12 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Chad and Brian are joined by Stiliana Milkova from Oberlin College to talk about the final sections of The Physics of Sorrow: “An Elementary Physics of Sorrow,” “Endings,” and “Epilogue.” They talk about the structure of the novel as a whole, about Chad’s favorite page in the book, about aging and nostalgia, and, in a true throwback moment, Twin Peaks.

You can watch the video recording of this episode on YouTube, and while you’re there, subscribe to Chad’s channel and stop by next Monday, April 16th at 9pm eastern for a very special episode that will feature Santiago Morrice AND Georgi Gospodinov himself! If you watch that episode live you’ll have the opportunity to ask Georgi all the questions you want!

As always, The Physics of Sorrow (and all the previous Two Month Review titles) is available for 20% off through our website. Just use the code 2MONTH at checkout.

While you’re there, pick up a copy of Fox by Dubravka Ugresic. This will be the next Two Month Review book, and we’ll release the schedule in the near future.

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

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

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes. It really helps people to discover the podcast.

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Stars and Babies by Splendor and Misery, featuring Georgi’s translator, Angela Rodel!

11 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I have a litany of reasons for why I’m combining a few posts here and writing a shorter, more condensed, straightforward post than most of the others. Baby (always an excuse), other obligations—such as the Best Translated Book Award longlists announcement and a bachelor party in which “what happens in Boiceville, stays in Boiceville, especially if what happens is a bunch of aging dudes sit in a living room getting drunk and talking about books and movies for two days,” and the never-ending assault of reading for my international fiction class. It’s also too cold! And we have a translator arriving for their residency and two author visits over the next two weeks. Phew.

So this piece is going to be a bit shorter. That’s OK. It’s poetry month, so I’ll embrace the brevity.

*


Poetry is actually where I want to start. On my monthly roundups on the “state of translations,” I’ve been mostly ignoring poetry collections and only making comparisons about how many works of fiction are being published. (Spoiler: Not as many as past years.) So let’s take a quick look into the numbers for 2018 and see what’s going on.

Number of poetry collections published, January-April by year:

2015: 28
2016: 33 (+18%)
2017: 43 (+30%)
2018: 21 (-52%)

What the shit is going on in 2018? This is crazy. I just went through SPD’s catalog and every translation publisher from 2017 and I got this. How disappointing.

I could try and break this precipitous fall-off down by publisher, language, country, translator, etc., but why bother. Either we’re missing something major, or the bottom is falling out and the boat is sinking. Regressing to the mean. Playing like the Cardinals. Whatever.

When it comes to translation statistics, 2018 is the worst. Like, literally.

Let’s just move on and check back in when there’s good news to share. Instead, let’s talk about actual poetry!

*


My plan for this month was to read a work of fiction and a poetry collection and talk about them every week. I have four April collections already picked out—which represent almost 20% of the poetry in translation published so far this year?—and the first one up is Stormwarning.



Stormwarning by Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir, translated from the Icelandic by K.T. Billey (Phoneme Media)

I feel like a terrible hypocrite.

For years I’ve advocated for the idea that anyone can read international literature, or “difficult” domestic literature, or, well, anything—you just had to dive in, give it a chance, let the book guide you and explain how to read it.

At the same time, I’ve written on this blog (and said on our podcasts) that I don’t read poetry. That I don’t get it. There are a bunch of “good” reasons I could trot out here about time and attention and my literary upbringing, and so on and forth, but if I’m being honest, I don’t read much poetry because it’s “beyond me.” I have none of the vocabulary to speak with poets or academics (not sure how much those vernaculars actually differ), I haven’t read nearly enough to feel confident in making my own connections (which I can do with fiction), and I don’t know what to say about it in a post (which is all that matters since I’m self-centered, like most people).

That last one is probably the most real. If I can’t figure out a fun way to write about/talk about a book, it’s dead to me. This is my way of engaging with the text—using it as a launching pad for other ideas, or going deep into it with my students or friends. When I try to write about international poetry, I feel like I’m way out of my depth and likely sound like an idiot. (More of an idiot, I suppose.)

But how shitty is that? How can I advocate for crazy, semi-experimental international fiction for the masses and then blatantly ignore a whole category of writing? Hypocrite.

*


So let’s give it a try. It’s insane to think that I could develop a reasonable set of ideas and approaches to talking about poetry over a single month, but maybe by doubling down on this, I can at least find some sort of foothold—however tenuous it might be.

One place to start is with the immediately visceral: Did I enjoy reading the poems in Stormwarning? I did! Since I’ve more or less sworn off jacket copy—I only judge a book by its front cover—I had no idea what to expect. Poems about Iceland, I assume, since Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir is Icelandic. But that’s as far as that idea went. (Although betting on some environmental/nature poetry slant would’ve seemed a safe bet given the title.)

Joy is a slippery term though. One I try and force my students to get past. “I really enjoyed reading this” doesn’t really signify anything concrete. What did you enjoy? The linguist puzzles? Fantastic descriptions of Quidditch matches? The humor? Sorrow? And isn’t this whole “I enjoyed it” a way of hiding the fact that you don’t really have anything else to say?

“Being Positive”

Go mountains!
Go clouds!
Go moss!


I enjoyed that. That sort of playful narrative voice—which, in my opinion, is both honest and ironic at once through the juxtaposition of esteem-centric cheers with natural objects that require no encouragement—is the thing I gravitate toward in poetry. Usually. I want my poetry to be understood on first pass, probably because I’m lazy and always trying to move on to the next book.

Another example of this from Stormwarning (and please, go buy this book from Phoneme so that they don’t shut me down for raiding their content):

“Passé”

Once everyone wanted to get to the moon.
It happened in the summer of 1969.
Then no one longed for the moon.
The moon is empty and abandoned.


Again, a bit ironic, a bit true, a bit humorous. Humor will get me most every time. That and poems/sections about aging. Especially if there’s a little seasoning of nostalgia. Like this bit from “In the Nursing Home”:

the dissolution is here
everything is
afloat
the self
the memory
the built-in locating equipment
we are all here
but also other places
and no one knows what happens next


Still, there’s a difference between pointing to something you like, and explaining what makes it good. I can’t do that with poetry, which is unfortunate, since listening to smart people talk about poetry in smart ways can be really entertaining.

I was hoping to find more reviews of Stormwarning to help guide me, but I’m honestly not even sure where exactly people review poetry collections in translation. I mean, there are reviews in Publishers Weekly and Modern Poetry in Translation, in places like The Brooklyn Rail, and in various academic journals, but that still seems kind of thin. I’m 100% sure these conversations are going on elsewhere, so please do @ me and let me know what to pay attention to!

For now though, with regard to Stormwarning, I’m going to leave it at this: I like the tone, I like the plain language. I also love these lines:

The day tomorrow will be worse
but that does not mean that the day today is not bad.


It’s a start.

*


Let’s be honest though. The best poem of 2018 are the lyrics to “Unlovable” by Chad Post.



Yeah this can’t end well
When the flames feel like hell
Put me on a pedestal
But you’ve been lying to yourself

And if that’s how you act
Then yes I would take it back
Memories that we had
Must hurt so bad
Don’t throw your hands up like that
Save the tears your bags are packed
Because it’s too late now to ever go back

It’s all because you said I was unlovable.


I feel ya, Chad Post! And check out the video:



Actually, don’t. This song feels like it was written by Apple’s “predictive text” technology, including that one inexplicable blip in the prediction that leads to some odd statements. (See lyric about “stole all my hair.”) And he pronounces words in ways that no other human being pronounces them. I can barely understand any of this, and it’s not just because I’m twice his age and my ears never stop ringing.

Instead, I would recommend reading all of the comments. Scratch that. I’d recommend reading this comment:

Judy Hages
1 week ago
This is one of the best music videos I have ever seen……….and I am 75years old!! Wow! Everyone associated with making this video should be incredibly PROUD!!! Wow!! Woo Woo and YIPPEE!! Judy Hages

But like a good infomercial—WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

Over at Amazon you can find this little book of Chad Post’s poems entitled, Death by Poetry and The Lies about Me. This is more gold like an Axe body spray commercial. (If I’m ever drinking around you when this commercial comes on—take cover. I loathe this commercial, especially the gif ending with the woman making impressed hand gestures at that turd who stands there smug as . . . UGH. For me, this is the visual representation of the BuzzFeed aesthetic.)

Here’s a couple of Chad Post’s poems:

Every time you give
your heart the chance
to break you give your
soul the chance to fly.

chad post


And, one more:

The two things you need
most in life are
happiness and confidence
and both of those are
choices.

chad post


Yes, every poem ends with his name. No, I have no idea. Yeah, totally possible that you read that one in the dentist’s office last week. Sure, yeah, I’m glad to stick with my day job as well.

And here’s the thing. It’s only a matter of time before every Google search for me is replaced by this:



Given that he has <1,000 plays on Spotify and an EP coming out soon, I'll give it a month before my image is swept away in the Unlovable Chad Post of it all . . . Hey, maybe I'll get some cool new Twitter followers!

*




The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions)

There was a moment around page 60 of Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary when I started asking myself if this was actually good, or bad, or something that’s neither and just a book that I’m supposed to like. It was almost a moment of crisis, as if I had been secretly drugged with something that made all words lose their meaning.

Which might actually be an aspect of the book and the future it posits:

Soybeans and buckwheat were still grown in the “Far West” of Tokyo, along with a new strain of wheat, but not enough was produced to export to other regions, and besides, these were crops that could be grown elsewhere. Long ago, the words “something new from Tokyo” brought to mind a plug attached to a long tail called a cord, but things like that didn’t sell anymore. Electrical appliances had met with disapproval ever since electric current was discovered to cause nervous disorders, numbness in the extremities, and insomnia—a condition generally known as bzzt-bzzt syndrome. Newspapers carried reports of chronic insomniacs who slept soundly at camping grounds in the mountains where there was no electricity. A popular writer published an essay on how the sound of the vacuum cleaner drove all thoughts of the novel he was writing out of his mind.

Back some weeks ago, I predicted this would make the National Book Award for Translation shortlist. I’m still going to back that idea, although it’s not my favorite book. The lightness of the tone and writing will likely appeal to a lot of readers, as will its fable-like qualities.

I was left with one major question though: This is set in a world that’s all divided up, dysfunctional following an undefined major disaster. Society is ordered by a whole new set of rules, old people can’t die, young kids are incredibly weak, there are all sorts of random holidays (like “Green Day” and “Red Day”), etc. And yet, in a world devoid of electrical appliances and, well, most foods, Yoshiro is still working as a novelist. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to make me feel hopeful, or like this book is just trolling itself.

Unfortunately, this book just isn’t for me. To be completely honest, I’m not sure if any of Tawada’s recent books are for me. I’m not into Memoirs of a Polar Bear (like that Axe ad, don’t get me going on books with talking animals), but I know a lot of people who are. I don’t want to take any potshots at her, her fans, her translators, or anything, since the sum total of my opinion about her last couple novels is an exaggerated shrug.

In some weird way, I ended up feeling like I have more to say about a book of poetry than about a novel that I should probably like. But I guess that if there’s a point to this filler post—aside from bringing the amazing (though unlovable) Chad Post to your attention—is that it’s OK to give something a try and then quit it. Trying makes the quitting OK.

I do want to write more about the difficulties in simply not liking a popular book—about the anxieties over the potential backlash, the idea that our group of people values books and reading at a total stratospheric level compared to most other people, about the need for works that are neither “the greatest!” or “the worst!”—but this is a filler post. More on that some other time.

5 April 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Rachel Cordasco from Speculative Fiction in Translation and the Wisconsin Historical Society Press joined Chad and Brian for a fun conversation about part VII of Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow. They talked about how this book invokes a variety of memories, hotel rooms, Eastern European self-deprecating humor, the saddest place on earth, and much more. It’s a wide-ranging conversation that truly captures the spirit of the Two Month Review. Whether you’ve read the book or not, you’ll come away from this informed and entertained. (And probably wishing you had read the book.)

You can watch the video recording of this episode on YouTube, and while you’re there, subscribe to Chad’s channel and stop by next Monday, April 9th at 9pm eastern to talk with Chad, Brian, and special guest Stiliana Milkova. They’ll be discussing “An Elementary Physics of Sorrow” and the “Conclusion,” and probably touching on Milkova’s literary interests, which include Russian Symbolist erotic poetry and Elena Ferrante.

As always, The Physics of Sorrow (and all the previous Two Month Review titles) is available for 20% off through our website. Just use the code 2MONTH at checkout.

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

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, and Brian Wood, for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And be sure to follow Rachel Cordasco as well for more book information—especially about speculative fiction.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Stars and Babies by Splendor and Misery, featuring Georgi’s translator, Angela Rodel!

29 March 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, translator Angela Rodel joins Chad and Brian to talk about The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov, the recent surge in Bulgarian literature in translation, point of view issues in writing, Bulgarian folk music, what makes a translation work, and much more. Then Chad and Brian banter about “The Story Buyer,” the giving away of ideas for novels, and the next title to be featured on the Two Month Review!

There is an unedited version of the second half of this podcast available on YouTube. that contains a longer discussion of the future of the project and what other titles could be included. And be sure to come by next TUESDAY, April 3rd at 9pm to talk with Chad, Brian, and special guest Rachel Cordasco. They’ll be discussing “Global Autumn,” the saddest places in the world, Eastern European humor, and more.

As always, The Physics of Sorrow (and all the previous Two Month Review titles) is available for 20% off through our website. Just use the code 2MONTH at checkout.

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

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

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Stars and Babies by Splendor and Misery, featuring Georgi’s translator, Angela Rodel!

22 March 18 | Chad W. Post |

In addition to ripping on Chad and the poor showing by the Michigan State Spartans in the NCAA Tournament, Brian Wood and Tom Flynn (from Volumes Bookcafe) discuss the morality of animals, how this section of The Physics of Sorrow focuses more on the “animal” side of the minotaur, the mixture of lightness and sorrow in Gospodinov’s writing, terrible sounding alcoholic drinks, and more. It’s a great blend of pure entertainment and literary insight, reinforcing just how carefully crafted and incredible this novel is.

There is an unedited version of this podcast—with maybe eight extra minutes of jokes—that you can watch on YouTube. And be sure to come by next Monday, March 26th at 9pm to hangout with Chad and Brian. They’ll be talking about Part VI (pages 179-200) and answering any and all of your questions.

As always, The Physics of Sorrow (and all the previous Two Month Review titles) is available for 20% off through our website. Just use the code 2MONTH at checkout.

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

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, and Brian Wood, for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And you can follow Volumes Bookcafe for more information about books and upcoming events. (Like the one on April 26th with Two Month Review alum Rodrigo Fresán!)

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Stars and Babies by Splendor and Misery, featuring Georgi’s translator, Angela Rodel!

20 March 18 | Orisa Santiago Morrice | Comments

Last week, Chad, Brian, special guest Patrick Smith, and an insightful YouTube commentator discussed part IV of Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow. This section, in many ways, brought us full circle to the nature of Gospodinov’s work by introducing us to the cultural phenomena of the time capsule, and the circumstances that drive people to bury stuff they like in the ground. Through this investigation, Gospodinov sheds light into what this book is about and what he accomplishes with the short, broken pieces that make it up.

Mazes and Spirals

Through these last couple of weeks, through all the wonderful guests and discussions and through the beautifully prose of The Physics of Sorrow, we’ve had the pleasure of unravelling a dark and complex piece. From the second week and onward it feels like each conversation ends with someone saying something along the lines of “we’re returning to so much” and “we’re getting deeper into this.”

As much as Gospodinov and his work are involved in the labyrinth as a historic and emotional metaphor, the spiral finds a place in understanding both the work and our discussion of it as readers. I will elaborate on this as the post winds on.

The Core of the Spiral

The first section of the Two Month Review, which included the Epigraphy, Prologue, and “The Bread of Sorrow,” set up the themes that Gospodinov revisits in the subsequent sections—this thought something I’ve already written in previous blog posts. These recurring elements include abandonment, the minotaur, the labyrinth, life in communist Bulgaria, the mythic, fathers, darkness, basements, and the like. Obviously, well-crafted books do this: build and return to themes. But Gospodinov treats his themes like he treats his family, and his imagination: he treats them like characters that are born, develop, and are perpetually at risk of losing everything and dying. These themes are more a part of the cast and less an abstraction that is built by the behavior of his human characters—not excluding Asterius with my use of “human.”

The second section, “Against an Abandonment: The Case of M,” presented us with public defender Gospodinov and his defense for the minotaur. This section developed our understanding of Gospodinov’s obsession with myth, particular the rich history and his own speculations on the myth of the Minotaur and its relationship to his own family and upbringing.

The third section, “The Yellow House,” returned us to stories of Gospodinov and his family in Bulgaria, and, again, routed us through the themes and characters established in the previous two sections. It is important to note that beyond this coiling of each section, Gospodinov adds more events, and friends, and family members but does so, frequently, through the established themes.

This fourth section, “Time Bomb (To be Opened After the End of the World),” has Gospodinov laying his plans bare and creates a confluence between the content of the book, the themes, characters, places, and discussions, with the form that Gospodinov has created, the short and somewhat related pieces within larger sections. We see, again, the themes at play with people and moments in his life. He returns us to his grandfather, introduces us to a school-aged, rebelliously insightful Gospodinov, shows us more facets to his stylistic abilities, and all around the intense discussion of time capsules. And as he works his way from time capsules on fridges, or time capsules launched into space, or buried into the ground, and as he spirals again around the elements that are important to The Physics of Sorrow it starts to become clear that, put simply, this book is a time capsule.

Along the Loops

This week’s section opens with “The Aging of an Empath” where Gospodinov discusses the eventual loss of his ability to embed, a side effect of aging, and, I’d add, an overexposure to humanity. Most importantly, he describes that his habit of hoarding objects is an attempt to counteract the loss of his Obsessive Empathetic-Somatic Syndrome, or “radical empathetic-somatic syndrome” as he (mis)remembers.

And this isn’t the first time that Gospodinov has described collecting objects, but this provides further insight into why he does. Collecting starts in “First Aid Kit for After the End of the World,” which lushly describes a young version of himself slowly preparing a kit, of sorts, to survive a nuclear attack, with goods and kind words included. And this pattern of collecting repeats.

He writes about how he hoards apocalypse-inspired headlines, mentions Mengele’s personal journals, the disks that the Voyager and Pioneer spacecrafts carried to give extraterrestrial life a glimpse into the glory of mankind via a recording of Jimmy Carter’s voice. He also writes about time capsules throughout the world, and a need to map the location of all of them, the need for a literary time capsule of all genres and trends, and the possible dangers of future humanoids stumbling upon our time capsules.

These acts of collecting are rooted in fear, from Gospodinov’s survival kit to NASA’s strange experiment, and are attempts to ameliorate said fears. Beautifully, this section—this entire work, rather, is engaging in this process. Through “First Aid Kit[. . .],” in the light of Gospodinov losing his embedding, we see him fracture his older self from his younger self, writing on his younger self as distinct person—almost writing as though there is a death that has separated these two individuals. And in response to this fear of further loss, Gospodinov has taken to collect and preserve moments. He collects newspaper headlines and discusses massive beehive death, and birds dropping from the sky. And even the popularity of time capsules mirrors fears of nuclear annihilation or apocalypse by another means. The time capsule ameliorates our fears as even if we are wiped from the face of the the earth, the collection of materials sustains our existence deep beneath the earth, or in space, or on the page.

That said, we can read all books as being time capsules of sorts—these obscure collections of thoughts and images that contain an interpretation of a past time for a future time—sure. But from the exchange between Chad, Brian, and Patrick, I’m convinced to separate The Physics of Sorrow from the over encompassing speculation of “books are time capsules” to the more accurate “The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov is a time capsule.” This idea was set up beautifully by a comment from Patrick, when he said, paraphrased, “the brokenness of the form is built for destruction.” Chad followed up by adding that missing a section—I’d argue referring to either the larger section of the books or the smaller units within each section—is ok (obviously read the whole thing, it’s good). The Physics of Sorrow is this greater vessel of smaller fragments, all related in some way yet distinct enough on their own, and—better yet—crafted with this comprehension of a bleak, possibly apocalyptic, future.

The Pioneer and Voyager disks contained fragments of mankind at a certain temporal locus, just as the Westinghouse Time Capsules, and the time capsule from the young Gospodinov’s school in Pleven. And The Physics of Sorrow is doing just what these time capsules are. Each fragment of each section standing on it’s own with its own commentary with its relationship to the characters and themes. The themes are sustained not by just one piece, but by many, just as the many characters come and go through the sections. Hypothetically, should the capsule crack, and most of the contents be destroyed (should you rip out a chunk of the book), the individual fragments elaborate on another so often, that missing one doesn’t destroy a reader’s ability to understand what Gospodinov accomplishes throughout the whole of The Physics of Sorrow. The minotaurs, the labyrinth, Bulgaria, Communism, abandonment, World War—all these elements repeat and deepen from fragment to fragment to create a sustained understanding of the book itself considering the threat of mass destruction.

Gospodinov’s Arc

This confluence of form and content that I’ve been speaking to is the most blunt with the paired sections of “Noah Complex” and “New Realism.” “Noah Complex” suggests that a encyclopedic time capsule of writing should be created including:

[. . .] monologue through Socratic dialogue to epos in hexameter, from fairytales through treatises to lists. From high antiquity to slaughterhouse instructions. Everything can be gathered up and transported in such a book.


This would contain writing from all times, and different styles and authors. And after all his tongue-in-cheek commentary on time capsules, each entry dripping with a quiet criticism of the futility, he writes in this section:

Only the book is eternal, only its covers shall rise above the waves, only the beasts inside, between its pages swarming with life, will survive. And when they see the new land, they will go forth and multiply [. . .] And what is written shall be made flesh and blood and shall be brought to life in all its perfection. And “the lion” shall become a lion, “the horse” will whinny like a horse, “the crow” will fly from the page with an ugly croak . . . And the Minotaur will come out into the light of day.


Adopting a sort of mystic prose, he places his faith in the book to be a suitable vessel for realities, relying on the readers imagination—a proxy for his own experienced embedding—to bring the worlds contained in this Noachian encyclopedia to life (as corny as it sounds), to change the animals, in quotes, into animals in flesh. I even feel a nod to his own work as he imagines the Minotaur out in the light.

Gospodinov gives us just that in this following section “New Realism,” where he drops us into a beautifully written realist narrative. Defined as “a faithful representation of reality” or “verisimilitude,” this section speaks to just that, as Gospodinov shifts styles yet again to make a point. I don’t even really know where to draw from to give the “best” example of his writing—the whole narrative speaks to that. It’s important to note that many of the authors from his Epigraphy were realists in their national literatures, and, relatedly the epigraphs from Flaubert and St. Augustine speak to the ability to embed and being able to suspend the fleeting moment as so that it may be experienced, at the very least, a second time.

This is the moment of union for this work, as a whole, between its form and content. Gospodinov, considering a singular death at one end and apocalypse at the other, collects a series of fragments to hopefully survive and be reopened. With his wit, he might even fear what the results may be, as we see in “Future Number 73,” where future humanoids find his Communist Youth Brigade inductee letter create a yearly bloodletting. I must say, I’m curious what a society of people who worship the ‘doctrine’ of “New Realism” would accomplish.

And Back Again Through the Spiral

This confluence of form and content, while emphasized in this section has been going on the entire time and I believe we can assume it will continue. Obviously, we can look at each section as these collections of ephemera, something to understand Bulgarian history following the death of the 2015 version of Georgi Gospodinov, but, specifically, there are sections throughout the book that mirror his time capsule form.

In the Prologue we saw that collection of entities, all seemingly alone if not interrelated by their isolation. In “The Bread of Sorrow” sections like “Trophy Words,” which documented the Hungarian words that his grandfather kept through national shifts and relocations, “Crumbling Language” and “G,” which both highlighted Gospodinov’s own adventures with language acquisition, and “A Short Catalogue of Abandonments,” which listed cases of abandonment from various myths around the world.

“Against an Abandonment: The Case of M” had the “Dossier” and “Myth and Game,” which were lengthy collections of (mis)representations of the Minotaur, while “Child-Unfriendly” and “Devoured Children in Greek Mythology (An Incomplete Catalogue)” both list injustices against children, in and out of myth.

“The Yellow House” featured a series of these catalogs, from “A Catalogue of Collections,” to “From a Catalogue of Important Erotic Scenes” to the various collections of accounts from the 1980s.

But this most recent section brings all these to the surface and discusses them head-on. And this is where I return to the spiral. A participant in the chat from last week’s podcast, one gabbiano117, wrote:

This really is the perfect book for reading and rereading again and again. The way it retreats and advances and circles and gets lost in itself again and again and again.


Gospodinov is writing something that coils upon itself, but also builds. He started the piece by explaining how his world works, and from that point provided examples that affirm his construction. And as we go onto the next section, I’m excited to see how else the spiral will progress, and how what form the Minotaur takes in another place and time.


13 March 18 | Orisa Santiago Morrice |

On this week’s Two Month Review blog post, we’re exploring Part III: “The Yellow House” from Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow. As was unanimous from the conversation between Chad, Brian, and Nick last week, this is where the magic of the book and the skill of Gospodinov as a writer truly start to shine. And I couldn’t agree more. The whimsy, darkness, and craftsmanship of this section confirms my suspicion that Gospodinov has been preparing us for these depths through the earlier sections. Now that we’re familiar with the physics of his world—the embedding, the mythic undertones, the complex Bulgarian landscape—he can drag us further into the ephemera that matter.

The Craft of Gospodinov

Through “The Yellow House” we’re looking at—well—everything. Each of the short stories within provide flashes at the truth that Gospodinov is writing to unpack. And by the time I reached the end of this section, I felt fully immersed. When the chapter finished, I automatically ventured further as I felt fully prepared by Gospodinov to do so. I mean it when I say that this section left me blank, breathless. The book has done much to cement it’s sense of playfulness and wonder through its unconventional structure and mythic, pseudo-scientific content, and the rules of how this world works. But through this part we now see Gospodinov shine for his prose and its ability to draw a reader into its self-contained world.

The Personal Mythic

It is with this vigorous attention to prose that, throughout “The Yellow House,” Gospodinov returns to what he established in previous sections, such as the powerful orbit of the minotaur, and its relationship to abandonment and his life in Bulgaria. The opening piece is easily one of the strongest. At its most basic, it’s a short work of mystery, with a little bit of Gothic spice here and there with the otherworldly properties and suspense. The second paragraph reads like it could have been pulled from an early American horror serial:

One evening, passing by there, I heard a chilling howl. There was something excessive and inhuman in that howling or bellowing, something from the mazes of the night Ooooooooohhh . . . That endless Oooohh dug tunnels in the silence of the early November evening.


And there we are, drawn in to this strange space where nothing is truly certain, and it’s here that we find our protagonist, the young Gospodinov. This story continues as such, with him traversing the dark countryside outside of this deserted insane asylum, attempting to speculate what—or who— is howling—or possibly mooing—from its depths, and, later, trying to figure out what his father was doing there. This arc continues in “My Brother, the Minotaur,” where the nature of the mystery turns from halls of the asylum with their peeling paint to the halls of his own mind, as he attempts to deduce what—or who—was calling out to him from the center of that labyrinth. And his imagination runs wild. He first speculates that:

That inhuman howl really was inhuman, and it wasn’t Ooooh, but Moooo. And it came from a half-man, half-bull locked up in there. (I’d already seen one such boy in my grandfather’s hidden memory.) [. . .]


And from here he’s left, haunted about his fate and his relationship to the Minotaur (Asterius, is that you?), as he suspects that he and the minotaur are brothers through numerous imaginative acrobatics.

The Diagnosis

In this section we even return to embedding. This time, we have a diagnosis for this bizarre ability: pathological empathy or obsessive empathetic-somatic syndrome (which, as far as we can tell author Gospodinov has created for this piece specifically). This condition is marked, neurologically, by some kind of hyperactivity in the same regions of the brain that allow for empathy, but, for people like Georgi, it becomes too strong of a feeling and places the brain in a trance-like state while the victim fully constructs, or possibly invades, the memory or imagination of another.

There’s even a kind of somatic confirmation of this, which is seen following an MRI:

The picture hadn’t come out. Maybe it was due to the machine, it was old, after all. Actually, this was the first time something like this had happened to them, absolutely nothing could be seen, just a dark-black plate. This didn’t come as a surprise to me. I know nothing can be seen, because inside is darkness, an unilluminable, centuries-deep darkness. My skull is a cave. I didn’t tell them that, of course.


The Myth of the Gospodinovs

We’re also met with numerous short and sweet stories about our young narrator and his family where the mythic is drawn upon to contextualize the experiences of him and his family. In “Nippers,” the theme of abandonment is intersected once again by Greek myths, while in “Mother Bean” the children are told to avoid playing in the gardens or the mothers of vegetables will go after them. It’s here that a young Georgi beautifully remarks, “Everything had a mother, only we didn’t. We had grandmothers.”

A Brief and Wondrous History of Bulgaria

A bulk of “The Yellow House” has Gospodinov recounting life in Communist Bulgaria. We’re given lectures on Bulgaria through sections like “A Private History of the 1980s,” and “An Official History of the 1980s,” which highlight Georgi’s own role in the deaths of numerous Soviet Union leaders (and the relationship of that to his love life). Amongst these are series of catalogs, such as the “Catalog of Collections,” which details Gospodinov’s obsession with collected abandoned things, to the two-part “The Sexual Questions” and “From a Catalog Of Important Erotic Scenes,” which highlight the humor that pervades Gospodinov’s storytelling—no matter how grim the discussion.

All We Are is Dust in the Wind

The section I wanted to focus on the most was “The Metaphysics of Dust,” nestled in the first third of “The Yellow House.” It describes in full beautiful sensory detail—almost spiritually so—a return to a nostalgic place. The piece opens:

I’ve fallen asleep on the windowsill. I wake up from the sun shining through the dirty glass, a warm afternoon sun. Still in that no man’s land between sleep and afternoon, before I return to myself, I sense that soaring and lightness, the whole weightlessness of a child’s body. Waking up, I age within seconds. Crippling pain seizes my lower back, my leg is stiff. The light in early September, the first fallen leaves outside, the worry that someone may have passed by on the street and seen me.


We’re met with lush descriptions that bounce between the senses and accomplish a lot—with very little—to create a sense of immersion. While we’re beautifully drawn into this scene, Gospodinov starts to layer this prosodic depth with some of the ‘physics’ that’s he’s guided us to throughout the piece—in this case the relationship between light and time that he introduced in the previous section, “Against an Abandonment: The Case of M.” He’s already performing routines that we’re familiar with, such as the warping of perception, but as he’s worked so hard for us to understanding how his world works he’s now able to fully engage with more artistic prose. He continues:

I climb down from the window carefully, unfolding my body, instead of simply jumping down. The room, lit up by the autumn sun, has come alive. One ray passes right through the massive glass ashtray on the table, breaking the light down into its constituent colors. Even the long-dead, mummified fly next to it looks exquisite and sparkles like a forgotten earring [. . .] The Brownian motion of the dust specks in the ray of light . . . The first mundane proof of atomism and quantum physics, we are made of specks of dust. And perhaps the whole room, the afternoon and my very self, with my awkward three-dimensionality are being merely projected [. . .]


Just as we were first drawn to his perspective, which seems to be a timeless narrator pulled between his youth and age and he’s filled with both whimsy and stiff joints at the same time, we’re now being dispersed into the universe with the dust and drifts throughout the room and the light that pours in through the windows. And as we’re already familiar with, Gospodinov returns to his own whimsical, emotional physics with more feeling—more depth. The piece moves into a collection of moments, something we see in different forms throughout “The Yellow House,” and the manner in which these moments are built further obstructs our ability to sense time at this moment—as readers—as we almost see the narrator stretch himself across space and time within the confines of this room:

I recalled the darkness, the scent of Pine-Sol, the whirring of the machine. Everything in the movie theater was made from that darkness and a single beam of light. The headless horseman arrived along the beam, as did the great Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon; horses and Indians, whooping Sioux tribes, geometrical Roman legions, and ragged Gypsy caravans headed for the heavens kicked up dust along it, Lollobrigida and Loren came down that beam, along with Bardot, Alain Delon and his eternal rival Belmondo [. . .] I would turn my back on the screen and peer into the beam coming from the little window at the back of the theater. It swarmed with chaotically dancing particles. [. . .] I watched the specks of dust and tried to guess which would turn into lips, an eye, a horse’s hoof or Lollobrigida’s breasts, which flashed by for an instant in one scene . . .


Gospodinov pulls the readers across a span of ephemera, as he warned us through his epigraphy, and while the prose here is as beautiful as the rest of the section, he has also given us an outline of what we are to expect throughout the section, right down to the feelings, actors, and archetypes. And, mystically, he tells us that there’s more, more that he can’t tell us directly, through the use of ellipses. We can speculate here, as these could be the lapses in his own memory, or a daring moment where the narrator can’t tell us something that is pulled back to his memory of the movie theatre. While I’m focusing on these opening paragraphs, clumsily pulling the enter short here, I could easily draw from any moment of this short piece, and such a homogeneity of wonder throughout this section attests to Gospodinov’s clear vision that I first wrote two in the introductory post weeks ago.

I return to some of the sentiments that the gentlemen shared during the podcast last week. In “The Yellow House” Gospodinov shows us what he was capable of. During one of the previous discussions, one participant—I believe Brian—noted that there wasn’t necessarily something pulling them through the piece. They were reading it, they were enjoying it, but—to paraphrase—the magic of the piece wasn’t sustaining the reading experience.

And I would agree with that commentary. While the work was interesting, and challenging, it felt like Gospodinov might not have been leading us anywhere concrete. There were so many disparate sections, with loose narration, followed by the formal shifting in Part II, and these changes forced me, as a reader, into anywhere from discomfort—anxiety at worst—to a disinterest towards what would come next. But what arrived through Part III was a strong return to what we know. Instead of shifting expectations once more with formal manipulation, Gospodinov was able strengthen the themes of the previous sections with a stunning attention to prose. And, in retrospect, the structure of the previous sections was needed to draw a reader to enough of a familiarity with the work as to give Gospodinov free reign to give us his best.


6 March 18 | Orisa Santiago Morrice |

This week we’re following up from Chad, Brian, special guest Caitlin Baker (University Book Store in Seattle), and their discussion of Part II of Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow, “Against an Abandonment: The Case of M.” Here, Gospodinov throws us for another loop, as we move from the halls of memory for the courtroom. Here, our newest favorite public defender offers his best pro bono work for Asterius, the Minotaur of Crete. Drawing on depictions of Asterius from historians, poets, artists, and video game designers, Gospodinov, argues that this bull-headed man has been wrongly painted as a monster. Oh, also—very related—there’s an awful lot about children being eaten.

Mythic Degrees of Libel

The construction of this section, as Chad pointed out during the podcast, is strange when considering a more conventional novel. The first section of the piece, “The Bread of Sorrow,” despite being composed of short, formally disconnected sections, was bound together by the narrator’s ability to embed himself in the memories of those around him. Whether he jumped from his great grandfather’s memories, to the memories of a slug being shoved in a wound for the restorative properties of its mucous, to his own experience living in a basement as an ant god, or some other entity of another importance, the reader is carefully guided through sensory leaps sustained by a common focal point via the narrator.

“Against an Abandonment: The Case of M.” (which interestingly enough follows “Dad, What’s a Minotaur?” the last subsection of Part I) challenges readers yet again by forcing them into a mythic courtroom, where Gospodinov, newly appointed public defender, makes a case against the public representation and subsequent treatment of Asterius (the name given to him by Pasiphae, his mother), Minotaur of Minos. What develops here still draws upon the previous. We return to the minotaur as a mythic core, we return to a young Gospodinov and his family, and we return to discussions of dark basements and abandonment through children. With these root subjects in mind, Gospodinov has changed the shape of the piece. Where we previously had short narratives we now have arguments, historical accounts, character testimonies, and the like. Gospodinov presents his case to the Honorable Mr. Minos who is pulled from the underworld to serve as the judge in this case.


George Frederick Watts. The Minotaur. 1895. Oil on Canvas. Wikimedia Commons.

His defense of Asterius begins with a simple, but early argument generated by the narrator’s grandfather, who wrote:

The Minotaur is not guilty. He is a boy locked up in a basement. He is frightened. They have abandoned him. I, the minotaur.


From here, Gospodinov does his best to build his grandfather’s case by outlining the historical misrepresentation of Asterius and clearly outlining who is at fault.

They have Abandoned Asterius

Gospodinov draws on numerous historians, both real and constructed, to provide testimony to the misrepresentation of Asterius. Ovid’s descriptions paint him as a “double-natured shame” and a “disgrace from his abode.” He draws on Seneca, who did his best to smear the reputations of both Asterius and his mother. Additionally, Dante “The Inferno” Alighieri, placed Asterius as a guardian and torturer on the seventh circle of hell—the circle of violence—while, in the same stroke of his quill placed King Minos in the second circle—the circle of lust—which is just slightly closer to God’s love. Virgil, who approached Asterius with the same ‘neutral’ language as Apollodorus, is not free of guilt as Gospodinov highlights that this kind of neutrality is still soaked in revulsion, as Virgil described Asterius as the “result of unnatural relations.”

And beyond these literary misrepresentations of Asterius, visual arts were often inspired by the disgust of these authors and saw such revulsion to its inevitable end. Gospodinov notes the obsession in visual art with Asterius’ death, noting a series of frescoes that depict the moment when Theseus has Asterius by the horn, and ready to kill it. And we’ve been led to experience a deep satisfaction, thanks to depictions like these and ideologies spread by the aforementioned authors. This profound pleasure of killing one who we have marked as guilty and inhuman is continued into the 20th and 21st centuries with three-dimensional representations of Asterius in video games, Gospodinov argues.

While World of Warcraft, where the Minotaur-inspired “Tauren” race stood as a politically nearsighted parallel for Indigenous American people (often nomadic, driven from their home lands by brutal conquerors, ‘noble savages’), God of War provided a moment for the player to experience that Thesian satisfaction. As I, through god-killer Kratos, grabbed them by the horns and thrust my sword into their hearts, dragging the blade throat-ward, I giggled with glee as I was rewarded with healing magics and extra experience points for performing the most brutal possible takedown of Asterius’ kind.

Gospodinov, I turn to you, as guilty as many of these writers and artists and designers. And Asterius, I look into your large, dark eyes, and I am deeply sorry.

Asterius is a boy locked in a Basement. He is frightened.

But while he is hidden away in the labyrinth, and branded as a sin, Asterius is nothing more than the result of generations of guilt and sin before him. But, additionally, he is forced to bare the weight that his forefathers refused to. Pasiphae’s lust for Poseidon’s white bull was the direct result of King Minos’ obstruction of a direct order from the god of the sea. Additionally, he received the white bull after asking for a blessing as so that he could overpower his brothers for control of Crete. Furthermore, the Athenian youths that were sent as a sacrifice to Crete were the result of an age old conflict where the Athenians killed the son of another Cretan king—who then went on the decimate Athens. Asterius serves as nothing more of a vessel to be filled with the sins of the men before him, as this small list of transgressions could go on for eons in the imagination of the right historian.

Gospodinov also traces the history of the Trojan computer virus, from the Trojan war horse, to Daedalus, master inventor of the Aegean Sea. He points to the Daedalan Cow—the cow-shaped contraption that allowed Pasiphae to copulate with Poseidon’s white bull. But while Asterius is branded an unnatural beast, a veritable unnatural union is a fake cow, that in the words elder Augustine:

[. . .] Fly and ram, tulip and oak do not copulate.


The mistake made was not by Asterius, but by Daedalus, the architect of this unnatural creation, and King Minos, for defying Poseidon—we can keep peeling the layers of history back, finding transgression behind slaughter, behind greed, and so on. Yet, we are called to cheer as Asterius is dragged lifeless from his prison, time and time again, into the light of day.

Asterius is not Guilty

And from this deep dive into Asterius and his monstrous historicization, Gospodinov looks then to all the children of greek myth, and their absence. He points out that throughout myth, children are eaten, in what can be almost seen as a tradition. “Where there is Time, there is light,” he states, and with this reasoning the only safe place for children to hide is in the dark, as did Asterius, as did narrator Gospodinov, and his father, and his grandfather, and so on. In many ways, Gospodinov took the position of public defender for the shamed Asterius to bring to light the sins that children are forced to bear—and how they carry the weight of the generations before them.


Francisco Goya. Saturn Devouring his Son 1819. Oil on Canvas. Wikimedia Commons.

I was at first confused when I encountered these details of children being devoured throughout Greek myth. Gospodinov starts at the earliest where the titan Chronos consumed the godly children of his that would eventually burst from his body and subjugate him, and his kind.

Even our beloved narrator, at a point, was threatened to be devoured. He writes of a particularly titanic aunt:

I had an aunt who always threatened to eat me up every time she came to visit. Huge and hulking, a distant offshoot of the Titan’s line, she would stand in front of me, spread wide her enormous arms with their rapaciously painted nails, bare her teeth malevolently, two silver caps sparkling, and would slowly step toward me with a deep growl coming from her belly. I would curl up into a ball, screaming, while she shook with laughter. She didn’t have any children, she must have devoured them.


But this doesn’t exist as an isolated occurrence within his family alone. He also recalls the experience of a friend, describing a photograph:

It’s an ordinary baking pan, large, with indelible traces of endless use. The rice has been washed and lightly steamed, amid the white—little balls of black pepper. You can clearly see that the stove has been switched on, the oven door is open, and two hands are carrying the tray toward it. There’s just one unusual detail—that’s no chicken or turkey on top of the rice, but a baby, naked and alive. I almost said raw. It’s lying on its back, its arms and legs in the air. It is clearly only a few days old and weighs no more than a middling turkey.


And as clarified by our round table, the traces of these mythic situations still linger today, as adults still talk about how sweet their children are and threaten to eat their toes during playtime. All this darkness, and devouring of children, leads us back to Gospodinov’s core myth: Asterius in the labyrinth.

There, in that damned place, while the entirety of history brands him a monster, and artists make iteration after iteration of his death hoping to get as close as possible to their audiences experiencing it firsthand, he exists as nothing more than a child. Thrown into the timeless darkness and fed children—as only adults could think that makes sense (bulls are herbivores, Gospodinov reminds us. Only following his final moments is he allowed to be brought to the light. In a state of timelessness he is maintained, until he is made example of for the wrong reason to the wrong audience.

Before I end this post, I want you to take one more look at the painting I shared above: Asterius, with either Ariadne’s twine or his own bindings in hand, mouth slightly ajar, out in bright daylight looking over the ocean as the wind blows through the soft tufts of his fur—contemplating the infinity of a well-lit day.

Asterius is all abandoned children, vessels of the sins of their forefathers, forced into the dark, twisted, and consumed when needed.

2 February 18 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After a bit of a break for the holidays and whatnot, we’re BACK! Or about to be. Starting on February 15th, there will be all new episodes of the Two Month Review, this time focuses on The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov.



Probably the Open Letter title that Tom Roberge likes the best, The Physics of Sorrow came out in 2015 and has continuously moved up our list of best-selling titles. It was a finalist for the 2015 PEN Literary Award for Translation and won the 2016 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature. It walso was a finalists for both the Strega Europeo and Gregor von Rezzori awards. And won multiple honors in Bulgaria. It’s in it third (?) printing now, and is available from better bookstores everywhere, or from us directly. If you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll even get 20% off!

Here’s a brief description:

Using the myth of the Minotaur as its organizing image, the narrator of Gospodinov’s long-awaited novel constructs a labyrinth of stories about his family, jumping from era to era and viewpoint to viewpoint, exploring the mindset and trappings of Eastern Europeans. Incredibly moving—such as with the story of his grandfather accidentally being left behind at a mill—and extraordinarily funny—see the section on the awfulness of the question “how are you?”—Physics is a book that you can inhabit, tracing connections, following the narrator down various “side passages,” getting pleasantly lost in the various stories and empathizing with the sorrowful, misunderstood Minotaur at the center of it all.

Like the work of Dave Eggers, Tom McCarthy, and Dubravka Ugresic, The Physics of Sorrow draws you in with its unique structure, humanitarian concerns, and stunning storytelling.

Angela Rodel—who, almost single-handedly has brought Bulgarian literature to English readers—translated this and will definitely be a guest this season. Along with Georgi himself, who is currently in New York City as a Cullman Center fellow.

And . . . some surprises. Actually, I have a few new wrinkles in mind that may well make this the greatest Two Month Review season ever. Stay tuned for details.

How can you do that? By following Open Letter, me, and Brian Wood on Twitter. Or by joining the Goodreads Group.

And here’s the official schedule of what will be covered in each of the episodes:

February 15: Introduction to Gospodinov
February 22: Epigraphy, Prologue, Part I (1-58)
March 1: Part II (59-72)
March 8: Part III (73-118)
March 15: Part IV (119-150)
March 22: Part V (151-178)
March 29: Part VI (179-200)
April 5: Part VII (201-236)
April 12: Part VIII (237-283)

Order your book now! We’ll rush these out so that you have plenty of time to read the first 58 pages before the 22nd . . .

21 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Mara Faye Lethem joins us this week to talk about Catalonia’s scatological obsession, the challenges of the current political situation, Max Besora’s wild novel, and Rodoreda’s triumphant return to the best-seller list. Then they get into a more autobiographical reading of this section of Death in Spring, a section that’s all about death and chaos.

Both Death in Spring and Selected Stories are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

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

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And be sure to read all of Mara’s translations, including The Boys by Toni Sala and Wonderful World by Javier Calvo.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



19 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Back at last! Chad and Tom reunite after a month in which Tom finished building an entire bookstore and bar, which is now open! In addition to talking about Riffraff’s first week of business, they talk about the NCIBA statement against publishers selling direct to consumers and institutions, about Tyrant Books tweeting about never again working with agents, about “Cat Person,” and about the release of the Translation Database on Publishers Weekly.

This week’s music is “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” by Ron Gallo.

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



14 December 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, fresh off a publication in the Boston Review, Jess Fenn (JR Fenn) joins Chad, Brian, and Best Translated Book Award judge Patrick Smith (P.T. Smith) to talk about the second part of Death in Spring. They trace a few motifs, talk about dystopias and literary world-building, and much more. Another very informative and captivating episode about one of the greatest novels of the past hundred years.

Both Death in Spring and Selected Stories are available through the Open Letter website, and if you use 2MONTH at checkout, you’ll get 20% off.

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

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Brian Wood, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. Be sure and buy the Boston Review to read Jess’s story, and follow Patrick on Twitter for various book thoughts and terrible sports takes.

And you can find all the Two Month Review posts by clicking here. And be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Montseny by Els Surfing Sirles.



8 November 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After discussing the incredibly long Dublin Literary Prize longlist, Chad and Tom discuss Polish Reportage, Stanislaw Lem’s book covers, ordering books for Riffraff, and a serial killer.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to all of the new Polish Lem covers. And the one for His Master’s Voice.

This week’s music is Turning by Beaches.

One other note: The next season of the Two Month Review kicked off on Thursday, October 26th with an episode introducing Mercè Rodoreda and the two books of hers that will be featured this season: Selected Stories and Death in Spring. Both are avaialble for 20% off by using the code 2MONTH at checkout. The full schedule of episodes is available here.

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



17 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After an impassioned pitch for why you should support Open Letter’s annual campaign, Chad and Tom talk about ALTA, about how best to promote international literature to common readers, about the moral argument for reading translations, about Tim Parks and this article on Han Kang’s Human Acts, and about how baseball is broken and breaking Chad’s will to live. Enjoy!

One other note: The next season of the Two Month Review will kick off on Thursday, October 26th with an episode introducing Mercè Rodoreda and the two books of hers that will be featured this season: Selected Stories and Death in Spring. Both are avaialble for 20% off by using the code 2MONTH at checkout. The full schedule of episodes is available here.

This week’s music is Two Thousand and Seventeen (the same number of minutes in game five of the the Cubs-Nationals series) by Four Tet.

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 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Here it is—the infamous LIVE recording of the Two Month Review! Chad and Lytton travelled all the way to Brooklyn to record this episode as part of the “Taste of Iceland Festivities.” As a result, they recap the book as a whole and reflect on the speech from Iceland’s First Lady that prefaced the recording (and which you don’t get to hear) before diving into the particulars of the final section of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. They also take questions from the audience about WWII and Kafka, and spend some time pondering the final line of the book: “i call the northern lights night rainbows.” And Chad works in multiple references to Twin Peaks: The Return.

As previously noted, the next season of the Two Month Review will feature two books by Mercè Rodoreda: Selected Stories and Death in Spring. Click here to get the full schedule, and use the 2MONTH code at our website to get 20% off. (That discount code also works for “Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller”: and “The Invented Part.”: And if you’d rather support your local bookstore, do it! They should have all of these titles. If not, shame them. Preferably in a very public way. Kidding, totally kidding. Obviously every store carries all of our books.)

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

And please rate us on iTunes and tell your friends to listen. We really appreciate your support of the podcast and want to reach as many listeners as possible.

Follow Open Letter, Chad Post, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



5 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Icelandic novelist and poet Kári Tulinius joins Chad and Lytton this week to talk about three of the darkest sections of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller and the history of this novel’s reception in Iceland. They also talk about the recent scandal that brought down the Icelandic government—and how it ties into Tómas Jónsson—about why the book was out of print in Iceland for a couple of decades after its initial release, the way this book is scarily prescient, and 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.

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

You can read an excerpt from Kári’s latest novel (translated by Larissa Kyzer) at Words and Worlds and can find his archived Grapevine articles here.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



4 October 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After a bit of a hiatus, Chad and Tom are back to talk about Riffraff’s new location, break down Catalonian politics and the recent editorial gathering the Ramon Llull Institute put on in Barcelona, and somewhat pick apart this article about Deborah Smith’s translation of The Vegetarian.

This week’s music is Day I Die by The National.

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



28 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

CORRECTION: Throughout this podcast, we joke about having recorded the final episode of the season live at Spoonbill & Sugartown last weekend. This is a lie! The live event will take place THIS SATURDAY (September 30, 2017) as part of the Taste of Iceland events. Eliza Reid, Iceland’s First Lady, will start things off at 2pm, and Lytton and I will follow her. So please ignore all our childish banter and please come out on Saturday for this live recording!

This week, Tom Flynn of Volumes Bookcafe returns to the Two Month Review to talk about three of the more difficult bits of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller: one section that’s a dream, one about mediums and resurrection, and one that’s a poem for going to bed and for death. Thanks to Tom’s perceptive insights and Lytton’s genius, they’re able to puzzle out all three sections and provide some solid guidance for everyone reading along.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And be sure to follow Volumes Bookstore and Tom Flynn and visit the store when you’re in Chicago.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



21 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week Patrick Smith (Best Translated Book Award judge, The Scofield) joins Chad and Lytton to talk about this incredibly powerful section of the book, which raises all sorts of topical ideas about adhering to national myths and the problems of masculinity. This is also the section where Hitler shows up, and where a character literally eats himself out of house and home. And this podcast is a crucial one in helping frame the way this novel simultaneously holds up and undermines a variety of dangerous, unpleasant ideas. After listening to this, we hope you will have an even broader and more nuanced understanding—and appreciation—of this great novel.

Reminder! On September 30th, we will be recording the final episode of this season of the Two Month Review at Spoonville & Sugartown in Brooklyn as part of Taste of Iceland. The First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid, will kick things off at 2pm with a lecture and reading, then at 3pm, Lytton and Chad will discuss the final section of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller (and take audience questions), followed by a recpetion at 4pm. It’s free to attend, so come on out and see us do this live!

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And follow Patrick Smith for a variety of literary insights and other commentary.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



14 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week Norwegian translator and ALTA Fellowship recipient David Smith joins Chad and Lytton to talk about the next forty pages of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller. The two sections covered this week are wildly different from one another, opening with a much more fragmented, poetic bit then transitioning through a hilarious, yet creepy, moment in which Tómas pees all over the laundry room into a more straightforward section—but one that still brings out all the wild contradictions in Tómas’s character and this book itself. This week’s episode also includes Chad reading a section that’s perfect for a voiceover movie trailer. (And yes, he reads it in exactly that voice.)

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



7 September 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week author and translator Idra Novey joins Chad and Lytton to talk about one of the most challenging sections of the book so far. Not only is there a proliferation of children whose voices constantly interrupt Tómas’s thoughts, but there are a few more unsettling bits that raise questions about what we should believe about Tómas’s narrative and morality. (Questions that will be further addressed next week.) They also talk about the brilliant ways in which Lytton balances all these various registers, and the poetry that shines through Tómas’s curmudgeonly rants.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. Also, you can support Idra Novey by following her on twitter and buying her novel, Ways to Disappear, which is available now.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



31 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Jacob Rogers—translator from the Galician and bookseller at Malaprop’s in Asheville, North Carolina—joins Chad and Lytton to talk about Tómas Jónsson’s next two “composition books.” Included in these sections are a long bit about the “board” and the general hierarchy of Tómas’s dining hall, the ways in which he’s both an insider and someone on the fringes, and the role of the U.S. military base in Iceland’s overall development. These sections are crucial in fleshing out both Tómas’s character and that of Iceland as a whole, while adding a lot of interesting—and funny—details about his everyday life.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. You can also follow Malaprop’s on Twitter, and Jacob on Instagram.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



24 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In this episode—covering Tómas Jónsson’s fourth composition book—a number of the themes of the overall novel are put on display: Tómas’s relationship to his body, the way he tries to create a narrative for himself, possible injustices he’s suffered during his life, the way his lodgers are like an army, and more. And there’s no one better to help parse these elements than author and critic Scott Esposito. He joins Chad and Lytton for an episode that may be a bit long, but is stuffed full of insight about this Icelandic masterpiece.

Also discussed in this episode is Scott’s interview with Lytton for Conversational Reading.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests.

You can follow Scott Esposito on Twitter and Instagram, or at Conversational Reading. And you can get his latest book, The Doubles, from Civil Coping Mechanisms.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



17 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Ph.D. candidate Anastasia Nikolis joins Chad and Lytton to talk about the real meat of Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller—chamber pot usage! They also discuss the way our grumpy narrator’s mind works, the way he finds beauty in ambiguity, how Lytton translated a very specific word game, and a couple cues to help keep track of “when” particular sections are taking place. A lively and learned episode—just like the novel itself.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and for more thoughts and information about upcoming guests. And listen to Anastasia’s poetry podcast, Black Box Poetry, to hear more of her thoughts about writing and literature.

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

The music for this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



10 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

And with this episode, we launch the second season of the Two Month Review! Over a ten-week period, we will be breaking down Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, helping explain and explore what makes this book (often referred to as “Iceland’s Ulysses”) so influential and interesting. This season translator, poet, and professor Lytton Smith will join Chad Post to talk about the book, along with a variety of guests, including a number of booksellers, critics, and readers. The full reading schedule can be found here, but in this particular episode, Lytton and Chad provide some background information about the book, Bergsson’s career, and Icelandic literature as a whole. They’re joined this week by Brian Wood, who, as usual, is entertaining and funny while also asking really important questions that help provide a context for approaching this novel.

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

Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller is available 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, Lytton Smith, and Brian Wood, and 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 this season of Two Month Review is Long Year by The Anchoress.



9 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

On this episode of the Three Percent Podcast, Chad and Tom talk about Peter Straub’s 2010 article about genre, the existence (or not) of translation as a genre, Hudson Bookstore’s attempt to co-op the indie bookstore “ethos,” and this stupid infographic. They also touch on Women in Translation month (with promises of future data to analyze), and the Rochester Plates promotion.

This week’s music is Destroy This Poem by Hallelujah the Hills.

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



4 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As you probably heard on the most recent episode of the Two Month Review, Chad and Brian used a “guide to writing and publishing” to create new, focus-group approved, jacket copy for Fresán’s The Invented Part. In case it was hard to follow on the audio amid all the laughter, here are their respective attempts at describing this book according to the Tried And True Jacket Copy Formula©:

[Chad]

The Writer is a writer who realizes that the last part of his career isn’t going how he expected. As sales of his books steadily decline, those of his arch-nemesis, IKEA—a former student with a better agent, better hair, and a better looking audience—continue to explode. To the Writer, his future seems grim, destined to fade slowly into outmode obsolescence.

Suddenly, the Writer is given an assignment to go to Switzerland and write about the Large Hadron Collider—an opportunity that gives him an idea for resurrecting his career. Maybe he can break into the collider, expose himself to the “god particle” and transcend space-time.

Now he has a way out. A way to leave the world with one last great impression.

But what does transcendence hold for him? Even with an infinite amount of time, will he ever be able to craft the perfect sentence? Will he ever best IKEA?

The Invented Part is as slick as a Kubrick movie, as witty as Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets The Matirx, and will change your life forever.

3 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As a special bonus episode, both Rodrigo Fresán and Will Vanderhyden joined Chad and Brian to talk about The Invented Part as a whole, the first season of the Two Month Review, what’s next in the trilogy, technology’s revenge on Rodrigo, David Lynch, and, how to write jacket copy.

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 Will Vanderhyden 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.



27 July 17 | Chad W. Post |

We did it! After two months, eleven episodes, and a half dozen different guests, Brian and Chad 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.



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



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



16 May 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Translator Will Vanderhyden joins Chad and Brian to provide an overview of Rodrigo Fresán’s work—especially The Invented Part. They discuss some of his earlier works (including Kensington Gardens, which is available in an English translation), different pop culture touchstones running throughout his oeuvre, related authors, and ways to approach the Invented Part.

They also talk a bit about the schedule and the future Two Month Review podcasts. The entire reading schedule is listed below, but for the next episode (June 1st), Chad and Brian will be joined by bookseller and Best Translated Book Award just Jeremy Garber to talk about “The Real Character,” pages 1-45.

Here’s the complete rundown of Two Month Review podcasts for The Invented Part:

June 1: “The Real Character” (1-45)
June 8: “Place Where the Sea Ends” (Part 1) (46-98)
June 15: “Place Where the Sea Ends” (Parts 2) (99-207)
June 22: “Place Where the Sea Ends” (Parts 3) (208-229)
June 29: “A Few Things You Happen to Think About” (230-300)
July 6: “Many Fetes” (301-360)
July 13: “Life After People” (361-403)
July 20: “Meanwhile, Once Again” (404-439)
July 27: “The Imaginary Person” (440-547)

In addition to these weekly podcasts, there will be some bonus posts here on Three Percent, and you can share your opinions and questions at the official GoodReads Group.

Additionally, we are offering a 20% discount on orders of The Invented Part from the Open Letter website. Just enter 2MONTH in the discount field at checkout. Copies are on hand and will ship out immediately. They’re also available at better bookstores everywhere.

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.

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

11 April 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

On this week’s podcast, Tom and Chad discuss the potential troubles of getting paid as a freelance translator, the Missing Richard Simmons podcast, and Seed by Joanna Walsh. There are also allusions to the forthcoming BTBA shortlists, and a new podcast project that will be starting up in May . . .

This week’s music is “Here’s to the Fourth Time!” by Los Campesinos!

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, send those along as well.

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



31 March 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Between the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award longlists and the unveiling of the finalists, we will be covering all thirty-five titles in the Why This Book Should Win series. Enjoy learning about all the various titles selected by the fourteen fiction and poetry judges, and I hope you find a few to purchase and read!

Since I (Chad) used this book in my class this spring, I thought I’d write it up for the series. Hi.



Moonstone by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Iceland, FSG)

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Making the Shortlist: 62%

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Winning the BTBA: 9%

Given Iceland’s population, it’s almost shocking that forty-six Icelandic works of fiction and poetry have been published in English translation since 2008. Over that time period, more books have been translated from Icelandic than from Czech. Or from Greek, Hungarian, or Flemish. In fact, there have been as many books translated from the Icelandic as there have from Hindi, Latvian, Persian, and Yiddish combined.

Sure, 10% of all Icelanders will publish a book over the course of their lifetime, providing a pretty solid pool of titles for publishers to choose from, but still—why Iceland?

Last summer, the Icelandic men’s soccer team took the world by storm, becoming the beloved Cinderella side of the Euro Cup. They rolled into the semifinals behind a slightly disconcerting nationalistic celebration, a feisty style of play fed by a “what do we have to lose?” underdog mentality, and some incredibly fun Twitter taunts from The Grapevine, Reykjavik’s English language paper.





Iceland was having its moment.

But then again, Iceland’s been having its moment for decades.

Björk. Sigur Rós. Múm. Of Monsters and Men. The Blue Lagoon. Skyr. Northern Lights. Renewable energy. Women’s Rights. Jón Gnarr’s mayorship. Damon Albarn’s bar. The fifth gait of an Icelandic horse. Fermented shark and Brennivén. Cheap flights to Europe if you stay overnight in Iceland. There are dozens of things about Iceland that make it really cool, that have made it an incredibly hip place to visit, or culture to import. (Except maybe the shark and Brennivén. Iceland can keep those.)

Although all of this interest in Iceland and Icelandic culture seems like a boon, there is an underlying tension at play. This is an island nation after all, one that, for most of its early history, was more or less cut off from the rest of the world, floating in the middle of nowhere. Its culture is uniquely Icelandic because it was able to develop on its own, somewhat removed from globalizing trends. Reykjavik is the only capital in western Europe without a McDonald’s or a Starbucks—almost all the restaurants and shops originated in Iceland.

This tension between being separate from the rest of the world while also wanting to participate in global culture plays itself out in Sjón’s most recent novel, Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was.

The novel centers on Máni Steinn (a.k.a. Moonstone), a young, gay boy who was born in the island’s leper colony, and who is obsessed with the movies. Moonstone has more of a plot than some of Sjón’s earlier books, but it’s still somewhat secondary to the poetic writing and atmosphere of the novel. A Danish ship arrives bringing the Spanish flu, and lots of people die, especially those who congregated at the movie theater. Máni Steinn also falls ill, giving Sjón the opportunity to show off his musical abilities in a three-chapter fever dream awash in symbolism, gray ooze, and body parts.

The toe of the shoe is thrust out from beneath the skirt and stamped down with such force that the floor creaks. Gray slime wells up between the boards. The air grows thick with the stench of rotting fish.

—A little closer, dear, a little closer . . .

The hands reappear. The figure flings a pair of eyebrows onto the lid. Pain lacerates the boy. He raises a hand to his forehead, but it is shaking too much for him to feel whether his own brows are still there.

—A little closer, dear, a little closer . . .

The figure withdraws its hands inside its clothes.

—A little closer, dear, a little closer . . .

The gramophone voice buzzes inside the wooden box.

The sense of danger from the outside pervades the novel, not just in relation to the actual, literal infection that the Danes bring with them on their ship, but also in the corrupting power of foreign films. Dr. Garibaldi Árnason details this in a mini-manifesto:

_In the same fashion, the cinema audience scrutinizes the light-puppets on the silver screen, and whether it is the curve of Asta Nielsen’s back, Theda Bara’s naked shoulders, Pina Menichelli’s sensual eyelids [. . .] the body part in question and its position will become the focus of the viewer’s existence and etch itself into his psyche, while the size of the image and the repeated close-ups of lips, teeth, and even tongues will exacerbate the effects until few have the strength to resist them.

Film is thus immoral by its very nature, transforming the actor into a fetish and fostering perversion in the viewer, who allows himself to be seduced like a moth to the flame.

The doctor’s viewpoint is brought into even sharper view after Máni is caught with another man:

—It’s clear that the lad is not like other people . . . a homosexual [. . .] Hardly any cases known in this country . . . hasn’t become established . . . will proliferate if . . . My theory . . . a word of warning . . . men are rendered more susceptible to homosexuality by overindulgence in films . . .

I’m definitely oversimplifying this book, but reading Moonstone shortly after Gudbergur Bergsson’s Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller, I’ve become fixed on the ways in which these books address the complexities of Iceland in the world, and, more specifically, of the idea of the “Icelandic Man.” Although using vastly different approaches, both novels open up a space through which to examine these tensions.

That’s why I think Moonstone deserves the Best Translated Book Award for fiction.

31 March 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Between the announcement of the Best Translated Book Award longlists and the unveiling of the finalists, we will be covering all thirty-five titles in the Why This Book Should Win series. Enjoy learning about all the various titles selected by the fourteen fiction and poetry judges, and I hope you find a few to purchase and read!

Since I (Chad) used this book in my class this spring, I thought I’d write it up for the series. Hi.



The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Egypt, Melville House)

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Making the Shortlist: 78%

Chad’s Uneducated and Unscientific Percentage Chance of Winning the BTBA: 13%

A couple months ago, shortly after the inauguration, 1984 by George Orwell returned to the bestseller lists for the first time in ages. That was followed by a handful of articles claiming that instead of reading 1984, the book about dictatorships people should be reading is The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz.

The novel is set in an unnamed city in an unnamed country (Egypt) where an uprising has taken place that the government is loath to acknowledge. During the Disgraceful Events (Tahrir Square?), a young man named Yehya was shot. At the start of the novel Yehya is still trying to get the bullet removed from his pelvis. He’s in great pain, slowly dying, but because the government doesn’t want to admit that they had shot anyone, they have to prevent him from getting treatment because an actual bullet would be proof of their lies. So he is forced to wait in a never-ending queue (reminiscent of the queue in Sorokin’s The Queue) to get the proper paperwork to get treatment to get the bullet removed. In Kafkaesque fashion (I too hate that term and apologize), the goalposts keep moving and various statements keep complicating and delaying the process, forcing queue-waiters to get a special document to get the next special document to be able to get what they need from the government, so on and on.

That sort of bureaucratic runaround is a hallmark of many movies, books, and nightmares, and yet somehow still retains a sort of terrifying power. Everyone can relate to the frustrating helplessness governmental institutions can enact (remember your last trip to the DMV); it’s incredibly easy to imagine how an administration can turn on the faucet of needless bureaucracy to demoralize dissidents.

Control through paperwork is only one of the ways depicted in the novel of how citizens are held in check. There’s the pressure to obey religious dictums, awareness that all conversations are being recorded, nationalism, male aggression, torture and, the one that both echoes 1984 and speaks to the post-fact world we live in now, the ability to rewrite history by denouncing things as “fake news.”

The woman with the short hair redoubled her efforts, and the next day she printed oppositional leaflets responding to the allegations made by the man in the galabeya, and declared that she would continue the campaign. Ehab had helped her draft the text, and alongside her statement they’d included another passage from the Greater Book, which urged people to respect and defend personal privacy. He wrote a hard-hitting and well-researched article about the campaign—its grounds and implications, and how many people joined each week—but the newspaper didn’t print it. Instead, they gave him a stern warning about “fabricating the news.” The editor in chief lectured him on how necessary it was to strive for accuracy and honesty in everything he wrote. Then he warned Ehab against giving in to ambition and trying to achieve professional or financial gains at the expense of journalistic ethics and principles.

There’s wealth of bits like this that the reader can map onto our present-day situation in America—something that’s kind of fun and also terrifying. What’s even more interesting, or disturbing, are the various narratives characters end up adopting to make sense of the world around them. The stories they use to rewrite their broken selves so that they can continue living.

For example, the schoolteacher Ines, fired for giving a good grade to a paper about poor living conditions, is initially rather rebellious, outspoken, willing to challenge viewpoints she doesn’t believe in. By the end of the novel, she’s quite religious and obeying all the various restrictions that go along with that:

Ines hadn’t missed a single weekly lesson since committing herself to her new attire. She felt a deep sense of relief and was gradually accepted by a new crowd, which was somewhat different from the groups of women she’d known at her school. She joined them for social and spiritual activities, visited proselytizers, and attended religious gatherings and prayer groups. [. . .] She became immersed in it all and her fears began to fade, though she was still occasionally troubled by worrisome thoughts.

Or there’s Yehya’s close friend Amani, who is physically tortured because of her attempt to help him, and then ends up accepting the official newspaper’s version of events claiming that Yehya was never actually shot, that the Disgraceful Events were all fake, all just part of a film.

Which brings me to one last reason why this book should win: the ambiguity of its ending. I don’t want to spoil too much, but every section of the book begins with the inner monologue of Tarek, the doctor who didn’t initially help Yehya. As he keeps going back to Yehya’s files—at the urging of Amani and Nagy and Yehya—new information keeps appearing that shifts and expands his view of the government, the Disgraceful Events, and the world he lives in. Almost serving as a stand in for the common citizen, he wakes up to the horrors of this dictatorship by the end—but will it be in time to save Yehya?

7 March 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Tom and Chad talk about the Cubs and their “Zen way,” the largest publishers in the U.S., this If there were Oscars for Books! “article,” and, most importantly, the new Amazon bookstore, which Tom visited and brought back some pictures.







This week’s music is “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man.

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, send those along as well.

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



12 September 16 | N. J. Furl | Comments

In this week’s podcast, tom and Chad preview some forthcoming books they’re excited about. Having done no solid research, Chad’s contributions are questionable at best, especially when he talks about Panthers in the Hole in relation to the COUNTRY of Angola instead of the prison that goes by the same name.

Nevertheless, they have a number of books to whet your appetite, such as one from Arno Schmidt, and the new Krasznahorkai.

This week’s music is the new single by Dan Deacon, Change Your Life (You Can Do It).

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/three-percent-podcast/id434696686

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:
http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss

As always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com.

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



15 July 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

After an extended hiatus, Chad and Tom are back to discuss a slew of things that happened over the past couple months. These include Book Marks, what’s going to happen to B&N, and Tim Parks’s article on The Vegetarian. They also talk about some books they’ve read recently—including Zero K, which neither of them liked—before ending with a major announcement from Tom.

It’s worth mentioned that Alex Shephard wrote a couple of the articles discussed on this podcast, including one on Book Marks and one on B&N.

Also worth noting that there’s a glaring lack of sports talk in this podcast. A

Here are the books discussed this week:

I Love Dick by Chris Krause

The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin

Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías

The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera

The Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblés

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ All-Time Greatest Hits by Mark Binelli

Zero K by Don DeLillo

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/three-percent-podcast/id434696686

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:
http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss

And, as always, feel free to send any and all comments or questions to: threepercentpodcast@gmail.com. Also, if you like the podcast, tell a friend and rate us or leave a review on iTunes.



26 April 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In this week’s podcast Tom and Chad talk about the recently released Best Translated Book Award shortlists, before moving on to discussion of the two Reading the World Conversation Series books for April: The Vegetarian by Han Kang and Diorama by Rocío Cerón.

Additional articles and books discussed include, Porochista Khakpour’s review of The Vegetarian in the NY Times, Don DeLillo’s Zero K, Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, and A.J. Somerset’s Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun.

They also discussed switching up the RTWCS as a whole, with Dirty Dust and Graveyard Clay—two translations of the same book by Máirtín Ó Cadhain—in May, followed by Liu Xia’s Empty Chairs in June. This does deviate from the plan posted here a few months ago, but given the struggles we’ve had keeping up—and the opportunity to look at two translations of the same book—it seemed worthwhile to shift things a bit, alternating from fiction to poetry each month, and giving everyone participating a little bit more time to read.

This week’s music is “A Tale Told by an Idiot” by John Congleton and the Nighty Nite.

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/three-percent-podcast/id434696686

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:
http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss

28 March 16 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s podcast feels like one straight out of 2011, with Chad getting angry about all sorts of things and just letting loose. The starting point for their discussion is the three-part series Tim Parks wrote for the New York Review of Books (part one, part two, part three), but they go on to talk about JellyBooks and what “moneyball” is, and then discuss a series of book covers, including the following:

This week’s music is Buggin’ Out by A Tribe Called Quest. (RIP Phife Dawg. Tribe is has always been, and will forever be, the shit.)

Also, just a reminder, since we changed our podcast feed, you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe to the correct feed in iTunes at that link, or right here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/three-percent-podcast/id434696686

Or, you can just put this feed link into whichever is your podcast app of choice:
http://threepercent.libsyn.com/rss

19 February 15 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week’s podcast features a true roundtable discussion, with Tom and Chad being joined by Caroline Casey from Coffee House Press, Mark Haber and Jeremy Ellis from Brazos Bookstore, Stephen Sparks from Green Apple Books, and Danish author Naja Marie Aidt to discuss the American Booksellers Association “Winter Institute.” One of the funniest podcasts to date, they break down what Winter Institute is, why it’s so important for the future of bookselling, and what various publishers get out of attending. They also make fun of all the crappy crutch phrases you find in jacket copy.

Read More...

4 April 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As in years past, we will be highlighting all 25 titles on the BTBA Fiction Longlist, one by one, building up to the announcement of the 10 finalists on April 10th. A variety of judges, booksellers, and readers will write these, all under the rubric of “Why This Book Should Win. You can find the whole series by clicking here. And if you’re interested in writing any of these, just get in touch.

Atlas by Dung Kai-Cheung, translated from the Chinese by Anders Hansson and Bonnie S. McDougall, and published by Columbia University Press

Having wanted to read this book for months, I took the opportunity to snag this for myself when we were lining people up to write for this series. And I’m damn glad that I did.

1. It’s not Jackie Chan. As Bonnie McDougall points out in her introduction, most depictions of Hong Kong that the typical American reader are familiar with are written by outsiders. John le Carré’s The Honourable Schoolboy. Paul Theroux’s Kowloon Tong. John Lanchester’s Fragrant Harbour. Basically all the books on this list. Not so with Atlas! Dung Kai-Cheung is Hong Kong’s greatest novelist, and as such, offers a different—and more genuine?—perspective on this really interesting part of the world. From Kai-Cheung’s introduction:

There are enough fictitious Hong Kongs circulating around the world. It doesn’t matter so much how real or false these fictions are but how they are made up. The Hong Kong of Tai-Pan and Suzie Wong, a mixture of economic adventures, political intrigues, sexual encounters, and romances; the Hong Kong of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li kung fu fighting their way through to the international scene; the Hong Kong of John Woo’s gangster heroes shooting doublehanded and Stephen Chow’s underdog antiheroes making nonsensical jokes. And yet, in spite of these eye-catching exposures, Hong Kong remains invisible. A large part of the reality of life here is unrepresented, unrevealed, and ignored. Hong Kong’s martial arts fiction, commercial movies, and pop songs are successful in East Asia and even farther abroad, but for all the talents, insights, and creativity of its writers, Hong Kong literature attracts minimal attention—not just internationally but even in mainland China. I am not claiming that literature represents a Hong Kong more real than the movies, but it has its unique role and methods and thus yields different meanings. It is not just a different way of world-representing but also a different way of world-building, that is, creating conditions for understanding, molding, preserving, and changing the world that we live in.

For this alone, Atlas deserves to win.

2. It’s like Calvino plus Borges . . . At first glance, Atlas sounds a lot like Calvino’s Invisible Cities with a touch of the Borges:

Set in the long-lost City of Victoria (a fictional world similar to Hong Kong), Atlas is written from the unified perspective of future archaeologists struggling to rebuild a thrilling metropolis. Divided into four sections—“Theory,” “The City,” “Streets,” and “Signs”—the novel reimagines Victoria through maps and other historical documents and artifacts, mixing real-world scenarios with purely imaginary people and events while incorporating anecdotes and actual and fictional social commentary and critique.

And in his fanciful writing, Dung does bring both writers to mind, such as in this bit about a plaza enclosed by a square street:

The only way of finding one’s way in the square street seems to have been by determining the direction. The four sides of the square street were fixed according to the four points of the compass, north, south, east, and west, but because there was no door numbers along the street (for no one could say where the street began and where it ended), it was rather difficult to determine if one were proceeding along the east street, the west street, the north street, or the south street. To be sure, this was not a problem for the local inhabitants, because whatever side of the street they lived on made no difference to them. Another special characteristic of the square street was that there was a flight of steps at each corner. It was said that if you kept turning right as you walked, the steps would lead upward, but if you went in the opposit direction, to the left, the steps would lead down. But whether you went up or down, you would still return to your original place by way of the four flights of steps and the four corners. Experts in cartography maintain that such phenomena can occur only on the surface of maps, or in pictures with fanciful optical illusions.

3. . . . except that it’s not. This isn’t just a derivative attempt to write something Calvino-esque or Borgesian. (Or, Calgesian? Borvino?) A unique combination of cartography, fabulism, and philosophy, Atlas brings up a ton of interesting questions about how the world can be (or should be) represented and how we read these representations. It’s definitely in the vein of those other two authors (who are mentioned in the book, along with Barthes and Umberto Eco), but it’s also something quite different and all of its own. (The titles Dung’s other novels make these influences even more obvious: The Rose of the Name and Visible Cities.) At times, this is more cerebral and heady than Calvino’s work, which makes this even more interesting.

4. It’s written in Cantonese and Mandarin. Esther Allen talked to my class the other week about José Manuel Prieto’s Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia and emphasized how she tried to retain the mixture of languages present in the original by including Russian texts, Japanese script, bits in Spanish, etc. This wasn’t just an aesthetic decision, but a political one as well. In her own words:

For the reader of the original text, the book’s origin in the Spanish-speaking world is evident in its every word and requires no further emphasis. As its translator into English, my overwhelming primary allegiance was to the Spanish language. If readers of the English translation were allowed to forget that the book was first written in Spanish—not Russian or English—and was translated from Spanish—not Russian—the book risked being denatured, stripped of all the historic and cultural meaning that derives from the specific language in which it was first written.

The translation therefore explicitly sought to emphasize the Spanish-ness of this text about Russia, but in a way that did not undermine the original’s will to leave its Latin American origins in the deep background. Keeping certain words or phrases in the source language, always an option, here became an imperative, and the English retains as much Spanish as I felt was possible. No longer the language of the text itself, Spanish becomes a key element in its polyglossia.

This came to mind in reading McDougall’s introduction when she talks about Hong Kong’s linguistic multiplicity and the fact that is book is originally written in Mandarin with some Cantonese expressions. This mix occurs in other works of Hong Kong literature, but may also be why it’s not accepted as readily by mainland China. In my mind, this sort of situation—overlooked even within its own country because of the linguistic mix—is a valid reason for awarding this novel the Best Translated Book Award.

3 April 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As in years past, we will be highlighting all 25 titles on the BTBA Fiction Longlist, one by one, building up to the announcement of the 10 finalists on April 10th. A variety of judges, booksellers, and readers will write these, all under the rubric of “Why This Book Should Win. You can find the whole series by clicking here. And if you’re interested in writing any of these, just get in touch.

With the Animals by Noëlle Revaz, translated from the French by W. Donald Wilson

I wrote this one. Initially out of necessity—no one else snatched this one up—and a desire to read this “Céline-esque” novel, since I need a little more mud and anger in my life.

1. W. Donald Wilson’s introduction. Well, not specifically his introduction, which is fine in and of itself, but his articulation of the core problem in translating With the Animals:

In the original French, Paul [the narrator and protagonist of the novel, an uneducated farmer who smacks his wife around and can’t remember the names of his kids] lives in no specific place, nor does he use any particular form of speech or dialect: his idiom is an invented one. Of course many of the idiosyncrasies of his French are unavailable in English, such as his mangling of the more complex French negatives, his ease in inventing reflexive forms of verbs and his placement of adjectives before rather than after nouns (and vice versa). Also unavailable was his constant use of the impersonal pronoun “on,” used to create a greater impression of detachment and depersonalization than is allowed by its closes available English equivalent, “you.” I was therefore concerned to develop a voice that, while delivering that “slap in the face,” would not show any strained attempt to write incorrectly or distort the English language unnaturally, but would flow instead from Paul’s character and situation. Lacking any example or conventional usage to follow, Paul would have to improvise his language, resulting in a certain stylistic awkwardness. His word-order would be unconventional, reflecting the spontaneous order of his thoughts (for instance in the placement of adverbs or in stating the topic or subject of sentences first, as in Georges, he said). His use of conjunctions would be weak. Object pronouns would sometimes be omitted, and the definite article would sometimes occur where no article is normal in English. He would be uncertain of grammatical categories, confusing nouns, adjectives, and verbs. His grasp of verb forms, especially the verb ‘to be’ (as in there is + plural, or you/we/they was), and of pronouns would be unsure (as in me for I and them for those). Yet he would not use common dialect forms such as ain’t, and only occasionally employ double negatives.

In basic English, Paul don’t speak right. Which is really difficult to replicate . . . Seriously. Try writing incorrectly, yet coherently, for a paragraph. Then a page. Then 233. And as much as translation takes its cues from the original text, this is a massive act of creation on the part of Wilson.

2. This gambit of Wilson’s works. Right from the start, Paul’s voice is unique, strange, grammatically distorted, and, most important, interesting to read:

Before when I go out in the morning I’ve knocked back a good brimmer already and things fall together like straw. Till then I’ve a face like night on me and a garlic mouth and I can’t stand anyone wants to be coddled like a snot-nosed pup. Head under the tap and already I’m getting the machines out. Vulva, she’s still dragging round, she scrubs down in a corner and dries off in the kitchen.

3. Use of the term “brimmer.” I love neologisms and reappropriated words and slang that isn’t really slang because only a dozen people use it and none of them are Gawker. So “brimmer” is my new term for a full glass of “plum.” Sure, it’s 10:22 right now, but I CAN NOT WAIT to get home and fill some brimmers and knock them back.

4. Holy shitsnacks is this book offensive. All the Dalkey copy compares Revaz to Louis-Ferdinand Céline, which, sure, I suppose so. Personally, I think that comparison is a bit broad—Céline wrote angry, narrator Paul is angry; Céline was insulting, narrator Paul refers to his wife as “Vulva”; Céline used a ton of ellipses, Revaz wrote in an untraditional way. That said, I think Revaz is up to something different—for one, her book isn’t written in a semi-autobiographical voice—and to reduce her to being “Céline-esque” feels reductive. But anyway, the hate and disgust Paul has for his wife and the world—not to mention the litany of insults and physical beatings he unleashes on “Vulva”—is pretty staggering. This isn’t a character you cuddle up next to and “relate to.” I like that. That’s a difficult thing to do well, to sustain for a whole book. Here’s an example from a point when Paul’s wife is in the hospital having a tumor removed:

What can you say to her, Vulva, when you never think of her? Me, in the end I’ve forgotten she exists, and what difference to me if she goes off to the hospital to have her belly sliced open or her varicose veins shrunk: I don’t give a rat’s fart, it doesn’t squeeze a single big tear out of me nor get the snot-rag out of my shirt pocket, so she can stay away there till the next century if that’s what she’d rather. At least it counts as much for me she’s not around no more to give her jeremiahs after us and go complaining at us every time we open a bottle or go on a wee binge.

5. Because Dalkey has yet to win the BTBA. Granted, this is a reason that goes beyond the text itself, but considering that Dalkey publishes more literature in translation than other publisher in the United States, they’re bound to strike gold at some point. And this book is both brilliant in and of itself, but also presents—and solves—a really fundamental translation challenge. For all these reasons, With the Animals by the Swiss author Noëlle Revaz should win this year’s Best Translated Book Award.

24 June 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, we finish up our John Locke discussion by quoting from his How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in Five Months, and then move on to discussing good literature, including six book recommendations for the summer.

Read More...

10 June 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Chad and Tom are back, and this week they’re tackling whether ebook pricing can destroy the world, whether publishers with unlimited resources can save the world, and whether anyone in the world really wants their favorite authors to Tweet @ them.

Read More...

3 June 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week, Tom and I dropped the baseball talk (for the most part, and to avoid cursing the Cardinals in advance of the weekend series against the Cubs) to talk about BookExpo America: Harlequin & their NASCAR love series, the lack of actual books at the fair, the parties, and Patti Smith.

Read More...

20 May 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This week is another baseball-centric podcast in which Tom Roberge came up with individual book recommendations for five Mets players. (A la Phil Jackson.)

With BookExpo America taking place next week, we talked a bit about books (and parties) we’re looking forward to. (Spoiler: Tom’s into Guns ‘n Roses and wants to crash the Duff McKagen party.)

Read More...

12 May 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

In this week’s episode, Tom and Chad discuss Enrique Vila-Matas’s forthcoming “Never Any End to Paris,” which was translated by Anne McLean.

In the novel, the narrator gives a three-day lecture on irony and his experiences living in Paris for two years, trying to emulate Ernest Hemingway.

Read More...

4 May 11 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

This week Tom and Chad talk about the Best Translated Book Award winners, the recently completed PEN World Voices Festival, the ideas of corporate and economic censorship, Vladimir Sorokin’s coming-out events, ray guns, and Enrique Vila-Matas’s new book.

Read More...

27 April 11 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

This week, Tom and Chad talk about the PEN World Voices Festival and the upcoming Best Translation Book Award ceremony. Along the way, they talk about Vladimir Sorokin (his “Siberian earthf***ers” and how he’s not really like Bolano), the overratedness of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the Hungarian author Laszlo Krashnahorkai.

Read More...

11 February 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As I mentioned some time ago, I was invited to participate in this year’s Non-Fiction Conference sponsored and organized by the Dutch Foundation for Literature. This year’s focus was on “Quality Non-Fiction in the Digital Era,” so there were a number of presentations about new developments, the future of publishing and reading, etc.

Unlike some of the other digitally-focused conferences I’ve attended (such as TOC Frankfurt), this was less about “what’s possible” and more about “what this means.” Which was refreshing and very interesting.

The foundation did record all of the talks, and has made most (soon to be all?) available on YouTube. (I personally love all the stills . . . We all look a bit over-enthused with our hand gestures and what not.)

All of the speeches were great, and to make this even easier, here are links and quick summaries to the speeches that are available:

Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan gave a great overview of where we are in terms of ebooks and the digital market.

Peter Collinridge talked about Enhanced Editions and the need to connect with your audience.

Richard Nash’s speech isn’t online (yet), but he talked about the coming Age of Abundance and how economic theory provides a basis for arguing that this abundance will force prices to zero.

Jos de Mul talked about the impact of technology on human imagination from a philosophical perspective.

Harry Blom’s speech isn’t up yet either, but he talked about Springer and publishing edatabase versions of journals.

Marcus Chown discussed The Solar System his book/iPad app.

Henry Volans from Faber and Faber talked about this as well, but from a publisher’s perspective.

Ramy Habeeb gave the funniest, most entertaining speech (Ramy’s a born public speaker of the best variety) about publishing in Arabic and his company Kotoarabia.

Nicky Harman discussed the role of translators in this digital age.

Finally, I talked about reading and discovery in the Age of Screens. But I’ll talk more about that in a separate post . . . For now, I just want to encourage you to check out some of these videos. I think you’ll find them very interesting and enjoyable. (And we were all limited to 10 minutes, so they’re short.)

6 July 10 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I know I’ve written it before, and will do so again, but the Wolff Symposium is one of the absolute best annual translation-related gatherings. It’s held every June and is centered around the awarding of the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, which is given to the best translation from German into English published in the previous year. All genres are eligible, but translators can only win once.

Anyway, the symposium took place a few weeks back and was absolutely amazing. Great panels, wonderful to see Ross Benjamin receive the award, very nice tribute to Breon Mitchell re: his new translation of The Tin Drum. (I maybe shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve never read this, although every time I see Breon I swear that it’ll be the next book I pick up . . . And it will be! Soon. Soon . . .)

I was planning on writing up some notes and thoughts and whatever from the day of panels, but well, it’s been a busy time and besides, WBEZ was there to record the whole symposium. And although I can’t imagine many people listening to all of these podcasts, they’re a much better record of what was discussed than anything I could babble on about . . .

If you do decide to listen, you might want to do so in order—at least when it comes to the “Increased Interest in Foreign Fiction?” and “Cultivating Audiences” panels, otherwise my random 15-minute speech at the beginning of the latter panel will make next to no sense . . .

So:

First off is the tribute to Breon Mitchell that included an interview with NY Times journalist David Streitfeld.

(There was another panel with Peter Constantine, Drenka Willen, Susan Bernofsky, Krishna Winston, Ross Benjamin, and Breon Mitchell, but I can’t find the podcast . . . Which sucks! This was a great conversation . . . Maybe I’m just missing something? If anyone knows where this is, please e-mail me.)

Then the panel with Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House, Daniel Slager of Milkweek, Jeremy Davies of Dalkey Archive Press on An Increased Interest in Foreign Literature?

And then the Cultivating Audiences – Particular Examples, Viable Models? panel that started with my rant and ended with all of us (Susan Harris of Words Without Borders, Susan Bernofsky, and Annie Janusch) talking about technology and reaching readers . . . while my phone buzzed with the dozen or so text messages I received during that panel . . .

Finally, we wrapped up with a contentious argument about Amazon.com discussion about Publishing Literary Translations and New Publishing Technologies. Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House, Henry Carrigan of Northwestern University Press, and Jeff Waxman of Seminary Co-op were on this panel, which was a great way to end the day, having moved from a grand appreciation of Breon and the craft of translation to the dirty details of the book business and how all the various segments always feel like their getting screwed. Speaking of screwing, this panel also had one of the funniest exchanges of the day:

Jeff: “Being a bookseller, it’s kind of an unrequited love affair with books where you know that you’re going to get screwed.”

Chad: “That’s not really an unrequited . . . It’s actually just a love affair.”

This then led to a series of sexually charged double entendres . . . Man, those end of the day panels—brilliant!

23 April 10 | N. J. Furl | Comments


For the sixth time in under three years, Chad has appeared on the preeminent local morning news show in Rochester, NY—clearly breaking/setting a record of some sort.

In today’s video, Chad’s talking about Open Letter hitting the three-year mark, and our celebration on Monday, April 26, (featuring 10 micro-readings from our books (as well as an after-party to which all are invited)) commemorating this, apparently inexplicable, achievement.

2 April 10 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments [2]

This month we talk with Suzanne Jill Levine, famed translator and author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction.

Read More...

23 March 10 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Here’s a picture from this month’s Best Translated Book Award, with some of the winners and several judges.

A good time was had by all.

10 February 10 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Chad was on Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview yesterday afternoon. His shout outs included: Per Petterson, JMG Le Clézio, Herta Müller, and Stieg Larsson.

Americans don’t get the chance to read many books written by authors who aren’t from this country. That’s because just about three percent of all the books published in the United States are translated from another language. Chad Post is publisher of Open Letter Books. They’re dedicated to the translation of works of fiction here in the United States. Without small publishers like Open Letter Books, there would be hardly any translated books in our bookstores at all. Other countries are different. Chad says that more than half the books on the market in France and Spain have been translated from another language. Even Canada is way ahead of us.

Daniel Alarcón was also on the show, discussing his recent article in Granta, “Life Among the Pirates”, which is about the rather large illegal book market in Peru.

9 December 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

The other week, media strategist David Henderson came to the University of Rochester to give us some media training on how best to present yourself on TV, how to buy a second to think of a good answer to a tricky question, how to speak slowly, etc., etc. (And no, that last one didn’t stick. At least not for me.)

Anyway, as part of this he filmed the following video about Open Letter Books. I’m embarrassed to watch myself on things like this, but I’ve heard from others that it’s a decent presentation of what we do. So in case anyone’s interested, here it is:

18 September 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our review section is a review of Gail Hareven’s The Confessions of Noa Weber, which came out from Melville House Press earlier this year in Dalya Bilu’s stunning translation. (I didn’t mention her translation in the actual review, but wow, to capture this voice so convincingly, so compellingly, is quite a feat.)

I’m a big fan of this book, which, as happens to so many great books, was tragically under-reviewed when it came out this past April. (Although it was praised by Jessa Crispin at NPR and by Michael Orthofer at the Complete Review.)

Here’s the opening to my piece:

For years now, Melville House has been one of the most exciting independent presses out there. The political books they’ve done are fantastic, the Art of the Novella Series is arguably one of the most genius marketing/editorial publishing projects of the past decade, and the return of the Moby Lives blog (I still wear my “The whale is out there, man!” t-shirt every so often) is a brilliant addition to the current litblog scene. And on top of all that there’s the fine list of translations that they’ve been bringing out over the past few years. Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai. Marcel Proust’s The Lemoine Affair. Miguel de Cervantes’s The Dialogue of the Dogs. More recently, the Hans Fallada rediscovery project, which includes Every Man Dies Alone (a Best Translated Book Award nominee), The Drinker, and Little Man, What Now? And if that wasn’t enough, along comes Gail Hareven’s searing, addictive novel The Confessions of Noa Weber, another nominee for the 2010 Best Translated Book Award.

I know this is going to totally undersell the novel (honestly, I’m not sure my reviewing skills are up to this painfully honest book anyway), but The Confessions of Noa Weber reads like the best possible personal blog ever written. It’s a personal account of mystery writer Noa Weber’s lifelong obsession with Alek, a man she marries out of convenience (to escape her military duty), has a child with, and loves her whole life even though they separate pretty early on, and he moves to Russia, where he eventually finds a more placid existence with another woman.

Click here for the full review.

18 September 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

For years now, Melville House has been one of the most exciting independent presses out there. The political books they’ve done are fantastic, the Art of the Novella Series is arguably one of the most genius marketing/editorial publishing projects of the past decade, and the return of the Moby Lives blog (I still wear my “The whale is out there, man!” t-shirt every so often) is a brilliant addition to the current litblog scene. And on top of all that there’s the fine list of translations that they’ve been bringing out over the past few years. Alejandro Zambra’s Bonsai. Marcel Proust’s The Lemoine Affair. Miguel de Cervantes’s The Dialogue of the Dogs. More recently, the Hans Fallada rediscovery project, which includes Every Man Dies Alone (a Best Translated Book Award nominee), The Drinker, and Little Man, What Now? And if that wasn’t enough, along comes Gail Hareven’s searing, addictive novel The Confessions of Noa Weber, another nominee for the 2010 Best Translated Book Award.

I know this is going to totally undersell the novel (honestly, I’m not sure my reviewing skills are up to this painfully honest book anyway), but The Confessions of Noa Weber reads like the best possible personal blog ever written. It’s a personal account of mystery writer Noa Weber’s lifelong obsession with Alek, a man she marries out of convenience (to escape her military duty), has a child with, and loves her whole life even though they separate pretty early on, and he moves to Russia, where he eventually finds a more placid existence with another woman.

This is one of those books where the prose far out-strips the plot. Noa’s voice—so direct, so honest, so unabashed and sarcastic and pointed—is mesmerizing, drawing the reader in immediately:

The city of J lies at the top of the hills of J. That’s how I’d like to begin my story; at a calm distance, with a deep breath, in a panoramic shot focusing very slowly on a single street, and very slowly on a single house, “this is the house where I was born.” But you’d be making a fool of yourself if your J were Jerusalem, since every idiot knows about Jerusalem. And altogether it’s impossible to talk about Jerusalem any more. Impossible, that is to say, without “winding alleys” and “stone courtyards,” “caper bushes” and “Arab women in the market place.” And I have nothing to say about caper bushes and stone courtyards, nor do I have the faintest desire to flavor my story with the colorful patois of colorful Jerusalem characters, twirling their mustaches as they spin Oriental tales. [. . .]

It isn’t my personal problem as a writer. It isn’t my personal problem that a person who was born here can’t open with the words “I was born”—because so what? So you were born, good for you, you were born, okay, and then what? Because after “I was born” has to come an adventure story that will take the first person far, far away from his birthplace, and how far can you really get from here? To the Far East on the beaten track of the ex-warriors from the Golani Brigade? To Uman with the nutcases of the Bratslav Hassids to their rabbi’s grave? And however far you went you’d end up meeting someone who knew your cousin’s cousin. Not interesting. Not interesting at all.

As the novel progresses, Noa weaves together events from the past and present, filling out her life, from her time as a young pregnant woman to a very successful writer of feminist mystery novels, to an older woman who has never met any man who can replace her first love. An almost hypocritical situation given her politics, and one that generates self-criticism, but also this gorgeous “confession.”

There are very moving moments in this book, and it can be occasionally uncomfortable in the way that watching someone break down in a public forum (like a blog, like Facebook, like Twitter) can be a bit uncomfortable. But on the whole, this is a remarkable piece of literature. And the way Hareven chisels out the shape of Noa’s self makes me hope that her other works will also eventually make their way into English. Another amazing find by Melville House.

14 September 09 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

For any of you Jerzy Pilch fans, Chad is hosting an evening tomorrow at Solas Bar in NYC (232 E. 9th Street, around the corner from St. Mark’s Bookshop) to discuss Pilch’s The Mighty Angel. It’s a part of the excellent European Book Club series.

The event starts at 7 PM, and I bet you could even talk Chad into going out for a drink after the discussion. Whether going out for a drink after discussing a book about alcoholism is ironic or not, I leave to you. But as the narrator of The Mighty Angel says, “I’m aware, I really am fully aware that it’s impossible, in my case especially it’s impossible, to live a long and happy life when you drink. But how can you live a long and happy life if you don’t drink?”

1 July 09 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments [1]

The Observer Translation Project, which we’ve mentioned here before, posted a really cool translation roundtable/interview that they conducted recently:

World-famous novelist Norman Manea, two premier experts in the realm of literature in translation—Susan Harris of Words Without Borders and Chad Post of Three Percent and Open Letter—and award-winning translator from German Susan Bernofsky address a literary zone in permanent crisis: the world of literature in translation.

They manage to cover a lot of ground pretty quickly—from editing translations, to the market for translations, to why the panelists read translations—and it’s interesting to see how they approach all of the issues from slightly different angles. Definitely worth a read.

26 June 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our review section is a piece on Juan Filloy’s Op Oloop, which was translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman and is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press.

Pretty interesting book from a very interesting author:

The first time I heard of Juan Filloy was during an editorial trip to Germany, organized by the German Book Office and including a day of “speed dating” with other publishers. It was at one of my first “dates” that I met the very hip editors from Tropen Verlag who, after finding out that I worked at Dalkey Archive, the publisher of David Markson’s best works, suggested that instead of doing any of the German authors they might recommend, the one author that Dalkey absolutely had to publish was the Argentine writer Juan Filloy, especially his Op Oloop.

Before even getting to his actual novels, there’s a lot Filloy had going for him:

  • He lived in three centuries—born in the nineteenth, and passing away in 2000 at the age of 106;

  • Julio Cortazar loved him, references his Caterva in chapter 108 of Hopscotch;

  • Freud was a fan of Op Oloop, which led to a personal correspondence between the two;

  • Filloy was a lover of palindromes and wrote over 6,000;

  • and, not to be overlooked, almost all fifty-plus of his novels and collections of poems have seven-letter titles. (Op Oloop, Caterva, Vil y Vil, so on and so forth.)

Who wouldn’t want to publish someone like this? And thankfully, six years later, Op Oloop is finally available to English readers.

Click here for the rest of the review.

1 May 09 | N. J. Furl | Comments

News This Morning on 13WHAM Rochester has, yet again, proven itself to be the news leader when it comes to local morning news shows that feature literature and international authors. If this seems familiar, that’s because it is.

This time, Chad went on with Mark Binelli (Author of Sacco & Vanzetti Must Die!, contributing editor to Rolling Stone, and friend of the Press). They discussed the PEN World Voices Festival, Mark’s writings in fiction and nonfiction, and our PEN-sponsored event last night featuring Jan Kjærstad (full video of the event will be posted a bit later).

Click the pic to watch the news clip.

1 May 09 | N. J. Furl | Comments

In last last-minute switcheroo (sp?), Chad will be moderating-and-more at a PEN World Voices Festival event tonight in NYC.

Title: On the Edge – Writing in Post-Reunified Germany
When: Friday, May 1, 6–7:30 p.m.
Where: Deutsches Haus, 42 Washington Mews

You can get the full info here, but what that page doesn’t yet tell you is that this event now features Clemens Meyer and Chad (who will be playing the roles of moderator and special guest).

Why the change-up, you ask? Why, worries about swine flu, of course. But due to our extreme caution, this event is now the ONLY PLACE YOU WILL NOT CATCH SWINE FLU. And, seriously, it’s bound to be interesting and a lot of fun, too.

30 April 09 | N. J. Furl | Comments

Chad Post (who you may know as the guy who wrote all the words above and below this post) was recently interviewed by Nigel Beale for his literary podcast. It’s a candid 28 minutes—covering the state of literature in translation, the American publishing landscape, Open Letter, and etc.—so take a look.

(Also, you can check the rest of Nigel’s offerings here.)

27 April 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The entire plot of Ghosts, Cesar Aira’s third novel to be translated into English and published by New Directions, is encapsulated in this story told over New Year’s Eve dinner:

Patri thought for a moment before speaking: I remember a story by Oscar Wilde, about a princess who was bored in her palace, bored with her parents, the king and queen, bored with the ministers, the generals, the chamberlains, and the jesters, whose jokes she knew by heart. One day a delegation of ghosts appeared to invite her to a party they were giving on New Year’s Eve, and their descriptions of this party, which included the disguises they would wear and the music to be played by the ghost orchestra, were so seductive, and she was so bored, that without a second thought that night she threw herself from the castle’s highest tower, so that she could die and go to the party. The others pondered the moral. So the story doesn’t say what happened at the party? asked Carmen Larrain. No. That’s where it stops.

The teenager Patri shares this story shortly before midnight, and shortly before having to decide whether she should follow in the footsteps of the princess, or stay in this world and resist the temptation of the ghosts inhabiting the building where she lives.

Taking place over the course of New Year’s Eve, this novel is set in an unfinished, soon-to-be swanky high-rise in Buenos Aires, where a number of Chilean construction workers (including Patri’s family) both work and live. The novel opens beautifully, taking the reader through a variety of perspectives, from the earlier morning visits of the future inhabitants to check in on how things are going, to the mind of the architect, to Patri’s cousin who gets all the workers their lunch, to Patri’s mom, before settling in on Patri herself. This extended intro is almost like a supernatural flight, a way of passing through all the layers of the building and the class divisions of the people involved with it. And beyond setting up the plot and players, it also gives Aira a chance to show off his skills.

Aira—who is immensely popular in his home Argentina, and is the author of dozens of novels cherished by thousands of portenos who just don’t get why he hasn’t exactly taken off in the States yet—is a remarkably skilled and varied writer. How I Became a Nun, which ND published in 2007, is rather surreal, angular, and disjointed. An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter came out in English in 2006 and is more historical and detached than either of the other two titles. The scope of Aira’s imagination and skills are quite incredible—if unlabled, it would be rather difficult to surmise that these three books were written by the same person.

That said, the one intangible constant across the three is Aira’s complete control and mastery of language. His writing is always graceful, especially when setting a particular scene, be it the Argentine pampas, as in An Episode, or a oppressively hot day on a construction site in Buenos Aires.

A construction site that is an interesting nexus of both construction workers and ghosts—ghosts that peek in on the family around siesta time, silently, not disturbing anyone. These are rather playful ghosts (rather than sinister), which are taken for granted and casually discussed by the living inhabitants.

That said, there is something sinister about the ghosts—at least in the opinion of Patri’s mother who quips about the princess’s imminent disappointment when she arrives at the afterlife only to find out that all “ghosts are gay.” A comment that builds on Elisa’s earlier conversation with her adolescent daughter about the “ ‘real men’ who were destined to make them happy” and points to a deeper reading of this charming ghost story as a twisted sort of sexual coming-of-age narrative. One that hinges on Patri’s potentially deadly decision—either she chooses a “real man,” or a neutered death.

Not that this novel can be reduced so simply. The numerous architectural references (including a long dream sequence about building and the unbuilt) are more theoretical and reflect back on novel-making as a craft, and how these “word-structures” can convey meaning:

An example might clarify the point, though only in an analogical mode: imagine one of those people who don’t think, a man whose only activity is reading novels, which for him is a purely pleasurable activity, and requires not the slightest intellectual effort; it’s simply a matter of letting the pleasure of reading carry him along. Suddenly, some gesture or sentence, not to speak of a “thought,” reveals that he is a philosopher in spite of himself. Where did he get that knowledge? From pleasure? From novels? An absurd supposition, given his reading material (if he read Thomas Mann, at least, it might be a different story). Knowledge comes through the novels, of course, but not really from them.

Of Aira’s novels to make their way into English, this is the one with the best chance of finding its audience. The tone of this novel perfectly melds with the plot and underlying ambitions, and it’s an incredibly enjoyable book that can be read during a nice summer afternoon. All of Aira’s books are pretty short, but this is deceptive—there’s a lot of joy and thought packed into this slender volume. I’m not sure Americans will ever appreciate the diversity of his books or the precision of his prose as much as Argentinean readers do (Roberto Bolano: “Once you have started to read Aira, you don’t want to stop”), but this is a novel with a lot of appeal, which will hopefully expand his overall English readership.

12 January 09 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Local Rochester TV station 13 WHAM’s This Morning is, I think I can state quite definitively, the nation’s single most important local morning television news source for international literature. Chad made his third appearance on This Morning this morning, where he talked about our Best Translated Book Award, Roberto Bolaño, and Elias Khoury. Top that WBAY. Chad’s competition for the hearts and minds of local Rochesterians on This Morning was The Bachelor’s Jason Mesnick, who did a live-remote interview to promote a serial mockumentary about his love life.

Click the image below to see the video.

1 December 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Mathias Enard’s Zone, which we’ve mentioned a few times already, just keeps racking up attention.

Thanks to Michael, for pointing out that Zone made Lire‘s 20 best books of 2008 list. According to my pidgin French, they say that it “possesses a scope that is rare in the French novel” and that it’s “difficult, but great.”

PW also noted our acquisition:

What’s in a period? That might be the question Chad Post, at Open Letter Press, was asking himself when he acquired the French novel Zone. The book, about a traveler making his way to Rome via train, is a study in, among other things, grammatical experimentation; it unfolds over 500 pages, in a single sentence. Open Letter, which submitted a bid for the book shortly after the Frankfurt Book Fair, is planning to publish the book Stateside in 2010; the title is published in France by Actes Sud and was written by Mathias Enard. Charlotte Mandell (who just finished The Kindly Ones) is doing the translation.

Unfortunately, my French isn’t up to it yet (I’m working on it!), so I’m anxiously awaiting—along with the rest of you, I hope—Charlotte Mandell’s translation.

25 November 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Heidi, over at Omnivoracious, Amazon’s weblog, has an interview with Chad, and some nice things to say about Open Letter:

If you looked at the recent media frenzy over Bolano’s 2666 (even The Economist has a story about it), you’d think that translations were really hot this year. According to a translation database manually compiled by Open Letter this year, though, the percentage of new books published in the U.S. that are translations is still coming in at around 3% or lower. Open Letter’s mission is to try to change all that.

A number of presses publish translations, but Open Letter (a small press out of the University of Rochester) only publishes translations. Their blog, Three Percent (based on the 3% mentioned above), has done a lot to promote international literature—it regularly features reviews, lit mags from other countries, and programs like Reading the World and Words Without Borders. This week they’re previewing their Spring 2009 line-up.

Thanks Heidi!

9 October 08 | N. J. Furl | Comments

I’ll tell ya, it seems like forever since we posted a video of Chad. Luckily, Publishers Weekly has just published a lovely article-slash-interview with our director. It’s all about things like Open Letter, the books we publish, our websites (such as this one), and literature in translation. Also, there is an accompanying web video.

I especially enjoyed the article’s title: “The International Literature Evangelist.” Not only does Chad spread the good news (of sorts), but it seems like only yesterday that we were philistines.

16 September 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments [2]

In what is a first for us, our lovely UR publicist June Avignone convinced a local morning news show to do a segment on Dubravka’s new book, Nobody’s Home, and Open Letter.

I must admit I was expecting out and out absurdity—and there was some of that: their segment was preceded by a piece on a new kind of gastric bypass surgery and also by a television cooking personality who gave instructions on how to cook mashed potatoes, using a bag of Ore-Ida instant mashed potatoes—but it went pretty well.

If you’d like to see the world of literary essays bumping into the wonderful world of morning talk shows (note in the photo below that we’re helpfully informed how much the Mega Millions jackpot is worth), click here.

18 February 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Chad was recently interviewed by Bob Smith for a local Rochester radio show called 1370 Connection. The interview aired this afternoon, and if you’d like to listen to him talk about translation, the business of books, Open Letter, and Lost, you can download the MP3 here (The file is 44MB and the interview is about 50 minutes long).

6 November 07 | E.J. Van Lanen |

Last night, Open Letter hosted a panel entitled “Commerce and Culture: The Impact of the Business of Books on the Literature of the Americas.” Moderated by Chad Post, the panel featured Lisa Dillman, who translates from Spanish and Catalan and is a lecturer in Spanish at Emory University; Jack Kirchoff, the book review editor and paperbacks columnist at the Toronto Globe & Mail; Daniel Shapiro, director of literature at the Americas Society and editor of Review; and Jonathon Welch, co-founder and buyer at Talking Leaves Books.

It was a wide-ranging discussion, covering—as you can imagine by reading the brief bios above—the business of books, reviewing, translating, and bookselling.

If you’d like to listen to the panel, you can download the podcast by clicking here. (The file is 86MB and the discussion lasts about 90 minutes.)

8 October 07 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

KRUI, the University of Iowa’s public radio station, held a discussion this morning featuring our own Chad Post; Dedi Felman of Words Without Borders, Matvei Yankelevich of Ugly Duckling Presse, Hugh Ferrer, Associate Director of the International Writers Program, and Keisha Lynn, Project Assistant at the International Writers Program. Their discussion was a brief preview of the panel they’ll be on this afternoon—World Lit Net, where they’ll discuss the value of the Internet as a tool of dissemination, a locus of literary community, and a potential engine for (or roadblock to) “world literature”—which is a part of the 40th Anniversary of the International Writers Program.

If you’d like to listen to this discussion, you can download the . (The file is about 24MB and the discussion lasts about 40 minutes.)

19 September 07 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

He claims his mouth is open because he’s pitching a book, which is proof that he works when he goes to NYC. Should we believe him?

....
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >