As an interlude in our 2013 round-up series—the Nate & Tom Movie Podcast will be coming soon—Tom and Chad decided to talk about Tom’s recent trip to L.A., where he met with Michael Silverblatt of the amazing show Bookworm, and about a couple of recent articles that have been making the rounds in social media and whatnot. Namely, we decided to talk a bit about George Packer’s Amazon article in the New Yorker and the provocatively titled “How Iowa Flattened Literature.”Read More...
This is usually the section of my Music of the Past Year roundup post where I go on and on about how much easier it is to discover music than it is to discover books. Although I still feel the same way—right now I’m listening to the new El Ten Eleven EP thanks to an email from Spotify I received this morning; I’ve never read a single book that Bookish has “recommended” to me—let’s just pretend I made some awesome points about culture and time allocation and ways we experience different art forms and the differences between visceral and cerebral pleasures and just move on.
In contrast to my books list, in which I semi-complained that I didn’t read a lot of great books in 2013 (something that hasn’t held true in 2014—so far all the books I’ve read/am reading are baller), this list was hard to put together because there were a ton of really great things I listened to this year. Granted, these weren’t all “10 out of 10” works of lasting genius, but when I sat down to make a short list of albums to include in our annual podcast, I came up with 30 albums. And there were probably a dozen more that I liked but couldn’t justify including on the shortlist.1
So, following my system of years past, rather than try and rank these, or narrow it down to my true “favorites,” I went for a series of silly categories. Because that’s more fun. And because that seems like a more interesting way to put together a “list.”
Because, seriously, this website is no home for an “Album of the Year” list. We mainly do this podcast because we love music and because we do intro the podcasts with new songs we think readers/listeners might like. (Well, that, and Puerto Rico.) And this gives the three of us a chance to share our individual discoveries with each other, and with all of you.
Which is another reason I tried to include albums that you may not have heard of. So there’s no National on here, although I seem to listen to the new album every time I drink too much and am feeling sentimental; and I left off the albums by Baths and Pantha du Prince and The Naked and Famous because Kaija already covered them.
Hope you enjoy the list, and as mentioned elsewhere, we made a Spotify playlist with a few tracks from all our favorite albums. (And all the albums below are also available to stream on Spotify.)
[P.S. The new El Ten Eleven EP, For Emily, is already on my shortlist for next year’s podcast. Along with the new Mark McGuire album, and the one from Aa. It’s so reassuring to know there’s always something new—and good—around the corner.]
Favorite Album that Sounds Electronic But Isn’t:
Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi
Regardless of category, this is straight up one of my favorite pieces of music from last year. The repetition and rhythms of electronic music made with real, actual instruments; the fact that this is a 45-minute continuous “song”; the sort of spiraling nature of the music—all of this is right in my sweet spot of music preferences. Now if only I could see them play live . . .
Favorite Album that Is Just That Damn Good:
Engravings by Forest Swords
Sticking with albums that just kind of blew me away—before getting in to the more fun categories—I have to mention Engravings by Forest Swords. One of the many electronic albums I liked from this past year (Nate’s favorite category of music!), this album feels like a journey. Not in a concept album sort of way, but in the way each song lays down a path, traverses some sonic distance between beginning and end. Also, I like this because it’s kind of dark. In an engaging, surrounding sort of way. Best to listen to this on big ass headphones.
Favorite Poppy Post-Rock Album:
Fever Forms by The Octopus Project
Looking at those two album covers above, you’d think I sat at home every Friday night with a box of wine, too many candles, and a huge helping of depression and regret. Which isn’t ALWAYS the case! Since I mostly listen to music while I’m reading, writing, or working (which is mostly reading and writing), I gravitate toward a lot of instrumental albums. Recently I got into the n5MD label because their brand of emotional electronic music is the perfect sort of half-engagement I need to stay focused. ANYWAY, this new Octopus Project album is also pretty sweet to work to, although I tend to find myself tapping away various rhythms of half-dancing—like I do, like a weirdo—while it’s on. I love all their albums, but the opening three tracks from this one make it my all-time favorite.
Favorite Album that Sounds Like the Inside of My Head and Isn’t by Dan Deacon:
Total Folklore by Dan Friel
A few weeks ago, the goalkeeper for our indoor soccer team—which is named Terminal Cathole, and is a reference to a translation joke that came out of one of our weekly workshops—got a severe concussion during the game. After getting kneed in the temple, he repeated the same four questions over and over again for the next 45 minutes. “Hey guys? I don’t really know what happened exactly?” “When is my girlfriend coming?” “Do you think I have a concussion?” “Hey guys? What happened exactly?” It was TERRIFYING. I’ve never seen that happen in real life, and to know that an errant knee—from a team that I want to destroy, but that’s beside the point—can immediately alter someone’s personality and mind? This is not OK. (Rob was OK in the end—he remembers nothing from that night, but thankfully, I didn’t have to unfriend him for becoming such a dud post-concussion. “I used to think you were funny, man, but that little bit of brain damage made you so boring. Sorry, but, I’m sure you won’t remember me saying this anyway.”)
After listening to this album—which appeals to me because it sounds like my more hyper times—you may think that you’ve actually been concussed. Or will hope that my stint as replacement GK will end in a similar way. SO MANY NOISES AND BEATS AND MELODIES AND HOOKS! MAKE IT STOP!
Favorite Album(s) with Lyrics that Chloë and/or Aidan Could’ve Written:
Mark Kozelek & Desertshore (self-titled); Perils from the Sea by Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle
Switching over to music with actual lyrics, two of my discoveries of this past year were from Mark Kozelek, otherwise known as “that Red House Painters & Sun Kil Moon guy.” Kozelek records albums at a Joyce Carol Oates rate—the new Sun Kil Moon dropped yesterday in fact—which is maybe why some of his lyrics feel like he’s just saying whatever shit comes to mind.
When my kids come up with songs—which they do basically all the time, like when we came up with “I came in like a RAINBOW!,” our much improved version of that awful “Wrecking Ball” song—they tend to channel R. Kelly a la “Trapped in the Closet” and just repeat everything happening around them, as if just stating that there’s a coffee cup on the coffee table somehow makes it musical. Kind of like this bit from “Livingstone Bramble”:
I got up and I went to the studio
got stopped by a crack head named Jerome
he had a lot to get off his chest
he wanted some money and he was homeless
I gave him some time and twenty bucks
I shook his hand and I said good luck then
I went to the delicatessen
got a bottle of water before my session
and I worked out a couple of songs
and I played my guitar all day long
You win, Kozelek. By contrast, “1936” is a really well-crafted, depressing as shit song, but even so, the lyrics feel loose . . . as if he’s coming up with them on the spot to go along with his whatever his partner has produced for him, music-wise.
Also, bonus points for the lyric “I hate Eric Clapton,” because I, Chad Post, hate Eric Clapton.
Favorite Album from a Country (Denmark) I Visited for the First Time This Year:
Dansktoppen møder Burkina Faso i set himmelblå rum hvor solon nor, suite by Frisk Frugt
According to Google Translate, the title of this album is: “Danish top meetings Burkina Faso seen in sky room where solon normal, suite.” For that alone, I could include this on my list. I found out about this from The Quietus’s year end list. A list that is a million times (or so) more interesting than Pitchfork’s. Not only does it not include that disaster of an Arcade Fire album, but it lists a ton of stuff I had never heard of, yet loved on first listen. Like this Frisk Frugt album, which reminds me a bit of The Books in the way there’re tons of things thrown together. It’s also strange—in an enjoyable, unpredictable way—and foreign. And since Three Percent is all about the foreign, it seems perfect for this list.
Favorite Album from 2013 I Discovered the Day We Did Our Podcast:
Costa Blanca by The Limiñanas
This also came from The Quietus, but in the form of an album review the morning that we were going to review this podcast. “My Black Sabbath” grabbed me right away, and when I was debating what to actually include in the actual podcast, I thought it would be kind of awesome—and very me-like?—to just pick something I’ve listened to twice and instantly loved. For me, this song represents the visceral appeal of music.
But I also felt like I had to include this album because The Limiñanas are from Perpignan, a small city in Southern France/Catalonia. That’s enough to intrigue me, but when I looked up images of this city, I decided that Open Letter HAS to become the world’s largest publisher of Perpignan authors.
Favorite Album Supposedly Created Using Telepathy:
The Marriage of True Minds by Matmos
Matmos makes some damn good music, and most of the time, their albums have some sort of concept behind them. For example, they used surgery sounds to create their organic sounding (sorry) A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. But the concept behind The Marriage of True Minds is so much more awesome. From the Thrill Jockey website:
For the past four years the band have been conducting parapsychological experiments based upon the classic Ganzfeld (‘total field’) experiment, but with a twist: instead of sending and receiving simple graphic patterns, test subjects were put into a state of sensory deprivation by covering their eyes and listening to white noise on headphones, and then Matmos member Drew Daniel attempted to transmit “the concept of the new Matmos record” directly into their minds. During videotaped psychic experiments conducted at home in Baltimore and at Oxford University, test subjects were asked to describe out loud anything they saw or heard within their minds as Drew attempted transmission. The resulting transcripts became poetic and conceptual scores used by Matmos to generate the nine songs on this album. If a subject hummed something, that became a melody; passing visual images suggested arrangement ideas, instruments, or raw materials for a collage; if a subject described an action, then the band members had to act out that out and make music out of the noises generated in the process of the re-enactment.
Favorite Album by Favorite Band from 1994:
Purgatory/Paradise by Throwing Muses
I talk about this a lot, too much, on the podcast, but back in 1994, when I was in college, Throwing Muses, and Kristin Hersh generally, was a huge influence on my life. I probably listened to their entire catalog at least 100 times on my Walkman as I crossed MSU’s gigantic campus. One thing I didn’t mention on the podcast: I used to own a t-shirt from Hersh’s Strange Angels tour that simply had “Strange” on the front and “Angel” on the back. Not too weird—maybe even a bit too cute—but people in North Carolina thought I was totally fucked up. This is probably why I have no issues wearing my Thousand Morons t-shirt with the bra and the morons and all that. I’m used to the judgement and odd looks.
Oh, and this new Throwing Muses album has no business being this good.
Favorite Icelandic Albums (There Are Two, Because Fucking Iceland):
Samaris by Samaris; Smilewound by Múm
Iceland is one of my favorite countries on earth. If not THE favorite. It’s gorgeous, its people are incredible, it gives off a vibe of livability and happiness. Not to mention the books coming from there are incredibly good, and their music scene is legendary. For that reason, I always have to include and Icelandic album on my list. And this year, I think they deserve two.
Múm could release a bunch of tracks they wrote when they were pre-teens and I’d probably love it. I think they’re firmly installed as my favorite Icelandic band of all time. And although Smilewound is no Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy, it’s a masterful album and one that I tend to listen to twice in a row, since the first time makes me just want more.
Samaris is on here in part because of the Japanese translator Stephen Synder. I’d listened to it once or twice before seeing him in Middlebury this past fall, but after he told me how much he loved it, I went back to it and kind of fell in love. These two albums go together perfectly—melodic, almost childlike in their playfulness and innocence, and quite distinctive. Iceland rules.
1 In case you’re insane and want to know what was left off, here’s everything I cut:
Obsidian by Baths
Spring Break of the Soul by Bill Baird
Character by Julia Kent
Elements of Light by Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory
Apollo by Banco de Gaia
In Rolling Waves by The Naked and the Famous
Evil Friends by Potugal. The Man
We the Common by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
Slow Focus by Fuck Buttons
So You Are . . . So You’ll Be . . . by White Hills
Nonfiction by The Range
Wild Light by 65DaysofStatic
General Dome by Buke & Gase
Meditation of Ecstatic Energy by Dustin Wong
Love & Devotion by Heterotic
Immunity by Jon Hopkins
Danish & Blue by Lilacs & Champagne
No Blues by Los Campesinos!
The Unified Field by Piano Interrupted
Cién Chmury Nad Ukrytym Polem by Stara Rzeka
Hey, there. We’ve done this annual music podcast thing for a few years now, so let’s be clear on what’s happening here, eh?
I’m Nate—the man behind the podcasting curtain. If you’re a regular listener, you’ve almost certainly heard Chad and/or Tom refer to “Nate” on numerous occasions. If they are the “talent” (scare quotes intended), then I am the producer. Nevertheless, twice a year I slink out from behind said curtain for the music podcast (this!) and the movie podcast with Tom (soon!).
All apologies, as always, for having to hear my non-radio-friendly voice talk about songs and my thoughts on them (thoughts that may be slightly shaded by a bit of podcast whiskey). That being said: Hey! Take a look at these ten things because they are ten good things, and you might think so, too!
This is my expanded year-end list of music from the Three Percent Music Podcast. They’re not all necessarily my most listened-to albums of the year, nor what I would call a “best of” list, although it’s not far from either. I’ve included a link to one exemplar from each album to give you the gist, but, to really get a good overview of each, we made a Spotify playlist at which you can conveniently listen to a few songs from each of these albums, as well of the songs from Chad and Kaija’s lists, too. (And, of course, listen to the podcast!)
So, here we go, in no particular order of operations:
Best Album to Remind You about that Rock ‘n’ Roll Is All We Need:
Idle No More by King Kahn & The Shrines
I was never too, too much of a Rolling Stones fan (team Beatles, man), but I do have a weakness for bands that have the sort-of throwback style and attitude that reminds us of the “it’s just about pure rock ‘n’ roll” attitude that they represented. Well, this King Khan album is soaking in that. Clean guitars, a driving backbeat, back-up “ba baba ba” singing parts, and just enough reverb and horns thrown in the mix all make this your favorite album of 1968 that came out in 2013. Basically, if you can listen to the first 30 second of this and say, “Goo, I just hate that.” Then, you, my friend, do not much like rock ‘n’ roll.
Best Album to Intrigue You from the First Notes:
Magic Trix by Xenia Rubinos
When you first listen to this, —the top cut on the album—you naturally try to categorize it, but the song makes that a bit of a twisty challenge. Beginning with a soft a cappella voice, the track shortly transforms when the drums and keyboard kick in. As with much of this album, the instruments (notably, there is no guitar to be found) create abrupt, syncopated rhythms that fit perfectly with Xenia’s staccato delivery and layered vocal tracks. By the time you reach the second track, you realize this album has even more tricks up its sleeve . . .
Best Album by Man Man in Years:
On Oni Pond by Man Man
I won’t say too much about Man Man, primarily because I could say far too much about them. Although I’ve been fan of there’s for many years, now, I do understand that they can be one of those bands that are either one’s taste or just . . . not. I’m drawn to what I call “persona singers,” so Man Man definitely strikes a chord with me. Filled with kinetic energy, eclectic tastes in gypsy-infused hurky-jerky beats, amazing live shows, and a voice that sounds like Frank Zappa ate Tom Waits . . . Well, just listen to a bit of this. If you like it even a little, then give the them a long listen. They’ll suck you in if you let them. Man Man have spent years creating a fascinating world of albums for you to explore, and this one is a great place to start.
Best Album That’s Easy to Love from the First Notes:
We the Common by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
If the above category name is accurate, there’s no need to sell this one. If you haven’t heard it already, just give this about a minute. It shouldn’t take much more than that before you’re looking up the whole album.
Best Album from Someone I’ve been listening to since 1998:
Surrounded by Richard Buckner
When Pitchfork music—our favorite whipping boy—reviewed this album, they called the sound of Richard Buckner’s guitar “splintery as a raw plank.” Credit where credit is due: I have been trying to find the perfect words to describe the particular sound in Buckner’s guitar playing/recording style since I first heard it on his 1998 album Since, and “splintery as a raw plank” is exactly what it sounds like. Take a listen (at 30 seconds in). That, paired with his alternately rough/cracking and soothingly smooth voice, makes him an artist who is never less than intimately close to the listener. He was alt-country before alt-country was really a thing, and he made a couple experimental/concept albums when he seemed like a straight-up 3:30-long song kind of guy. Basically, he has never been anything less than himself, and, in many ways, this album is a return to the same form that made me fall for his stuff 15 years ago, so it’s a great place to dive in.
Best Album That Also Has One of the Best Tracks of the Year on It:
Muchacho by Phosphorescent
Don’t mistake me: This entire album is magnificent. In fact, this standout track is a bit of a bad example of what the whole album actually sounds like, since every other song is of a distinctively different style than this one—think old Will Oldham stuff with better production value—and I love that style. That being said, this song flows for over six minutes so gracefully that you may think it all washed over you too quickly, and you might just go back to listen to it, again, right after.
Best Album with Unapologetically Catchy Melodies:
The Speed of Things by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Yes, their name is awful—so bad, in fact, that I avoided them for a long time, assuming they must be awful, as well. Turns out I was wrong. If you want some upbeat pop that you can dance to with bouncy melodies that you can fall for upon first listen, this you can definitely do worse than this.
Best Album Written in a Subway Station:
Moon Hooch by Moon Hooch
Two saxophonists and a drummer and all the squeaky, unbridled energy you can ask for is what you’re going to get here in this album of instrumental tracks. They started by busking in New York subway stations until they were recently discovered, and they definitely deserve a wider audience because this is some addictive, propulsive stuff.
Best Album from My Hard-Rockin’ Days:
Found by Rival Schools
The NY post-punk and post-hrdcore pedigree of this band is simply too long to get into here (that’s what the podcast is for. Go listen to it!), so I’ll just say that the lead singer and songwriter was in two of my favorite bands when I was a high-school skateboarder punk. We’re all older now, but he’s still got it.
Best Album by a Legend:
Push the Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
With decades of albums under his belt, Push the Sky Away finds Cave at his most quietly reflective and paced. That’s not to say that the songs don’t still carry all the weight and otherworldliness that we expect from him, though. In fact, the sparse arrangements and low-tempo songs only increase the eerie uneasiness. What can I say? It’s Nick Cave, man. Just listen.
This week, we finally continue our series of podcasts summing up the books, music, and movies of 2013. Because summing up 2013 only gets old when we say it does! Anyway, the entire Open Letter office is featured on this podcast, with each of us sharing our favorite albums from last year. To make it easier for you to check out what we liked, we put together this Spotify playlist with three songs from each of the albums we recommended. Just lookup the post about the podcast on Three Percent for the link.Read More...
As I mentioned in an earlier post—or two—I ended up reading 111 books last year. A lot of South Korean titles—as part of my judging their biannual translation contest—and a random assortment of other things, both that Open Letter is publishing, or that I wanted to review/think might be BTBA longlist titles. I ended up reading books from 24 different languages (36 from English, 16 from Korean, 14 from Spanish, 9 from French, 8 from Portuguese) and “liked” most all of them.
Which was a bit of a problem. In contrast to 2013 music that I really liked—I have some-30 albums on my “shortlist” of things to include in that podcast—I was less overwhelmed by the 2013 books that I read. Not to say there weren’t a lot of great things that came out in 2013—Tirza for instance—just that of the 111 books, a huge portion were, for lack of a more scientific term, just “fine.”
So instead of picking favorites, I made up silly categories like I do for the music podcast, and dropped a few things in each one. Take this for what it’s worth—this is by no means a “best of” list, just a collection of some stuff that I would recommend.
And one final note—these aren’t all books published in 2013, just the ones I read during the past year and liked a lot.
Established Authors Whose Latest Books I Really Liked
The Map & The Territory by Michel Houellebecq, which I read after it made the BTBA longlist.
The Infatuations by Javier Marias, which I was wary of, but ended up really liking.
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon, which I had a feeling this would be awesome, but it was way more awesome than expected, especially post-Inherent Vice.
All The Spanish-Language Books:
Carlos Labbe’s Navidad & Matanza (coming soon!) was another Spanish highlight.
To Save Everything, Click Here by Evgeny Morozov, who, along with Jacob Silverman, is the best anti-Internet guru writer out there. He’s provocative and drives all the “Digital Is the Answer to Everything!” people absolutely batshit. I approve.
Promise Land by Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, which is getting a ton of publicity right now. Go Jessica!
Straight Up Really Great Books:
A Time for Everything by Karl Knausgaard, which I read for our local bookclub . . . and turned out to the be only person who finished it.
Where Tigers Are at Home by Jean-Marie Blas de Robles. I read this before his event at the U of R and totally got sucked in. But when he explained more and more of the games behind this book—most of which were cut in both the French and English edition—I came to further appreciate how much of a masterpiece this is.
A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wieslaw Mysliwski, which is a worthy follow-up to the absolute mind-blowing Stone Upon Stone.
Tirza by Arnon Grunberg, which should’ve made the Tournament of Books shortlist, and the NBCC Fiction Award shortlist. Also should’ve sold more copies than The Dinner, but, well, shit.
Strangest Books I Read
Leg over Leg by Faris al-Shidyaq, which defies every Arabic literature stereotype you might have.
Island of the Doomed by Stig Dagerman was another book club book, and one of the most singular, creepy, messed-up books I’ve ever read. It’s demanding and disturbed and totally worth it.
LoveStar by Andri Snaer Magnason. I have a man crush on this guy, and would love to publish his new novel, Time Box. His books are sort of sci-fi fables which heap joke upon joke, taking absurd situations that are remotely plausible and blowing them up into something hilarious and penetrating.
Favorite Book That Should Only Be Read in Print Form
S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, which hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves from book people who still would rather own a physical book. With letters, postcards, photos, a code breaking device, and tons of multicolored margin notations, S. is a fascinating novel cum mystery that can never be replicated in PDF or mobi form.
Favorite Books Coming Out in early 2014
Europe in Sepia by Dubravka Ugresic, which will officially come out next month. Similar in tone and humor and intelligence to Karaoke Culture, in this collection Ugresic takes aim at various inequalities and social movements, including Occupy Wall Street.
Viviane by Julia Deck, a very interesting book that flips from second person, to first person, to third person narration in building a sort of strange psychological mystery about a woman and a dead psychiatrist.
Because of the 2014 World Cup
Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano, which very well may be the best book on soccer ever written.
All the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Hyesoon Kim, which was my favorite Korean book of 2013.
Transfer Fat by Aase Berg, the language in which make me feel things. Like gross.
Wheel with a Single Spoke by Nichita Stanescu. Sean Cotter could become the first back-to-back BTBA winner, what with this taking the 2013 prize, and Blinding up for the 2014 . . .
Rather than do our normal “favorite books of XXXX” podcast, we decided to focus on four books from last year that we really liked: Thomas Pynchon’s BLEEDING EDGE, Javier Marias’s THE INFATUATIONS, Keith Ridgway’s HAWTHORN & CHILD, and Arnon Grunberg’s TIRZA. (Chad also snuck in a reference to Julia Deck’s VIVIANE, which is coming out in April.)Read More...
If you’re into book industry news and whatnot, you’ve probably heard the story about Garth Risk Hallberg’s novel, City on Fire. Just to recap though, before the book had a publisher, Scott Rudin, the movie producer behind Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and No Country for Old Men, optioned the film rights. That’s a pretty rare situation, and basically ensured that a book deal was imminent. Well, a couple days ago it was announced that Knopf had bought the rights for almost $2 million.
From the New York Times:
“City on Fire” was written by Garth Risk Hallberg, a 34-year-old who has contributed to The New York Times Book Review and The Millions. Publishers who had a copy of the manuscript — and said they could concentrate on little else until they had finished reading it — rapturously compared it to work by Michael Chabon and Thomas Pynchon.
The book drew an advance that is highly unusual for a debut novel. In a two-day bidding war, 10 publishers bid more than $1 million. Knopf emerged the victor, paying close to $2 million, said two people familiar with the negotiations. [. . .]
Sonny Mehta, the chairman and editor in chief of Knopf, said on Sunday, “It’s a large, spacious and extremely ambitious novel. It has a richness to it, and that was really what I responded to almost immediately.”
As much as I kind of loathe the “publishing industry,” it’s totally bad ass that Garth got this money for a book that was initially 1,200 pages long. And given that the last time I saw Garth, he was reading Péter Nádas’s Parallel Stories (and pointing out that most critic who reviewed this seemed not to have read it . . .), I’m guessing that City on Fire isn’t going to be 900 pages of vampire shit and semi-erotic bondage. In fact, this may be the first “Big Book Deal” book that I’m actually excited to read.
To go back a step though, and to indulge in some momentary online navel-gazing, the thing that’s weirdest to me about this is that I’ve actually met Garth, officially making him the first person I’ve coffeed with to earn this much cash on a single book deal.
You NEED to listen to the opening of this podcast—it’s a harrowing thought (that you only have XXX number of books left to read in your life) followed by a bit of Garthian wisdom.
Also, I want to thank Garth for being the indirect inspiration for the funniest thing I ever wrote—a play-by-play recap of my battle with Skype/Moneybookers.
And for more info on Garth and what little is known of City on Fire, check out Boris Kachka’s FAQ on GRH.
On this week’s podcast, Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times joins us to discuss Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, “Bleeding Edge.” All three of us are Pynchon fans, and all three of us really like this latest book. Although, as we talk about, the fact that we experienced a lot of the cultural items Pynchon references makes this a bit odd . . . Like, Pynchon’s watched “Office Space”? He is aware of Pokemon and Beanie Babies?Read More...
This week’s podcast is the first one Tom and I have recorded in almost a month. So after a bit of catching up, we talked about David Bellos’s new translation of Simenon’s “Pietr the Latvian,” the difficulties of translating “I love you” and all the swears into Japanese, and a list of “The 20 Best Books in Translation You’ve Never Read.” As is necessary, we also talked about the baseball playoffs and flowcharts.Read More...
This week’s podcast is a special combo version featuring two separate conversations: one between Chad, Stephen Sparks (BTBA judge, Green Apple bookseller, and excellent reviewers), and George Carroll; and one between Chad and Paul Yamazaki (legendary City Lights bookseller). Topics range from soccer to Karl Pohrt to Javier Marias to Jonathan Lethem to other books we’re reading this summer. It’s always great to hear from booksellers about what they’re reading—they’re more in touch with what’s coming out than basically anyone. Additionally, it’s always fun to give a bit more love to these two epically great bookstores.Read More...
This week’s podcast is a hodgepodge of opinions, rants, and jokes. We talked about summer music—and our mutual dislike of Robin Thicke—“Hawthorne & Child,” my trip to Brazil, and bike thieves. And nobody talked about J.K. Rowling or her widely-known pseudonym.Read More...
At the request of one of Tom’s friends, we tried to keep this particular podcast upbeat and cheery . . . and we sort of succeeded. Most of the podcast revolves around an interview from Publishing Perspectives that Amanda DeMarco did with German publisher Michael Krüger about the 40 years he’s spent at Hanser and what’s changed over that time. Krüger is a really interesting, brilliant guy, who doesn’t shy away from saying some controversial things, so a) this interview is interesting, and b) so is our podcast.Read More...
This post-BookExpo America podcast (with special guest, Bromance Will/Will Evans, the man behind Deep Vellum Press) is all about the good and bad of the country’s largest trade show for publishing. Mostly, it’s a series of rants—not necessarily about the show itself, but about the crap that craps it all up. From tech-speak nonsense to Mitch “Fucking” Albom, this is one of the funniest and most fiery podcasts we’ve recorded to date.Read More...
On this week’s podcast, Chad and Tom make fun of yet another new “social book community recommendation” website. Also, they discuss the awesomeness of a number of San Francisco bookstores (and bookstores in general), on the heels of Tom’s first trip to The City by the Bay.Read More...
We’re back! With our newest and semi-delayed installment of the Three Percent Podcast. This week, is a two-parter. First Chad and Tom run down the list of the fiction and poetry finalist for the 2013 Best Translated Book Awards. Yes, it’s true that these were announced a couple weeks ago, but, as luck would have it, today (Friday, May 3) happens to be the big awards ceremony, which is taking place at the PEN World Voices Festival in NYC (come one, come all!). So, what better time than now to brush up on the potential winners? Then, the podcast’s main event: Chad and Tom are joined by the one-and-only Richard Nash to talk about Richard’s recent article. The title and subtitle should give you a nice teaser to their discussion: “What Is the Business of Literature?: As technology disrupts the business model of traditional publishers, the industry must imagine new ways of capturing the value of a book.”Read More...
What is this? The much-delayed “favorite movies of 2012” episode of the Three Percent Podcast? It is! Better late than never, right? Yes, it is. Stop disagreeing, please.
This week, Tom is joined by Nate, and they grit their teeth to discuss The Master (P. T. Anderson) and Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino_), after having forced one another other to finally watch the each other’s favorite movie of the year. Also on the docket are the likes of: Rust & Bone, Magic Mike, Killer Joe, Moonrise Kingdom_, Argo, and, god help us, Lincoln. (And no one, at any point, talks about soccer.)Read More...
This week’s podcast is a bit of a hodge-podge: We start out talking about the concept of “selling used ebooks,” then Tom gets to express his admiration for Javier Marias’s new novel, “The Infatuations,” and Marias in general, and finally we talk about Houellebecq, which, as can only be expected, is controversial. Oh, and there is some talk about the NCAA Tournament. Naturally.Read More...
This week, Chad talks with special guest George Carroll about the enchanted lives of literary sales reps, Seagull Books, the Seagull School of Publishing, László Krasznahorkai’s forthcoming books, and . . . the UEFA Champions League.Read More...
On this week’s podcast, we welcome National Book Critics Circle board member Carolyn Kellogg to talk about the NBCC awards, the changes to the National Book Award (which set me off on a bit of a paranoid rant), Bookish and its suckishness, and a variety of other literary topics.Read More...
Following Friday’s posting of our latest podcast, I received a number of requests for the full list of books that we talked about. And thanks to Tom’s diligent pre-podcast preparation (seriously, I’m not even joking), I have that complete list—in the order in which they were discussed:
Nineteen books for your 2013 reading pleasure.
This week, Tom Roberge and I discuss a bunch of 2013 books that we’re excited about. Our preview includes everything from Javier Marias’s latest, to “18% Gray” (and the “faux 18% Gray”) to the new Laszlo Krashnahorkai to Yoko Ogawa’s “Revenge” and Mo Yan’s “Sandalwood Death” and, as always, is a mix of incisive literary observations and irreverence and soccer talk.Read More...
This week’s podcast features Chad, Nathan Furl, Kaija Straumanis, and Will Cleveland talking about their favorite albums of 2012. (And sometimes 2011.) It’s a pretty tight podcast, featuring thirteen different artists and some interesting insights into why we each like different styles of music. Oh, and of course we digress a bit to talk about awful job postings and whatnot.Read More...
In this week’s podcast (Tom’s last one of of the year), we discuss the translations we did (and didn’t) read from 2012, including “Maidenhair” by Mikhail Shishkin, “Satantango” by Laszlo Krashnahorkai, “Woes of the True Policeman” by Roberto Bolano, and “Necropolis” by Santiago Gamboa. This kicks off the beginning of our “best of” podcasts for this year. Next week we’ll talk about music, and in the new year, Tom will be back to discuss the best movies of 2012.Read More...
This week’s podcast is focused on crime and detective books—both fiction and nonfiction. First off, we talk (i.e., Chad monologues) about Errol Morris’s “A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald” and his recent Twitter fight with Joe McGinniss about this case. Then we move on to talking about Wolf Haas’s “Brenner and God” and what makes this book (and detective books in general) fun to read. Also, Tom acts grumpy.Read More...
After a bit of a hiatus, Tom Roberge and Chad W. Post are back to discuss what we mean when we say that a book is “difficult.” They use a range of examples, from “Finnegans Wake” to “Mrs. Dalloway” to define a few different categories of reading “difficulty,” such as, not being compelled, and having to read a book like a puzzle.Read More...
This week, Chad W. Post and Kaija Straumanis talk with Philip Graham — a co-founder and current nonfiction editor of “Ninth Letter,” author of several books, including “The Moon, Come to Earth:Dispatches from Lisbon” — about Portuguese culture and literature, specifically the works of Gonçalo Tavares, whose book “The Neighborhood” is coming out this month with Philip’s introduction. (Which will appear here on Three Percent in the near future.)Read More...
This week’s podcast features special guest Kaija Straumanis to help preview the upcoming American Literary Translators Conference. Every fall, approx. 350 translators get together for three days of panels, discussions, readings, movies, and drinking. (Oh, and mechanical bull riding.)Read More...
This week’s podcast features freelance book critic Jacob Silverman, who stirred up a lot of discussion last month when Slate published his piece, “Against Enthusiasm” about “the epidemic of niceness in online book culture.” Basically, Jacob argued that online book culture has lead away from legit discussion to a series of endorsements and “+1s.” Shortly after he wrote this, William Giraldi “trashed Alex Ohlin’s recent publications” setting off “another Twitter firestorm.” And of course, the day we recorded this, Giraldi published a “long piece” explaining his beliefs about book criticism. Anyway, this week we talk about all of that . . .Read More...
This week’s podcast—the last before Tom goes off to visit the good people of Carolina—is a bit of a surprise. Tom told me he had a topic, but wanted to spring it on me and get my unprepared reaction. So, to share in the spirit of surprises, I’m not going to say anything about what we talked about, except to mention that it WASN’T about baseball or Arsenal’s post-RVP lack of firepower. It does involve Canadians, though. And the “New York Times Book Review.” Enjoy!Read More...
I’m just back from family vacation, so this week we decided to take things easy and talk about The Dark Knight Rises (which we sort of spoil for anyone who either hasn’t seen it, or thinks it’s great), the Olympics, books we’ve read recently, and J. K. Rowling and her misguided attempt to prevent privacy of her new book.Read More...
This week, Will Evans joins us to talk about contemporary Russian literature (READ THIS BOOK) and the Read Russia initiative at this year’s BEA. (Sidenote: click on that link just to see the section at the bottom left corner where you can share the page via “Socialist Media.” Seriously.) We talk about Zakhar Prilepin, Mikhail Shishkin, Dmitry Danilov (who looks a bit like Ignatius J. Reilly, see below), and Oleg Kashin.Read More...
This week’s podcast (which was actually recorded weeks ago) features Ryan Chapman of The Penguin Press, who came on with us to discuss the fun marketing campaign Penguin put on to celebrate the release of the ebook versions of all of Thomas Pynchon’s books. As usual the conversation swerves from that to discussing American literature in general, the Euro Cup (SPAIN!) and sundry odds and ends, such as making up blurbs for catalogs . . . like this and thisRead More...
In this week’s podcast, Tom and I talk about BookExpo America and its parties, in particular the rocking one that took place at the New Directions offices. I also rant (a bit) about why I didn’t get to go to Cape Town to present my speech, The Long Term Is the Only Race Worth Winning. There’s also a bit of baseball talk related to a bet that the two of us made, and we throw out ideas for a few future podcasts.Read More...
In this week’s podcast, Tom and I talk about two related subjects: this New Yorker article about the translation of the first line of Camus’ The Stranger, and the PEN World Voices panel about “Reviewing Translations.” (See video embedded below.) There are also some digressions, mostly involving me apologizing for all sorts of things (offending people, swearing, being silly, etc.), and baseball. Naturally.Read More...
This week’s podcast is a special Eurovision edition featuring resident Eurovision expert, Kaija Straumanis. We go through a bunch of the videos/songs participating in this year’s competition and make fun of almost everything while also trying to come to understand why Eurovision is so compelling in its bizarreness. To follow along with our comments, I highly recommend watching the videos below as you listen to the podcast—it will greatly enhance your listening experience.Read More...
Tom and I were on fire during this week’s podcast, talking about the PEN World Voices Festival and some interesting questions we were asked in an interview for the Picador Book Room Tumblr. While talking about PEN WV, what is learned about a location from reading a book set there, what’s lost and/or gained in translation, we (meaning mostly me) tear into a number of things.Read More...
Tom and I answered a bunch of questions for Gabrielle Gantz and the Picador Book Room tumblr. I think this makes for a fun and interesting read, and it actually became the basis for a good part of our discussion on this week’s podcast (which will be up tomorrow).
Here’s an excerpt:
What do you look for when deciding what translated work to read next?
Chad: There are so many things that go into a decision like this. Sometimes it’s the buzz around a book,1 sometimes it’s the author (I’m currently on a Clarice Lispector kick), sometimes the translator (Bill Johnston is a translation jesus!), and sometimes it’s something totally other (Satantango has a gorgeous cover, The Safety Net is about terrorism).
Tom: I don’t necessarily look to specifically read a translation or a non-translation. I look for good books. When I do find myself choosing from among the vast array of choices, I usually gravitate to plot first, style second. Country and translator are important eventually, but first, for me at least, it has to be something I’ll enjoy reading. There was a time when I read the “difficult” books for my own edification, but I’ve since realized that there are things to be learned about human nature in a wide array of books, not just difficult ones that academics deem worthy.
Do you find that you gravitate towards a certain country because of your interest in the culture?
Chad: I read a lot of Mexican and South American books because I particularly like the aesthetic sensibility prevalent in a lot of works from down there. The aforementioned Cortazar and Lispector, but also Borges, Bioy Casares, Chejfec, Zambra, Saer, Sada, etc., etc.
Tom: In the end, I read a lot of French translations. I like their philosophers and their novelists’ tendency to draw on those philosophies. And I’m a huge French film fan, so the overall outlook on art I’m very familiar with and love. But I also read a lot of stuff from Spain and Latin America — they too seem to zero in on themes I’m drawn to.
Click here to read the full interview.
1 I actually included the example that this is why I read “the very mediocre 1Q84,” but that didn’t make the final cut. But since this book IS so very overrated, I thought I’d make a point of mentioning that in the safety of my own blog.
This week’s podcast features a special discussion with Daniel Levin Becker, author of Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Liteature, a history of of the Oulipo, past, present, and future. For the uninitiated, the Oulipo is a 50-year-old group of writers and mathematicians and others interested in the idea of “potential” literature. At times highly technical and esoteric in their thinking about literature, the group also has a sort of prankster streak, which comes out in the liveliness of many of their writings. Some of the most famous works produced by Oulipian writers include Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual, Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler . . ., and Harry Mathews’s Cigarettes. (Also see: all of Raymond Queneau and Jacques Roubaud, the works of Jacques Jouet, and those of Paul Fournel.)Read More...
In this week’s podcast, we talk about the future of book reviewing, focusing on a few central questions: who reads book reviews? (A: definitely not my students), what is the function of the book review in today’s world?, is there a website/app that would be the ideal book review platform? We also digress into sports talk (as we do), with Tom explaining how he just found out about the new MLB playoff setup while I predict the winners of the Champions League quarterfinals. (A: Chelsea, Bayern Munchen, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.)Read More...
With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament getting underway this afternoon (I refuse to acknowledge the “First Four” games), Tom and I thought this would be a good time to talk about the fact that we both picked the exact same Final Four (Kentucky, Missouri, UNC, and Ohio State) and that The Morning News’s Tournament of Books is made up of a lot of mediocre books.Read More...
To celebrate tonight’s announcements of the National Book Critic Circle Award winners, Tom and I decided to go through all six categories (fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, biography, criticism, and poetry) and pick out who we thought would win. Seeing that neither of us has read many of the finalists, this makes for some pretty fun times and some great digressions, like about how we’re both over WWII novels, and how “revolution” is the theme of this year’s awards.Read More...
In this week’s podcast, Chad and Tom welcome Ed Nawotka, editor of Publishing Perspectives, to unpack the Best Translated Book Award fiction longlist that was announced this week. (Also, Harry Potter, the Oscars, and other fun miscellany all make random appearences.)Read More...
This week’s podcast is a special feature on Kaija Straumanis, who recently received her MA in literary translation from the University of Rochester. Although our conversation is a bit rangy (and if you think this is random, you should visit Plüb sometime), we focus mainly on Kaija’s translation of Latvian author Inga Ābele’s Paisums (High Tide).
High Tide is a somewhat fractured novel that tells the story of three main characters: Ieva, a deeply depressed screenwriter; Aksels, her former lover; and Andrejs, her husband, who was imprisoned for murdering Aksels. Structurally, this novel is pretty interesting as well. It opens with a dream, then inhabits the minds of the main characters in a series of “present day” chapters. After we see where these characters are post-jail, post-murder, etc., the book starts counting backwards, with sections about the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, to fill in certain aspects of the plot and characterization.
To help make this podcast make more sense, I’d highly recommend reading this fairly long sample that covers a lot of the bits that we talk about.
For more information about the University of Rochester’s Translation Programs, just click here.
And in terms of Kaija, in addition to translating from Latvian and German (on occasion), she’s a very good photographer. Oh, and she’s obsessed with Moby-Dick (in a way), which maybe explains the title of this podcast, and the reason why we’re using Yellow Ostrich’s Whale as this week’s intro/outro music.
This week’s podcast is remarkable both for its complete lack of curse words (not even kidding), and for its very professional discussion about Garth Hallberg’s recent essay Why Write Novels at All? that appeared in the New York Times Magazine. We were fortunate enough to get Garth in on this podcast so that he could expand on some of his ideas and observations about a few contemporary American novelists who tend to get lumped together: Franzen, DFW, Eugenides, Zadie Smith, etc.Read More...
We also talked about my daughter and her “letter of hate” to the awful Dan Borislow, who, “ruined our summer of fun.”
(And in my defense for encouraging her to write this, there’s no amount of 8-year-old crazy that can approximate Borislow’s 50-year-old detached from all reality crazy. Just read the emails in the link above, and keep in mind that this jag ruined women’s soccer for tens of thousands of young girls in the most egotistical, asinine fashion ever. Chloë is 100% in the right on this.)
After a run of special podcasts, we’re back to the normal Tom and Chad show . . . This week we decided to talk about books we’re looking forward to and other random predictions about 2012. (I believe that is the year we are living in. Although as you’ll hear when you listen, I have a few problems knowing what now is now.)Read More...
In this week’s podcast, we finish indulging our year-end listing proclivities by running down the best movies of 2011. Chad is absent (poor guy’s never seen a movie), but, not to worry, your comfortingly consistent host Tom Roberge is joined by Nathan Furl (of Open Letter) to set the record straight about whether you should make a silent film these days, if Nicolas Cage movies are totes the best, why no one bothered to mention Tree of Life over the course of the hour, and more.Read More...
In this week’s podcast we take a break from that books thing to talk about the best music of 2011 according to me (Chad W. Post) and guest host Will Cleveland. Nathan Furl and Six (aka Elizabeth Mullins) also throw in their opinions about a ten artists, including Handsome Furs, WU LYF, M83, Battles, A.A. Bondy, Frank Ocean, Fucked Up, and others.Read More...
In this week’s podcast we learn the following: Chad is working through the five stages of grief about Albert Pujols and MSU (he is filled with ANGER); Tom doesn’t read a ton of nonfiction, but when he does, it tends to focus on all things violent (see a theme?); faux-karaoke singers on the subway might suck, but Karaoke Culture is awesome; and book people like to totally flip out at most every opportunity (we are an unstable people).Read More...
Since the year is coming to an end, it seemed like the perfect time for us to start creating our “best of” lists for 2011. We decided to start with the best fiction that we read over the past year. Our list is pretty idiosyncratic, and all the titles mentioned are worth checking out.Read More...
This week, Tom and I discuss Q.R. Markham and the plagiarism scandal surrounding his novel Assassin of Secrets. Our conversation spins outwards from the event itself, to postmodern recontextualizing, Girl Talk, addiction, and why James Frey still sucks.Read More...
This week’s podcast is a special two-part episode. We recorded the first half on Wednesday and speculated about who was going to win this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature and talked about the odd and awesome British practice of betting on the winner. The second half we recorded yesterday, after we found out that Tomas Transtromer—who is published by New Directions—was this year’s recipient of the prize.Read More...
Following on last week’s fall books preview, this podcast is centered around movies coming out over the next few months, in particular, movies based on books. Tom does
most all of the recommending, since he’s a much bigger movie buff than I am, and his list includes movies that he’s really excited about (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and ones you might want to avoid:
This week’s podcast is our official “Fall Books Preview,” in which we list a dozen or so books we’re really excited about, diss a few states in the union, and discuss a few strange and interesting book covers.Read More...
Since the University of Rochester fall semester started on Wednesday, we decided that this week’s podcast would center around books that you should read in college. This includes things that should be taught in classes, some general comments on teaching the life out of literature, and why teaching literature in translation is a good idea.Read More...
For this week’s podcast, Tom and I answered our first mailbag question about literary journals, discussed the old adage that “short stories don’t sell,” and complained about the unbeatable Milwaukee Brewers.Read More...
This week, instead of listening to me and Tom pontificate about literary matters far and wide, we decided to change things up a bit and find out what our summer interns have been up to. With Nathan Furl standing in for Tom, we talk to Taylor McCabe (left, drinking diet soda) and Lily Ye (right, carrying two backpacks filled with literary work) about what it’s like working at Open Letter and the projects they’ve been slaving away at all summer. (Spoiler: Taylor’s been working on the “Best of Three Percent” ebook, and Lily’s in charge of Read This Next.)Read More...
In this week’s podcast, we talk a bit about authors we “broke up” with. Writers like, say, Philip Roth, who evokes a pretty harsh reaction from Tom . . . Additionally we talk about authors we thought we had given up on, but to whom we keep returning and returning.Read More...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .