7 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The first episode in the new season of the Two Month Review will release on Thursday, and in case you haven’t already heard, for the next ten weeks we’ll be discussing Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson.

We have a Goodreads group set up to talk about about this, so feel free to join in and post any and all thoughts, comments, and questions.

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.

This season’s reading schedule is posted below, with the dates corresponding to when the new podcast episode will go live. (A general post about that section will appear on Three Percent a few days prior to the podcast.)

August 17: Biography, first composition book, second book, third composition book (1-31)

August 24: IV composition book (32-68)

August 31: fifth composition book, VI (69-139)

September 7: tómas’s seventh composition book, 8 (140-199)

September 14: IX. class A, tenth composition book (to “The Soprano Katrín Jónsdóttir”) (200-238)

September 21: tenth composition book (238-281)

September 28: this is the eleventh book, my 12th composition book, book 13 (282-305)

October 5: fourteen, fifteenth book, 16.notebook (306-360)

October 12: 17. composition book (361-411)

Buy the book, read along, listen to the podcast, and join in the conversation!

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.



3 August 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Will Eells on César Aira’s The Little Buddhist Monk and The Proof, out from New Directions.

Here’s the beginning of Will’s review:

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a number of similarities to be sure—they both revolve around the sudden but intense relationship between three characters, they both take place over the course of less than twenty-four hours, they are both, at turns, wildly funny. And while they share a sudden twist in the final act (also an Aira speciality), the rug-pulling involved could not be more different. The Proof erupts into brutal, giddy violence, while the The Little Buddhist Monk is Hitchcockian in its eerie and melancholy finale. The Little Buddhist Monk is a sort of modern fairy tale; The Proof is a philosophy lesson disguised as a nightmare.

The titular character in The Little Buddhist Monk is an autodidact who dreams of escaping Korea to the Western world, but, being monastic and therefore penniless, has yet to figure out how achieve his goal. By sheer chance (of course), he happens to literally bump into a French couple outside a hotel, and impresses them both with his mastery of French, as well as his knowledge of the local temples, one of which will be the next subject of the famous husband’s photography project. A mutually beneficially partnership forms: the couple get the monk to guide them around the city, and the monk, hoping to make himself indispensable to the couple, gets his ticket out of Korea.


For the rest of the review, go here.

1 August 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As she was reading along with the Two Month Review, Tiffany Nichols kept track of every time the phrase “the invented part” appeared. Here they all are!

“he’ll invent something, anything, when answering how he invents the invented part. The invented part—an oh so insubstantial cloud that, nonetheless, manages to make the sun shut its mouth and stay quiet for a while.” (44)

“That the invented part of what’s told also be the way that fiction speaks and expresses itself.” (76)

“And that part, so entertaining that many will say it must be the invented part, ends here.” (206)

“. . . invented parts floating in the air, waiting for him to inhale them and then, inspired, exhale them.” (252)

“the other part” (264)

“One after another. Invented parts.” (265-6)

“Writers are people who, inexactly, always prefer to look away, toward another part—the invented part.” (304)

“Only the invented part of our life—the unreal part—has had any scheme, any beauty.” (317)

“Only the invented part of our life—the unreal part—has had any scheme, any beauty.” (351)

“The children like fragile invented parts always poised to attacked and always exposed to attack from real parts, never clearly seen until it’s already too late.” (352)

“Talking with Scott one time I told him that for me, only the invented part of life was satisifying, only the unrealistic park.” (352)

“His childhood recovered not via personal memories but via personal objects and places that evoke them, reinvented real parts . . .” (353)

“But Fin prefers documentaries. He said once that he prefers ‘the real part’ to ‘the invented part.’” (368)

“So, telling the part in which everything is invented and accepting the most distant past as a form of definitive futurism.” (392)

“And coincidences—falsifications of the fantastic—are nothing more than brief and concentrated and self-sufficient and instantly-analyzable versions of reality. Invented parts.” (410)

“The Great Inventing Part, like Elvis, has left the building.” (437)

“And he wonders again: why since his vocation was always that of inventing, he didn’t apply that talent to inventions like those of Shadow & Plath instead of to literature or whatever it is that he does, that he doesn’t do anymore, that, if anything, he undoes.” (448)

“What’s the invented part and what’s the true part?” (483)

IKEA, who wasn’t as he’d thought him, as he’s described him, as he’d, in part, invented him.” (524)

31 July 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Dorian Stuber on Agnes by Peter Stamm, published last fall by Other Press.

Dorian Stuber teaches at Hendrix College; his reviews and essays have been published in Open Letters Monthly, Numéro Cinq, The Quarterly Conversation, and The Scofield.

Here’s the beginning of Dorian’s review:

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on American luxury trains. In the reading room of the Public Library he meets Agnes, a graduate student in Physics. They have little in common. The narrator values his freedom more than his happiness. Agnes is prey to various fears—of windows that don’t open, of air conditioners, of elevators—and locks herself in the bathroom to change. It’s unclear that either likes the other, though each claims to be in love.

Despite these unpropitious signs, the two embark on a relationship that is aimless until they turn it into a narrative. “Write a story about me,” Agnes asks the narrator, “so I know what you think of me.” At first both enjoy the challenge she’s set him. But what begins as a flirtatious parlor game soon turns darker. When tragedy strikes, the narrator turns to the story to reverse the past. But eventually he no longer writes their story; the story writes them.

Agnes is most affected by this turn of events. Having already expressed her difficulty with reading—“It feels to me as though I’ve become the character in it, and the character’s life ends when the books does . . . I didn’t want books to have me in their power”—she now becomes one with her character in the fiction within the fiction, leading to an ambiguous ending in which the end of Stamm’s novel mirrors the end of his narrator’s tale.


For the rest of the review, go here.

27 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



26 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

25 July 17 | Kaija Straumanis | Comments

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

Here’s the beginning of Vince’s review:

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

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


For the rest of the review, go here.

25 July 17 | Chad W. Post | Comments

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

You can also download this post as a PDF document.

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

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

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

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

How to end.

Or better: How to end?

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


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



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

How to begin.

Or better: How to begin?

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


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

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

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


*

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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


*


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

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

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

*


So what comes next?



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

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

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

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

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

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

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The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

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Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

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Class
Class by Francesco Pacifico
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The thing about Class is that I don’t know what the hell to think about it, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll begin by dispensing with the usual info that one may want to know when considering adding. . .

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The Dispossessed
The Dispossessed by Szilárd Borbély
Reviewed by Jason Newport

To be, or not to be?

Hamlet’s enduring question is one that Szilárd Borbély, acclaimed Hungarian poet, verse-playwright, librettist, essayist, literary critic, short-story writer, and, finally, novelist, answered sadly in the negative, through his suicide in 2014, at the. . .

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A Greater Music
A Greater Music by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

A Greater Music is the first in a line of steady and much-anticipated releases by Bae Suah from key indie presses (this one published by Open Letter). Building off of the interest of 2016 Best Translated Book Award longlist nominee. . .

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Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata"
Two Lost Souls: on "Revulsion" and "Cabo De Gata" by Horacio Castellanos Moya; Eugen Ruge
Reviewed by Tim Lebeau

The dislocation of individuals from the countries of their birth has long been a common theme in contemporary literature. These two short novels recently translated into English appear firmly rooted in this tradition of ex-pat literature, but their authors eschew. . .

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Melancholy
Melancholy by László Földényi
Reviewed by Jason Newport

In Melancholy, Hungarian author, critic, and art theorist László Földényi presents a panorama of more than two thousand years of Western historical and cultural perspectives on the human condition known as melancholia. In nine chapters, Földényi contrasts the hero worship. . .

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The Hatred of Music
The Hatred of Music by Pascal Quignard
Reviewed by Jeanne Bonner

Pascal Quignard’s __The Hatred of Music_ is the densest, most arcane, most complex book I’ve read in ages. It’s also a book that covers a topic so basic, so universal—almost primordial—that just about any reader will be perversely thrilled by. . .

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Fragile Travelers
Fragile Travelers by Jovanka Živanović
Reviewed by Damian Kelleher

In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Flaubert attempted to highlight the ordinary, tired, and often crass nature of common expressions by italicising them within the text. When Charles, Emma Bovary’s mediocre husband, expresses himself in a manner akin to that of. . .

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