27 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

We did it! After two months, eleven episodes, and a half dozen different guests, Brian and Chand finished their discussion of Rodrigo Fresán’s The Invented Part! Joining them this week to wrap things up is Valerie Miles, translator, publisher, co-founder of Granta en Español, and editor of A Thousand Forests in One Acorn. She’s also friends with Rodrigo and offers amazing insight into this wild, stuffed chapter in which we return to the beginning (“How to end. Or better: How to end?”) while The Writer flies through the skies, revisiting all the rants he made at a recent conference, and the spectacular attack from his archnemesis IKEA. There’s a lot more to this section though—especially how it relates to the structure of the overall book.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

The Invented Part is avaialble at better bookstores everywhere, and you can also order it directly from Open Letter, where you can get 20% off by entering 2MONTH in the discount field at checkout.

The next season will focus on Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson. Get your copy now from Open Letter (use 2MONTH at checkout!) or from your favorite book retailer. More info on that reading schedule will be available next week.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and Valerie Miles on Twitter for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

And you can find all Two Month Review posts by clicking here. Please rate us on iTunes and/or leave a review!

The music for the first season of Two Month Review is Big Sky by The Kinks.



26 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

If you’d rather read this podcast in one document, just dowload this PDF. Otherwise, click here to find all four of the earlier pieces along with a bunch of other Two Month Review posts about The Invented Part.

Special thanks to Will Vanderhyden for conducting—and translating—this interview.



Will Vanderhyden: Most of your books change over time, meaning subsequent editions are published with corrections, changes, and entirely new content. Like for instance, in the case of The Invented Part, you added some 60 pages of new material to the book as I was translating it. This tendency of yours to continuously rewrite, to add, reminds me, again, of Borges and his quintessentially postmodern ideas about the impossibility of an authentic or definitive original, about how all writing is rewriting, about how literature is alive and cyclically shifting with every reading, rewrite, translation, never fixed and never finished . . . Where does this impulse of yours come from? And, while we are it: can we call your novels novels?

Rodrigo Fresán: Let’s say that it’s hard for me to let go of my books (though it gets easier all the time: material fatigue as time goes by . . . ) When it comes to what I do, the truth is I don’t think much about genres and formats. I prefer to imagine that each one of my books is a different room in the same house that I am discovering as I move through it. Someday, I hope, I’ll climb up to the basement or descend to the attic.

WV: The Invented Part has now grown into a trilogy. The second volume, La parte soñada The Dreamed Part has already been published in Spanish and you’re well into the writing of the third volume, La parte recordada The Remembered Part. Can you talk about how this happened? You didn’t set out to write a trilogy did you?

RF: In the first place, The Dreamed Part wasn’t going to exist. When I wrote The Invented Part I had no plan to do a trilogy, just the opposite, when I finished the novel I had the impression that everything would end there and that I was going to devote myself to something else. And yet, I spent almost a whole long year adding small fragments to The Invented Part, first for the French translation, which came out un January, and, then, to the English translation, which is just coming out now. I didn’t have a plan about how and what the next book after The Invented Part would be, but I was thinking of something small, of something uncomplicated and quickly written. And yet, I realized that I was having a really hard time letting go of the voice of The Invented Part. I really liked what I had achieved with that voice: it’s a kind of third person in first person. I think that, also, when I finished the novel, I had become sort of addicted to that version of myself, a kind of alter ego/Mr. Hyde who could say all the things that not only could I not say, but that I couldn’t even think. It was appealing to see how I would have been if I had suffered certain constants and not done certain things, like become a father. Then that small book that I had thought of, whose idea was a night in the life of two kids and their slightly mad uncle, going all over a city looking for their parents, was abducted by The Dreamed Part and, in fact, that story of the two kids was the last thing I wrote, turning it into the final four or five pages of The Dreamed Part. And the truth is that when I accepted that I was going to continue with the voice of The Invented Part, I felt very comfortable and the writing of this second novel went quite quickly, as is the writing of the third one, The Remembered Part. The idea is that the trilogy ends up creating a portrait, between figurative and abstract, of how a writer thinks . . . A memoir not of a life but of a method. When you remember something, at the same time, you decide to forget something, because you never remember the totality of events. That, in itself, is already exists a form of editing and narrative building. The same thing happens when you dream and when you invent. That is, if you will, the formal center of the trilogy. To invent and to dream and to remember. Those are the three motors of the narration of a life that together make a work of art. The inevitable problem, of course, will be what to do when the trilogy is finished. But it will be a happy problem, I hope.

Tune in tomorrow for the final episode of the Two Month Review on The Invented Part. Then come back next week when we launch into season two, which will feature Guðbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller.

25 July 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Vincent Francone on Class by Francesco Pacifico, out from by Melville House.

Here’s the beginning of Vince’s review:

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding the book to their “to read” list. Written by Francesco Pacifico. Translated by Francesco Pacifico. Published by Melville House. Set in Rome and New York. Specific Roman neighborhood of note: Pigneto. New York neighborhood of note: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Does that matter? Apparently, yes.

And this is perhaps my way into Class (that was fun to type). Understanding a neighborhood and its denizens is key to understanding what an author like Pacifico may be up to in a book as odd as Class. Williamsburg in Class is the nexus of Italian hipsters. They meet, take drugs, laugh, fuck, grow weary, leave, return. It’s the sort of place that bohemians with varying degrees of talent flock to, bringing the first wave of gentrification. First wave gentrifiers often bemoan their cherished neighborhoods’ shift into commercial areas where moms push doublewide strollers into Lululemon. While they fail to see their role in the gentrification process, readers of their exploits are, allegedly, in on the secret. Dramatic irony notwithstanding, Class doesn’t seem concerned with judging the hipsters, even when they get up to some questionable activities. The reader is supposed to suspend that sort of moralizing. If that is impossible, the reader is screwed. Abandon the text ye who need redeeming characters.


For the rest of the review, go here.

25 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

On this week’s Two Month Review podcast, we’ll be discussing the seventh, and final, part of The Invented Part (“The Imaginary Person,” pages 441-552). As a bit of preparation, below you’ll find some initial thoughts, observations, and quotes.

You can also download this post as a PDF document.

As always, you can get The Invented Part for 20% off from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

In a couple weeks, the second season of the Two Month Review will start up and will feature Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson. As with The Invented Part you can get this for 20% off from our website by using the same 2MONTH code. A preview podcast about Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller will go up on August 10th, and on August 17th we’ll be talking about pages 1-31.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Two Month Review Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

This is likely going to be a quote-heavy post, so why not start things off right:

How to end.

Or better: How to end?

Adding the question mark that—nothing happens by chance—has the shape of . . . / OF WHAT? / INSERT HERE /; sharp and pointy pages like the edges of the wings of Jumbo Jets / FIND, PLEASE, A BETTER SIMILE TO CREATE THE ATMOSPHERE OF AN AIRPORT /, slicing into both those who rise and those who fall, pulling them, dragging them down the air-conditioned aisles or making them fly in pieces through the air to land just inside the airport of these parentheses / COULD THERE BE PLACES MOREBETWEEN PARENTHESESTHAN AIRPORTS? (EXPAND) / that more than one person will criticize or judge as unnecessary; but that, in the uncertainty of a beginning, are oh so similar to hands coming together in an act of prayer, asking for a fair voyage now drawing to an end. And good luck to all, wishes you this voice / ALLUSION HERE TO THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE VOICE OF THE SIREN LOUDSPEAKERS THAT SING AND CONFUSE TRAVELERS IN AIRPORTS? TO THE IRRITATION OF SUCCESSIVE CHECKPOINTS CLOSING LIKE CHINESE BOXES OR RUSSIAN NESTING DOLLS? / that the gag of the parentheses renders unknown, and yet—like with certain unforgettable songs, whose melodies impose themselves over the title—it recalls the voice of someone whose name you can’t quite identify and recognize. / BOB DYLAN? PINK FLOYD? LLOYD COLE? THE BEATLES? NILSSON? THE KINGS? / And, yes, if possible, avoid this kind of paragraph from here onward / FORBID ANY FUTURE MENTION OF ELECTRONIC READERS ON PAIN OF DEATH? / ALLUDE TO THAT CHINESE CURSEMAY YOU HAVE AN INTERESTING LIFETRANSLATED NOW INTO MILLIONS OF ASIANS ENSLAVED BY THE WEST TO PRODUCE THEIR SMALL ELECTRONIC INVENTIONS THAT, LATER, WILL IN TURN ENSLAVE THEM, TURNING THEM INTO ADDICTS OF A NEW FORM OF OPIUM? THE CYCLE OF THE INTERESTING LIFE? HAKUNA MATATA? / FEAR THAT THE WHOLE THING IS BEGINNING TO SOUND LIKE AN OBSESSION OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, FEAR OF BEING LIKE THOSE LUNATICS SCREAMING IN EMPTY STREETS / because, they say, it scares away today’s readers, accustomed to reading quickly and briefly on small screens, counting up to one hundred forty, and send / AND, ALONG THE WAY, ASKING, JUST TO KNOW, WHAT PARENTHESES MEAN AND WHAT IS THE RAISON D’ÊTRE, BUT PLEASE; WITHOUT SUCCUMBING TO IMAGES LIKEPARENTHESES ARE LIKE PRAYER PINS” / THE THING ABOUT PARENTHESES AS “HANDS COMING TOGETHER IN AN ACT OF PRAYER” IS MORE THAN ENOUGH ALREADY / and . . .


(All the caps above are actually in small caps, and a different font in the book itself. But not American Typewriter, the font that has come to stand in for the Transcended Writer in earlier chapters. Something new.)



This might sound familiar, and that’s because here’s the opening of the novel:

How to begin.

Or better: How to begin?

(Adding the question mark that—nothing happens by chance—has the shape of a fish or meat hook. A sharp and pointy curve that skewers both the reader and the read. Pulling them, dragging them up from the clear and calm bottom to the cloudy and restless surface. Or sending them flying through the air to land just inside the beach of these parentheses. Parentheses that more than one person will judge or criticize as orthographically and aesthetically unnecessary but that, in the uncertainty of the beginning, are oh so similar to hands coming together in an act of prayer, asking for a fair voyage just now underway. We read: “Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate;” we hear: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” And good luck to all, wishes you this voice—halfway down the road of life, lost in a dark woods, because it wandered off the right path—that the gag of the parentheses renders unknown. And yet—like with certain unforgettable songs, whose melodies impose themselves over the title and even over the signature lines of the chorus, what’s it called? how’d it go?—this voice also recalls that of someone whose name isn’t easy to identify or recognize. And, yes, if possible, avoid this kind of paragraph from here onward because, they say, it scares away many of today’s readers. Today’s electrocuted readers, accustomed to reading quickly and briefly on small screens. And, yes, goodbye to all of them, at least for as long as this book lasts and might last. Unplug from external inputs to nourish yourselves exclusively on internal electricity. And—warning! warning!—at least in the beginning and to begin with, that’s the idea here, the idea from here onward. Consider yourselves warned.)


So, not exactly the same, but made up of the same bones. Although now that we’re on the airplane, approaching the end, coming in to land, we get to see how The Writer/Fresán puts the meat on those bones. It’s almost like seeing the rough draft, but in the mirror, after The Writer’s story has unfolded, in contrast to that opening section in which he’s a little boy, having the singular experience that will make him into a writer.

And yes, the novel is an ouroboros, as The Writer looks out the window to see a beach that’s mighty close to the one in part one . . .

Now he looks out the little window and down below is a beach, and the mouth of a river opening onto the sea, and a speck floating in the water that—he could swear it—is a boy who looks up at the sky and points at the airplane and at him inside it, looking down. Now, at the end but again at the beginning, his mouth is full of water and laughter. He’s drowning but, seen from the present of his future, as if invoking the ghost of vacation past, he knows he’ll survive, that he’ll live to tell it and turn it into a story. But knowing how it ends doesn’t remake it any less interesting. Just the opposite, the details of that small moment merge with the immensity of what’s to come and, for example, now he can specify that the novel, the same novel, that his parents are reading is Tender Is the Night (1934, first published in four installments, between January and April of that year, in Scribner’s Magazine) and that its author is Francis Scott Fitzgerald (St. Paul Minnesota 1896 / Hollywood, California, 1940). He also knows why they’re arguing, near but far away, on the beach, unaware their son is drowning. And also—courtesy of Ways of Dying—he understands in detail what’s happening—the way the water is entering his body to dilute his blood. The fireworks of endorphins getting ready to explode in his brain, throwing the party of the white light at the end of the tunnel. An entire life revisited in a couple minutes, like one of those little books with pictures printed in the margins that, when you flip through it at full speed, creates the illusion of a kind of movement. Seeing himself from outside as if, correcting what he just finished writing, he were reading himself and, reading himself, he remembers how he read once that one of Truman Capote’s favorite questions was what do you imagine you would imagine—“what images, in the classic tradition,” to be precise—in that eternal moment of drowning.


*

So what is real, and what is this book exactly? In some ways, this chapter totally pulls the carpet out from under the reader—makes sense that it all takes place on an airplane—or overturns the chess board, or whatever metaphor you prefer to use when referring to some literary mindfuckery. Regardless, this is the chapter in which what you’ve been lead to believe—that The Writer broke into CERN and now can control reality as if it were a piece of writing—didn’t happen.



Of course, something went wrong, nothing went right. The whole moment had the tremulous and ultraviolent choreography of one of those old silent (but seemingly filmed at full volume) Keystone Kops movies. Or, better, of one of the Coen brothers’ movies where dreamers and visionaries like Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski or Llewyn Davis or Herbert I. “Hi” McDunnough or Tom Reagan or Ulysses Everett McGill don’t get what they deserve but do get what a good story deserves, and so—for them as for him now—events precipitate, yessir. They spotted him approaching a restricted access door and, immediately, he was jumped on by several guards who—they weren’t fooling him—were direct descendants of SS officers. They quickly subdued and removed him without a beating (“Elvis has left the building,” he thought as they cuffed his hands and feet and dragged him out of there), but executing a series of tai-chi martial arts moves and Vulcan death grips on his cervical nerves that left no trace, and he wasn’t so much tossed as deposited in a holding cell that was far nicer and cleaner than the flat he lived in and that, oh boy, seemed decorated entirely with, yes, IKEA-brand furniture. [. . .]


And then—ultimate humiliation—he was rescued by IKEA.

IKEA, who wasn’t as he’d thought him, as he’d described him, as he’d, in part, invented him.

IKEA was an excellent person, who had always been very grateful to him for everything, and who pulled strings and used his considerable influence to get him released and paid his fine in the millions for “attempting to bring about the end of the world.”

I love the fact that even after admitting this, The Writer falls right back into making fun of his invented IKEA and everything that he stands for. Although in the greater scheme of things, this imagined IKEA gets in the final—and maybe the best, or at least the one that hits closest to home for me and The Writer—shot.

At the Swiss writers’ conference, The Writer is on a panel playing the role of slightly older writer who can crap on the new trends with some authority and respect. He does all of his various bits—about writers who don’t read, who just want to be known as being writers (see all of #AmWriting on Twitter ever), about Twitter, about the future of books being more concerned with the package than the content, etc., etc.—the same sort of bits we’ve been reading (and loving, and cheering on) for five hundred pages. And then, there’s a long response from his archnemesis IKEA, who lays bare the truths of conventional readers:

I’ll take this opportunity to give you some far more useful advice than the advice you once gave me, ha. No, seriously, listen: enough already with these books about writers, books about writing. Nobody’s interested in literature, beginning with the majority of readers, man. And writers are only interested in their own writing and, at most, to seem impressive, the writing of some distant dead man whom they latch onto as if they’d known him all their lives. Normal people just want to pass time and feel represented. Haven’t you ever read the comments on Amazon that condemn a book with the worst rating? No? Read them and you’ll learn. The reason is always the same: ‘I didn’t identify with any of the characters’ or ‘There wasn’t a single character worth getting to know.’ Why do you think all my books have the characters’ faces on the covers? [. . .] And also, enough with your referential mania and stop with your enumerations and lists and going around pointing out and acknowledging each and every one of your sources and debts and allusions. This display of honesty is in bad taste and it makes you look like the combination of an old man of the nouveau riche and a little orphan of literature. The worst of both worlds. And no one expects or asks you for that display of honesty. We all steal things, nobody admits it, and we don’t like that you go around reminding us of our little sins. [. . .] And while you’re at it: quit repeating that thing about the one hundred forty characters of Twitter. That’s not how it works. Not exactly. Don’t talk about things you don’t understand and, even worse, don’t get pissed about what you don’t know. Relax, man.


*


As I was finishing my reread of The Invented Part, I was reminded of a piece of punctuation that I helped (with Kaija Straumanis) to invent some years ago: the hyphellipsis.

This was something that we came up with during a translation workshop that was meant to function halfway between a normal ellipses and an emdash. We envisioned it as three dots floating halfway up, in the space where a normal emdash would go. Looking back on it though—and trying to figure out how best to represent it in three-dimensional space—it might make more sense to think of these three little dots suspended mid-line between two parenthesis (. . .)

Which, more so than an ouroboros, represents the overall pattern of this novel. On the two ends, you have the two parentheses—one looking toward the future, one toward the past. In between, we have five sections that are held in between these two hands, each dependent more on its overall surroundings than what came before or after, almost like little dots held aloft. Like a hyphellipsis.

*


So what comes next?



The Dreamed Part is out in Spanish, there to be read by all of you whose comprehension of the Spanish language is far more advanced than mine. (It takes quite a bit of attention and expertise to wade through the torrents of language and games and lists and references when reading Fresán in English; I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to undertake this in your second language.) And he’s currently working on The Remembered Part, which will round out the trilogy.

Two things I know: The Spanish press has referred to the first two volumes of the trilogy as Fresán’s own Inland Empire. A big fan of David Lynch’s works (we spend most Mondays discussing Twin Peaks: The Return), this totally makes sense, especially in the way in which The Invented Part opens up his creative process, peeling back layers, letting the reader see how his own personal obsessions and touchstones are invoked, recombined, expanded, and woven into his texts. This thrills me to no end.

The other thing I know is that The Dreamed Part has much more Nabokov than Fitzgerald. Does this mean that it’s more stylistically tricksy and less straight emotional? That’s also thrilling.

Looking back over the novel we just finished reading, here are a bunch of ideas of what might lie ahead: More on Ishmael Tantor. Full explanation of what happened to Penelope’s son. More about the rivalry with IKEA. Some sort of recourse from trying to break into CERN? Or maybe something entirely different, a new reworking of these tropes into a beautiful, imaginative, mind-bending novel?

Whatever comes next, I’ll be there for the ride, enjoying every second of it.

20 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

It’s another 2MR review with just Chad and Brian! Similar to the last guest-less podcast, this one goes a bit off the rails . . . Although this time around it gets a lot darker, as they talk about Chekov, Girl, Night, Swimming Pool, Etc., a scream descending from the skies, John Cheever’s writing prompt, and much much more.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

The Invented Part is avaialble at better bookstores everywhere, and you can also order it directly from Open Letter, where you can get 20% off by entering 2MONTH in the discount field at checkout.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, and Brian Wood on Twitter for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

And you can find all Two Month Review posts by clicking here. Please rate us on iTunes and/or leave a review!

The music for the first season of Two Month Review is Big Sky by The Kinks.

If you don’t already subscribe to Two Month Review/Three Percent Podcast you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere. Or you can subscribe by adding our feed directly into your favorite podcast app: http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss



17 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

On this week’s Two Month Review podcast, we’ll be discussing the sixth part of The Invented Part (“Meanwhile, Once Again, Beside the Museum Stairway, Under a Big Day,” pages 405-440). As a bit of preparation, below you’ll find some initial thoughts, observations, and quotes.

You can also download this post as a PDF document.

As always, you can get The Invented Part for 20% off from our website by using the code 2MONTH. It’s also available at better bookstores everywhere.

And be sure to join the Goodreads group and subscribe to the Two Month Review Podcast on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Last week I referenced my theory about how the whole of The Invented Part is structured, with the fourth section serving as a fulcrum, and the parts on either side reflecting each other. So, the first section is mirrored in the seventh, the second in the sixth, third in the fifth.

Granted, I read the book last year when we were preparing it for publication, so yes, I was cheating a bit, but I was still glad to see my theory play itself out in this section (the sixth), which features The Young Man and Young Woman and mirrors the second section, “The Place Where the Sea Ends So the Forest Can Begin.” Without giving away too many details, I’ll just say that this part wraps up a ton of plot points from the earlier section: Why did The Writer name The Young Man as one of his favorite living authors? What’s the deal with Ishmael Tantor? What happened to The Writer after breaking into CERN and merging with the so-called god particle? What would The Writer do with this power? Why so many pages about airplanes? (Actually, we’ll come back to that last one next week.)

On the podcast we’ve mentioned the fact that Fresán wrote the seven sections of this book simultaneously at least a dozen times. As a gratuitous reminder, here’s the section from his interview with translator Will Vanderhyden in which he mentions it:

I wasn’t saying that I write with the same degree of genius and talent that The Beatles had, not at all. I was saying, and I explained this in the interview, that after reading a memoir by Geoff Emerick, The Beatles’ sound engineer, the thing about equalizing and utilizing different channels on the sound mixer ended up having a great deal to do with the way I wrote The Invented Part, whose seven parts I wrote simultaneously. I had seven files open, and I worked on a different one each day. And, at the same time, I didn’t really know where that novel was going, until my son provided me with the key, the little toy figure that appears on the cover of the original edition, which has now become a kind of little literary icon . . . I was bogged down. I had spent years writing a novel, I knew what I wanted to say, I even had a plan, but it wasn’t coming together.


If you’re reading this book for the first time, it’s easy to see it as a sort of wild, Beat-poet inspired ramble through the mind of an aging author. (I’m reminded of a drunken conversation I once had with Wells Tower in which he complained of Roberto Bolaño, “Is there anything this guy doesn’t include in his novels?”)

But, as you reread, or think about, or revisit the book, it becomes more and more clear just how intricately the novel has been constructed. There are little clues and hints and references littered throughout, such as this bit from the second section, in which The Young Man is recounting all the writing workshops he’s attended:

The one with the guy who insisted “that everything begins and ends with Chekov.” Which caused The Young Man a lot of anxiety: because The Young Man read Chekov, enjoyed Chekov, but never understood what his genius was. And he understood even less all the people who wanted to write like that. Those endings that were so open, where nothing was resolved and where all you seem to hear was the voice of the wind slipping in and running around. Endings where, for example, a man and a woman meet beside a museum stairway, with the whole sky above their heads, just to say goodbye to each other. And that’s about it.



(An Anton Chekhov finger puppet seems appropriate.)

On first read you might think that’s pretty funny, or it reminds you of a professor you once had. But then, a mere 322 pages later, you get this bit about The Young Man and Young Woman:

Meanwhile, once again, beside the Museum stairway, under a big sky, he and she wonder how and why they’ve ended up there, after so long without seeing each other (though really it was only a few minutes ago that they said goodbye, again), and only so they can say goodbye.


Or, to really drive this home, twenty-nine pages later, this section ends with:

Meanwhile, once again, beside the Museum stairway, under a big sky, he says to himself that this is, in a way, the closest thing to an Anton Chekov story he’ll ever write. He wonders, also, if all the preceding might not be clearer if it were rearranged in strict chronological order, from back to front, with the most nocturnal of tenderness, until it arrived to this eternal present, meanwhile, once again, beside the Museum stairway, under a big sky.


Books that reward you for paying attention are the best.

*

So, in relation to this section we have, on the one hand, Chekov, and on the other, Rick and Morty. There’re elegant phrasings (e.g., “meanwhile, once again, beside the Museum stairway, under a big sky”), emotional partings, and a tragic death alongside a giant museum of The Writer, which is The Writer, who has been transformed into the Big Sky, an almighty figure who can control everything, including The Young Man and Young Woman, whom he keeps bringing together, beside the Museum stairway, under a big sky, to have the depart, say “goodbye” until he’s ready to intervene and replay this same moment, with slight variation, yet again.

I couldn’t help but think of this “museum” as a giant Rick-shaped head, tweaking reality over and over again, while Morty flips out on the side, “oh, oh geez Rick, you can’t just be toying with people’s existential realities that way. That’s, that’s just not good Rick. You built a museum of yourself to be worshipped and now you’re making everyone read your books over and over, with like, no regard for their free will? Y-you’ve gone too far.” (My Morty impersonation is only good in person, when inebriated.)



One way to read this section is to treat it at face value, as the culmination of the novel’s “plot.” The Writer has accomplished his goal of merging with the god particle and transcending space-time in order to rewrite reality whenever he wants. Which is crazy. Which would be glorious!

Or, you can see this as a new spin (a quantum spin? sorry) on metafiction, in which the pretense that a book is reflecting reality is shoved aside in favor of acknowledging that characters are just that—characters.

The Invented Part has always been a book about “the invented parts” of fiction and art, and part of that inventing is rewriting, redrafting, tweaking, and rejiggering scenes and sentences. Here, in this section, we’re witness to a new version of that, in which we get to the see the Writer doing this right on the page, with comments on his own writing, or bits like this, which almost look like MS Word with track changes turned on:

Insert: “Big Sky” was one of X’s favorite songs before becoming X and ascending into the big sky, and that’s that. There was a time when X, before becoming X, could compose lyrical tirades about songs. Now, since becoming X, X prefers to let the song itself sing and he just steps aside to listen to the song being sung. That song is like the equivalent and replacement of all the sacramental hymns floating in the naves of all the churches and cathedrals. Glory to the Creator, Blessed be, Hallowed be thy name, Forever and ever, etcetera.


And right from the beginning, The Young Man and Young Woman realize that they are characters under the Writer’s control:

There was a time when, yes, they were the ones who decided and improvised how they said goodbye and how they got back together, amid tears and laughter, masters of a story that might have been poorly written but, at least, they were the ones writing it.

Now, not so much, not anymore.

Now, the goodbye is final and refined and elegant.

A carefully considered and calculated and far better written goodbye; but a goodbye written by someone else.

Written by someone who is never entirely pleased with the result and, so, starting over, saying “hello” again to say “goodbye” again. Though now the one who writes and edits them seems to be concentrating not on the twist of the reunion, but, solely, on the pogo-stick of the goodbye.



There’s even a moment in which The Young Man breaks free for a minute before The Writer (referred to here as X) takes back over with a vengeance.

Like, he suddenly remembers, those plantation owners who ceaselessly read The Count of Monte Cristo to their slaves, forced to roll Montecristo-brand cigars: as if giving the prisoners the gift of a great fictitious revenge whose smoke and fragrance they’ll never get to breathe in. And, suddenly, intoxicated by that not new but, yes, sudden memory (and frightened by the carelessness of X, who, distracted maybe, allowed him to remember it), he starts to tremble. And he feels him come back. X. Firing off shrieks like flares. And entering his head and scrambling it until, there inside, on a tropical island, plantation owners don’t read The Count of Monte Cristo to those working the land anymore; they read them Dracula—the story of a hunter who suddenly finds himself hunted. [. . .]

And X’s message is clear: “Don’t get clever, there’s no way out, I’m the only one who thinks around here, and you, now, are nothing but the writing of my writing, the ink of my ink, the blood of my blood, circulating through the tangled mess of wiring that grows inside my centrifuge brain.”

And, yes, there it is, there it remains.

The edifice of the Museum has the shape of a head.


Rick’s head!

Metafiction has been around for a very long time—long before John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse directly addressed its own structure, and before Gilbert Sorrentino borrowed, and then trapped, two characters from other books in Mulligan Stew, Laurence Sterne was pulling back the curtain in Tristam Shandy—and there’s no real reason to go over all of that right here, but I do want to mention that this particular flavor of metafiction reminds me a lot of Macedonio Fernandez’s The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel). A fellow Argentinian writer, Macedonio’s book was a huge inspiration to Borges, and is made up of two parts: 122 pages of prologues (“The Model Prologue,” “Prologue of Indecision,” “Another Prologue”) followed by 126 pages of the “novel,” in which an author forces his characters to practice their lines and movements in preparation for his novel. Actually, there is a third section as well. This page, which comes between the two aforementioned parts:

Were those prologues? And is this the novel?

This page is for the reader to linger, in his well-deserved and serious indecision, before reading on.


So much fun. Both of these books are just a joy to read. Especially if you’re at all into the idea that fiction is a fiction, and there’s no good reason to strictly adhere to the illusion that words on a page correspond—via images and ideas—to the so-called “real” world. In these books you get to see creators at play; in more realistic books, you get Jonathan Franzen.

13 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

On this week’s Two Month Review, Tom Roberge from Riffraff and the Three Percent Podcast joins Chad and Brian talk about 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pink Floyd, potential errors and non-errors, cultural touchstones that serve to define friendships, the overall structure of this chapter of The Invented Part, and Tom’s experience coming on the podcast having read only these forty pages of the novel. And, as per usual, Chad sneaks in a few Twin Peaks references.

Feel free to comment on this episode—or on the book in general—either on this post, or at the official GoodReads Group.

The Invented Part is avaialble at better bookstores everywhere, and you can also order it directly from Open Letter, where you can get 20% off by entering 2MONTH in the discount field at checkout.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and “The” Tom Roberge on Twitter for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

And you can find all Two Month Review posts by clicking here. Please rate us on iTunes and/or leave a review!

The music for the first season of Two Month Review is Big Sky by The Kinks.

If you don’t already subscribe to Two Month Review/Three Percent Podcast you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere. Or you can always subscribe by adding our feed directly into your favorite podcast app: http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss



12 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Now that half of 2017 is over, Chad and Tom take a minute to reflect back on major stories, trends, and books from the first six months of the year. The conversation is quite lively (listen in to hear Chad lose his mind after reading the latest “Book Match” column), and covers issues of bookstore ownership, publicity and the state of book culture, the precarious state of nonprofit publishing, and Yadier Molina’s horrible neck tattoo.

A few recommendations from this week’s show:

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman.

GLOW) on Netflix.

Stadium Club by Mark Mulroney.

This week’s music is a clip from “The Ballad of Costa Concordia” by Car Seat Headrest.

As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com. Also, if there are articles you’d like us to read and analyze (or just make fun of), send those along as well.

And if you like the podcast, tell a friend and rate us or leave a review on iTunes!

If you don’t already subscribe to the Three Percent Podcast you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and other places. Or you can always subscribe by adding our feed directly into your favorite podcast app: http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss



12 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This is the fourth of a five-part interview with Rodrigo Fresán. Earlier parts are all avialble on the Three Percent website (I, II, and III), as are all other Two Month Review posts.

Special thanks to Will Vanderhyden for conducting—and translating—this interview.



Will Vanderhyden: The narrator of The Invented Part has strong feelings about screen culture, about the prevalence of certain technologies—i.e. ebooks, smartphones, Facebook, twitter, etc.—and their implications for literature. To what extent do you share his feelings? How do you think technology is changing the way we read and write?

Rodrigo Fresán: A little. But not that much. It irritates and bothers me, but I can look the other way. In The Dreamed Part, the second book in the trilogy, the reason for and root of the protagonist’s luddite passion is clarified. But I don’t know if I should say or give anything away in that sense. Yes, maybe, it might be appropriate here to offer a fragment from the next book where the narrator, in the form of a list of questions, delves into a particular preoccupation of his (also mine) about how we have sold our souls and our eyes to certain gadgets. There I go, here it comes: “Think about it a little: not that long ago none of you were going around carrying those little devices with you everywhere and you lived lives that were more or less the same as the ones you live now and you were masters of the same intelligence quotient and the same powers of internal and external observation . . . Tell me, what is it that has changed so much in your lives and the lives of your acquaintances in recent years that has made you feel the obligation or need to share everything that happens to you and everything that you happen to think of, eh? Sure, if all of you had, courtesy of some fork in space-time, been in Dallas with your little phones that morning in 1963, we’d probably know exactly how many shooters there were and where they shot from and we’d be able to see JFK’s head explode from all possible angles. But seriously, I mean it, believe me: nobody is interested in that photo of what you’re eating or that sunset you’re seeing or your most recent deep thought that you just have to share with all of humanity unless you’re interested in their reflections and their sunsets and their meals too . . . Isn’t it true that not that long ago you liked many fewer things and that you took your time to think about whether something was or wasn’t worthy of a like? Isn’t it true that just a few years ago you didn’t read so much and definitely didn’t write so much? Isn’t it true that it used to make more to sense to go to the bathroom to read than to write? Isn’t it true that you used to live without wondering whether everything you did or thought was inspiring enough and worthy of being instantaneously and constantly sent out into the fullest emptiness in all of history? Isn’t it true that those lives were actually more interesting and that, every so often, it was fun to sit down with a friend, live and direct and in person, and say to them: ‘You have no idea what happened to me last week’ and then proceed to tell them with a full luxury of details, just as you had practiced in your heads, with authentic tears and laughter? Isn’t it true that it’s more appropriate to tell people about your pregnancies or tumors in private and one on one and in different ways depending on the person and not to tell everyone at the same time with the same words? Isn’t it true that there was a certain charm to coming home and—when it wasn’t bad news—finding a handwritten note on the ground beside the door or on a desk or stuck to the refrigerator door and opening it and under that cold light reading the warmth of that message? Isn’t it true that it’s disturbing to think that the activity you do most throughout the day is stare at your phone? Isn’t it true that it’s much more pleasant not to feel that already-diagnosed-by-neurologists ‘phantom vibration’ at the height of your pockets, as if it were the phone that we forgot and that isn’t even there calling and reminding us of its existence from far away, like the reflex and memory of some unforgettable amputated body part. Isn’t it true that you kind of miss that delectable torture of not being able to remember something—a name, a title, a song—and not find it and abort it immediately via Google so that, instead, you allow that forgotten thing to live and expand and, while you try to defeat it, you awaken other memories and other songs and titles and names? Isn’t it true that it used to be so gratifying to be the first to remember something in a gathering of the absent-minded? Isn’t it true that it was much easier to detect the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and to get ahead in its treatment without the use of instantaneous memory aids? Isn’t it true that it was exciting when every time you took a photo you were also making a choice? Isn’t it true that it was better to have memories that were far more precise than all those blurry photos where you can’t even tell who is in them? Isn’t it true that it was more exciting when every time you didn’t take a photo you were also making a choice? Isn’t it true that you used to film and photograph your kids less and you looked at them more and saw them better at home or at end-of-year performances or at birthdays? Isn’t it true that life was a little better when everyone who made fun of you in high school or at work could only do it from nine to five and not like now, on Facebook (‘Facebook friend’ was a great oxymoron, he thought) or Instagram or wherever, at all hours of the day and night, and you there promising and deceiving yourself that you won’t log back on to see how they hit you and insult you and laugh in your screen-face. Isn’t it true that it’s better to go out into the street and meet up with friends and not to capture virtual monsters that cost you less and less money, which takes more and more work to earn? Isn’t it true that it was better to go out walking in the street and randomly run into people instead of knowing where they are at all times but never seeing them in person? Isn’t it true that it was so nice to go out walking and be sure that nobody could call you on the phone? Isn’t it true that it was better to go out into the street when there were none of those new stoplights, on the ground, specially located to protect people who keep getting run over because they’re walking, head down, looking at the screen of their phone? Isn’t it true that it was nobler to immediately come to the aid of the unknown victim of an accident instead of making a video and “sharing it” first? Isn’t it true that it’s weird that doctors, when it comes time to let family members say goodbye to their loves ones—many of them dying because they were so concentrated on their phones they never saw what was coming at them until it was too late—have opted, I read about this the other day, to unplug the screens of the monitors that register the dying vital signs, because many people, reflexively, ignore the dying person and stare at those devices with the sound of videogames of game over? Isn’t it true that everything sounded better when all the phones sounded more or less the same, when their voice was more or less the same? Isn’t it true that you kind of miss those days when having a good memory was something to be proud of and not something we put in the hands of that device in our hands? Isn’t it true that it was exciting to memorize the phone number of a person you loved and to dial their digits one and a time, as if they were the letters of the person’s name, instead of just pressing a button without ever knowing what those numbers might add to or subtract from our hearts? Isn’t it true that we should be prouder of the memory of our soft brain than that of our hard disc? Isn’t it true that the world seemed better ordered and fairer when it wasn’t so easy to reach anybody via email, and certain levels of friendship and hierarchies of familiarity and rules of protocol were respected? Isn’t it true that things worked better when someone asked the legitimate owner first before casually giving away their phone number and email address to just anybody? Isn’t it true that it was a pleasure to unplug the phone or to think that you had achieved enough success in your life that you could dispense with it, that you had someone to deal with those ring-ring-rings or with those ringtones personalized—like those car horns that used to sing “La cucaracha”—with songs from TV shows or movies or famous speeches or, even worse, the wailing of your own baby? Isn’t it true that you made love more often or at least thought about making love more often or slept more and more deeply dreaming about making love and not about staring at and talking on your phone? Isn’t it true that it was much more enjoyable to go to the bathroom with a book and not a phone? Isn’t it true that spy thrillers and love stories were much better and more exciting when their moles and kitty cats had to search for and locate a phone on the street or in a bar and weren’t carrying it with them everywhere? Isn’t it true that the president of the United States still looks more elegant in the oval office with an old-school telephone and not holding one of those plastic and metal wafers? Isn’t it true that everything was more comfortable when you didn’t have to declare them at airports as if they were lethal weapons? Isn’t it true that it was easier to live a calmer life in a world where phones weren’t exploding and the new model of something wasn’t worse than previous models? Isn’t it true that your lives were better when you were people who thought something, and thought about it for a while before broadcasting it, and your face and name were out in the open and not the maniacal masks of avatars and aliases and anonymous and invasive body snatchers? Isn’t it true that everything was much nicer when phone calls were much less frequent and lasted much less time? Isn’t it true that life was more relaxed when you spent time reading absolutely nothing and maybe achieved some kind of Zen emptiness, unlike now when you read all the time, and all you read are brief stupidities that, in their accumulation, end up turning you into a big stupid nothing. Isn’t it true that what makes you check your social media profiles every minute isn’t the satisfaction of seeing yourselves there but of confronting the constant dissatisfaction of not really being seen by anyone? Isn’t it true that everything was much nicer when you didn’t have to take constant and interminable seminars to be able to use new applications, suspecting that soon everything would completely flip upside down and you’d have to start from mechanics’ ground zero and take classes to learn how to hold a spoon and slurp down your soup? Isn’t it true that everything seemed much grander and much more expressive when the world was much smaller and much more incommunicado? Isn’t it true that everything felt much more exciting and adventurous and proximal and close when the long-distance thing existed? Isn’t it true that it was easier to trust those foldable and uncomfortable and silent but oh so much more believable paper maps that, in addition to showing you where you were, pointed out where you had been and where you would be? Isn’t it true that the air felt lighter and the landscape shone much brighter when the only thing you knew about writers was what was in their books or in the occasional interview and when you knew absolutely nothing about the life and work of readers because readers didn’t write? . . .” And enough, for now, right?

The fifth and final part of this interview will go live on July 26th, just before the final podcast of the first “season” of the Two Month Review podcast. In the meantime, click here to check out earlier episodes and all other Two Month Review related posts!

11 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Fans of challenging, cerebral, modernist epics, rejoice! Today marks the official release date of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, a masterpiece of twentieth-century Icelandic literature, the fifth Icelandic work Open Letter has published to date. This is a book that is sure to launch a thousand dissertations and books of commentary—both about the book itself, and about Lytton Smith’s masterful translation.



Joyceans, Pynchonians, and David-Foster-Wallacians (yes, I just made that word) should be especially drawn to Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. But to aid those who are unfamiliar with the novel’s author, background, and allusions (i.e. the 99.9 % of the world’s population not from Iceland), Three Percent will be rolling out a lot of secondary material in the months to come: essays, interviews, and podcasts to help orient the brave reader who decides to take the plunge. (As previously mentioned, this title will be the focus of the second season of the Two Month Review podcast. Subscribe now so that you don’t miss a single episode of this entertaining deep read of this incredibly funny book.)

For the next couple months, we’ll be selling copies of the book for 20% off via our website. Just enter the code 2MONTH at checkout.

To whet your appetite, here is the (rather unusual) press release Lytton and I came up with to promote the book to reviewers and booksellers. It gives a good idea of why this book is so rewarding, even if it is so hard to pin down.



For Immediate Release: Tómas Jónsson—Bestseller

Translated from the Icelandic, Guðbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson is a pulp commercial novel about a stalwart hero defying his times.

No, that’s not right. A compendious, genre-twisting modernist novel, it keeps retelling itself, correcting itself.

Second Attempt: Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller?

We need a clickbait gallery of the books that are the Ulysses of their particular country. Three Trapped Tigers by G. Cabrera Infante is the Cuban Ulysses for its inventive, manic wordplay. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass could be the German Ulysses for its historical importance and length.

The representative from Iceland would have to be Guðbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. Flip your copy open to any page and you’ll realize immediately that you’re encountering a novel that, like Ulysses, rewrote the rules of what a novel can do. Lists, false starts, sections without punctuation, italicized stories within digressions, flashes of concrete poetry—all within the mindscape of Tómas Jónsson, a man bed-bound (or not), his mind wandering and failing him (maybe).

No one wrote like this in Iceland in 1966 when Tómas Jónsson’s polemic hit the scene. Halldór Laxness had won the Nobel Prize a decade earlier, and Tómas took swings at his historical, realistic novels with their noble rural characters and dramatic plots. International bestsellers, they were seen as the most sophisticated and praise-worthy representation of Icelandic art and the spirit of Icelanders.

Bergsson didn’t just veer away from that mold: he shattered it, calling into question and undermining the core values of Icelandic nationalism. An iconoclast of the artistic order, many writers in Iceland today think Bergsson—born in 1932, the author of over twenty-one books, including novels, poetry collections, and works of children’s literature—is the Icelandic author who really deserved the Nobel Prize.

Which is why everyone in Iceland owns a copy of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. Although not that many of them have actually finished it.

Third Draft: Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller

No. Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is less like Ulysses, and more like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude—which Bergsson translated into Icelandic.

As with Marquez, reality is stretched past its limit in Bestseller: the idiom “eaten out of house and home” takes physical shape as characters find their apartments shrink in size with every bite of every meal they take.

Considered to be Bergsson’s masterpiece, Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is, at its most basic level, a novel about a retired bank clerk who, senile and enraged at contemporary culture, decides to write his memoirs, ambitious to pen a bestseller like celebrity CEOs do, using his book to rage against the dumbing down of Iceland, against what he sees as moral dissolution, how the number one value in modern life is how “driven” or “enterprising” you are, and so on and so forth for notebook after notebook, filled with starts and stops and revisions and rants and so much more.

Fourth Press Release: Sjón on Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller

Sjón, one of Iceland’s most famous writers, was recently asked which contemporary Icelandic authors were current inspirations to his work. He had this to say:

The grand old man of Icelandic literature is Guðbergur Bergsson and I keep being influenced by his modernist novels from the 60s as well as some of his later works. Luckily for English readers his early masterpiece Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller will be published by Open Letter in the U.S. next year. It is the greatest attack ever launched against the overblown ideas behind the official image of the Icelandic national character. It is a picaresque, Rabelaisian, joyful experiment where the main character even assigns a passport to his penis: Occupation: Toy. Height: 18 cm. Eye color: Red. Etc. Like all works that are watershed events his best novels have made writing both easier and more difficult for those of us who followed in his wake.

This is good blurb material, even if some readers don’t like penis jokes and others aren’t familiar with Rabelais. But the world needs attacks against overblown, nationalistic ideas. It’s both good and scary how timely this novel is.

The Fifth Release: Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller

Better yet: the comparison should be William H. Gass’s The Tunnel, what with the old man rants and textual games. This is not an easy novel to understand—a statement Tómas Jónsson embraces right from its start. Is art supposed to be something we understand? Should it reflect the values and trends of the moment, regurgitating what the occasional book reader—who has never read Ulysses and owns an un-opened Book Club edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude—would like so as to reaffirm their preexisting ideas?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed in the weekly Two Month Review podcast (and series of posts on Three Percent) for Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller taking place over August and September. Co-hosted by Open Letter’s Chad W. Post and poet-translator Lytton Smith (who has referred to this as the most difficult and important translation he’s ever done), the podcast will provide a deep dive into Bergsson’s novel chunk by chunk, recapping and appreciating the book while exploring its more Joycean-Marquezian-Gassian bits, providing a wider historical and literary context. All of these podcasts will be available on iTunes, Stitcher, the Three Percent website, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Be sure and take advantage of the 20% discount (enter 2MONTH at checkout), subscribe to the podcast, and join in the discussion about Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller over at Goodreads. And stay tuned over the next week for a number of other posts about this incredible novel.

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