always exceptions that make bank as writers, this article from The Guardian paints a bleak picture with the median income for writers in the £11,000 range. (Highly respected author Will Self is quoted in this, so we’re not talking about your neighbor’s kid who wrote a “book” and is now a “writer.”)

For bookstores to remain in business, prices have to stay rather high, ebooks can’t cannibalize sales too much, and people have to shop at real life stores. This is another motivating factor for publishers to resist the $9.99 ebook pricing scenario—to give bookstores a fighting chance.

I wonder about the customer perspective though. We’ve grown accustomed to $7.99 monthly fees from Netflix, to paying $1.99 for an app, to streaming music for free or buying a song for $.99. It’s hard to convince someone that an ebook is equivalent to two months of Netflix or 100 extra lives on Candy Crush.

I know this is meandering, pointless, and a reiteration of things I’ve written before, but I feel like the future of books depends in part on how society treats the activity of reading. Things aren’t the way they were—people seem to treat me with zoo-like curiosity when I read a book in a bar over a pint or glass of wine (bear in mind that this is Rochester, not NY or Seattle or Minneapolis)—and won’t ever return to those times. But there’s also a sort of hyper-active drive among techno-enthusiasts who want to create all sorts of new upstart e-reading services to cash in on the changes in our reading habits. Recommendation websites, platforms to allow people to self-publish stories in a serial format, etc. These sorts of companies are helping to disassociate ebooks from printed books, move them into a different category of goods, where you make a decision whether to buy a $3.99 ebook or a $3.99 app, rather than one $15 book instead of a different $15 book.

I have more thoughts and questions about this—like how individuals think about their spending money, and whether more books can be sold by getting them into this “app category” where people are more willing to spend money, rather than in the “books category,” where a semi-expensive purchase comes with a 10-hour commitment in order to enjoy what you bought—but I’ll save it for other posts.

30 July 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In a few weeks, we’ll be releasing A Thousand Forests in One Acorn, one of the most impressive—and beautiful—books that we’ve ever published. It’s a 715-page beast that was put together by Valerie Miles (one of the people behind Granta’s “Best of Young Spanish-language Novelists” special issue) featuring twenty-eight Spanish-language authors, from Aurora Venturini (born 1922) to Evelio Rosero (born 1958). Of these authors, about half have been translated into English (Javier Marias, Carlos Fuentes, Enrique Vila-Matas, etc.), and the other half are making their way into English for the first time ever—like Elvio Gandolfo.

But before getting into Gandolfo, there are a couple more things to say about this book, which isn’t your typical anthology. For this collection, each author selected the piece to be included on the basis that it’s the “aesthetic high point” of their writing career. Then, they answered a number of questions about this piece and their writing life, explaining their influences, what they were trying to do in the included excerpt, etc. All of this is prefaced by insightful short biographies (written by Valerie Miles) and capped off by a bibliography of the author’s works in Spanish and in English . . . In other words: This is a damn amazing, useful, impressive book.1

Ninth Letter, a “collaborative arts and literary project produced by the Graduate Creative Writing Program and School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,” and one of the most beautiful lit mags out there, decided to run one of the pieces from A Thousand Forests in One Acorn, “The Moment of Impact” by Elvio Gandolfo, a story about a whale falling on a city.

You can read the entire story here, but to entice you, here’s a bit of what Gandolfo had to say about it:

I tried to make something impossible, at least in terms of the physical laws and limits we are bound by at this moment in science and history, plausible. In that sense, the story satisfies me fully. Besides, it seems to be written for nobody . . . At another time, I might have come up with a single short sentence (“a whale falls on a city”) and I wouldn’t have even written it down. When I did, however, I filled in all the details composing that precise moment and “the space of the impact.” The businesses, the streets, names of the residents of 1043 on Peatonal Córdoba (taken from the name plates on the building’s intercom) are (or were) real. When you use actual landmarks you discover the limits of what is really real for the people living in that place.

This is one of the outstanding voices that I discovered in working on this book, and I’m willing to bet that almost all Three Percent readers will love this piece. So go to Ninth Letter now and read it. And then preorder the book—it’s worth the $19.95 just for the production quality.

1 Over the month of September, we’ll be doing a special Three Percent promotion for this, running an excerpt from an interview or a piece of fiction every day. More on that in the near future.

28 July 14 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Tiffany Nichols on Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin, translated by Patsy Southgate, published by New Directions.

There’s some kind of summer flu-plague bug going around at the office here, so we’re short on humor and personal anecdotes. Also, Rochester is a city of downpours and flash flooding and even road-caving today, so it’s a great day to cut all pretense and just read about reading books. Here’s the beginning of Tiffany’s review:

Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had in our 20s, while still bearing a literary feel that is more thought provoking than The Catcher in the Rye. Perhaps this is why Patti Smith, as described in the introduction, carried around the work in her travels for so many years.

Astragal begins in a disruptive and disjointed style, evolving into a tragic love story and ending with the empowering breakup. The anti-heroine, Anne, escapes from prison only to injure her ankle after jumping from the prison wall. From there she crawls to the road, where she is picked up by a criminal, Julien, and taken to a defunct brothel on the outskirts of Paris run by Nini and Nini’s boyfriend, partners in crime. The longer Anne is in hiding the more necrotic her leg becomes, until she is eventually taken to the hospital by Nini, who poses as Anne’s sister to prevent recognition of Anne as the escapee. After numerous surgeries, Anne’s ankle bones are fused together resulting in a painful recovery and a permanent limp. This ankle injury, as you likely guessed, is a subtext for the innocence and often forgotten things in life that can cause inflated problems in our lives, i.e., prison, but once we overcome or move past them, they revert back to their innocent state—except now there is a residual existence manifested through memory and paranoia of their return.

For the rest of the review, go here.

25 July 14 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Megan Berkobien on Live Bait by Fabio Genovesi, translated by Michael Moore and out from Other Press.

Meg is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, a writer, and a translator from Spanish. Her translations have appeared on Words without Borders and Asymptote, among others, and her translation of Christina Peri Rossi’s Strange Flying Objects is forthcoming February 2015 from Ox and Pigeon. You can also read samples of her work at her website here.

Here’s the beginning of Meg’s review:

When my eyes first crossed the back cover of Fabio Genovesi’s novel Live Bait, I was caught by a blurb nestled between accolades, a few words from a reviewer for La Repubblica stating that the novel was, however magically, “[b]eyond any cliché.”

Generally, I’m a suspicious reader; big claims scare me off. Having never watched a Fellini film and with only Calvino and Pavese as literary signposts, I entered the novel (guided by veteran translator Michael F. Moore) with a healthy amount of skepticism. Just a few chapters in, however, I knew that even if Genovesi hadn’t managed to overcome cliché, he had indeed created an electric book, a book that stirs, and one that you can’t help living—and living with—along the way. It’s fair to say that Genovesi’s English debut touches all the right spots and echoes back just enough universalized Weltschmerz to leave the reader cringing over mistakes they too once made. And, for that, you’re in it until the end.

Live Bait launches with a memory, as things usually do: a fused snapshot, a spark of what was circling through a narrative live wire. Yet for our antihero Fiorenzo Marelli, it is a recollection that continues on, as some would put it, in phantomlike form; he has already lost part of himself (literally) before he hits that strange, dazed, and oddly jaded limbo called high school. This first brush with emptiness has cleared the way for the Italian metalhead’s Bildungsroman to creep into being, made evident as he so casually philosophizes in the novel’s first episode: “Because real emptiness isn’t finding nothing. It’s finding nothing where there’s supposed to be something.” And not so strangely, it is just this emptiness that continues to occupy his life; it is a nebulous hollow that, like the ditches where he finds respite while fishing for bottom feeders, belies a host of other organisms underneath. Now, maybe I’m mixing my reviewer metaphors here. Even so, I’d also hedge a bet that it is by crafting just this eddy of images floating in and out of view that Genovesi grasps onto our “real” world.

For the rest of the review, go here.

25 July 14 | Chad W. Post | Comments

If you don’t already subscribe to our (sporadic, but in good times, bi-weekly) newsletter, you can do so by clicking here.

And if you missed the one that went out earlier this week, you can see the prettified version here, or just read it all below.

The Last Days of My Mother “Pick of the Week” in Publishers Weekly

In almost every issue of Publishers Weekly—the trade magazine for booksellers, publishers, agents, and authors—the editors select one title to promote as the “Pick of the Week.” It’s usually something predictably large and respectable (like the new David Mitchell book, for example), but in the July 14th issue it was Open Letter’s The Last Days of My Mother by Icelandic author Sölvi Björn Sirgdsson!

The “starred” review, subtitled “Goodbye to All That,” had this to say:

The setup: Hermann’s girlfriend of seven years leaves him for a French dentist, then his native Iceland’s banking system goes belly-up, and finally his 63-year-old mother, Eva, is diagnosed with a rare and terminal cancer. The punch line: a bitterly laugh-out-loud novel of Nordic misery. [. . .] Sigurdsson’s novel successfully straddles the line between impious gallows humor and a heartfelt depiction of a son’s love for his mother.

Because we switched distributors this summer to Consortium (sorry, bit of inside baseball, but this is a really good thing for Open Letter), we ended up releasing this a couple months early, so your local indie bookseller should have copies, as does your favorite online retailer. Or, you can always order it directly from our website either as a single book, or as part of a subscription . . .

Special Subscription Offer

With the official publication date of The Last Days of My Mother coming up in August—and to celebrate the high praise it’s already receiving—if you take out a (or renew your existing) 12-month subscription before the end of August, we’ll throw in two extra books for free. So: Over about the next 14 months, you’ll receive a big 12 Open Letter titles for the same low price of $100—and that even includes free shipping within the U.S..

This is the cheapest and best way to keep up with what’s going on in international literature. By signing up now, you’ll not only get The Last Days of My Mother, but also great titles like A Thousand Forests in One Acorn: An Anthology of Spanish-Language Fiction (probably the prettiest and most impressive book we’ve ever published), a thrilling new book from Mathias Énard (the author of Zone, our first book to sell-out in just over a month), and The Man Between, a unique, intelligent, moving collection of pieces honoring the life and activism of one of the greatest translators of all time, Michael Henry Heim.

Again: Subscribe before August 31st and you’ll get 12 books, instead of the usual 10, for $100 even.

World Cup of Literature

The In case you missed it, this past month Three Percent hosted the first ever World Cup of Literature, which pitted a recent book from each of the 32 countries that qualified for this year’s Real World Cup in a head-to-head knockout tournament.

Each match was written up by a reader or reviewer or translator or bookseller explaining why one of the two titles beat the other—and by what score. The pieces are incredibly fun to read and can help guide you to interesting books from all of the various World Cup counties.

In the end it came down to four literary powerhouses: Chile (represented by Roberto Bolaño’s By Night in Chile), Germany (W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz), Mexico (Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd), and the United States (David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King).

If you want to find out who won, you’ll have to click here.

(We have to keep up the suspense somehow!)

Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage
Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Reviewed by Will Eells

Floating around the internet amid the hoopla of a new Haruki Murakami release, you may have come across a certain Murakami Bingo courtesy of Grant Snider. It is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s funny because it’s true,. . .

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The Matiushin Case
The Matiushin Case by Oleg Pavlov
Reviewed by Brandy Harrison

The publisher’s blurb for Oleg Pavlov’s The Matiushin Case promises the prospective reader “a Crime and Punishment for today,” the sort of comparison that is almost always guaranteed to do a disservice to both the legendary dead and the ambitious. . .

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Fear: A Novel of World War I
Fear: A Novel of World War I by Gabriel Chevallier
Reviewed by Paul Doyle

One hundred years have passed since the start of World War I and it is difficult to believe that there are still novels, considered classics in their own countries, that have never been published in English. Perhaps it was the. . .

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Little Grey Lies
Little Grey Lies by Hédi Kaddour
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

In the London of Hédi Kaddour’s Little Grey Lies, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan, peace has settled, but the tensions, fears, and anger of the Great War remain, even if tucked away behind stories and lies. Directly ahead, as those. . .

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Autobiography of a Corpse
Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Reviewed by Simon Collinson

One of the greatest services—or disservices, depending on your viewpoint—Bertrand Russell ever performed for popular philosophy was humanizing its biggest thinkers in his History. No longer were they Platonic ideals, the clean-shaven exemplars of the kind of homely truisms that. . .

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A Musical Hell
A Musical Hell by Alejandra Pizarnik
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The best way to review Alejandra Pizarnik’s slim collection, A Musical Hell, published by New Directions as part of their Poetry Pamphlet series, is to begin by stating that it is poetry with a capital P: serious, dense, and, some. . .

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Astragal
Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had. . .

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Live Bait
Live Bait by Fabio Genovesi
Reviewed by Megan Berkobien

When my eyes first crossed the back cover of Fabio Genovesi’s novel Live Bait, I was caught by a blurb nestled between accolades, a few words from a reviewer for La Repubblica stating that the novel was, however magically, “[b]eyond. . .

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The Skin
The Skin by Curzio Malaparte
Reviewed by Peter Biello

“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .

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Love Sonnets & Elegies
Love Sonnets & Elegies by Louise Labé
Reviewed by Brandy Harrison

With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .

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