The huge, McSweeney’s-published, John Sayles novel A Moment in the Sun has been getting great reviews. It’s now out. Also new this week is China Mieville’s Embassytown, reviewed here today; Paul Theroux’s exploration of the genre of travel writing, The Tao of Travel; prizewinning Nigerian author Helon Habila’s new novel Oil on Water; and A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, the complete stories of Margaret Drabble, recently written up by Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker. New in paperback are a pair of Millions Hall of Famers, Emma Donoghue’s Room and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
The success of international authors like Orhan Pamuk, Ma Jian, Haruki Murakami, and Tash Aw – each capable of “transcend[ing] their homelands and emerg[ing] into a planetary system where there work can acquire a universal relevance” – has caught the attention of n+1’s editors. In a lengthy piece from their last issue, they suggest that we should be less concerned with such examples of “World” or “Global Literature,” and instead focused on more diverse, politically-charged and unique international works. “Global Lit tends to accept as given the tastes of an international middlebrow audience; internationalism, by contrast, seeks to create the taste by which it is to be enjoyed,” they argue.
Among the recommendations and rules listed in the CIA’s official style guide: favor the active voice; keep sentences and paragraphs short; boats should not be referred to with gendered pronouns; and the “w” in “Vietnam war” should be lower case because war wasn’t officially declared.
Does modern China need its own literary sub-genre? On trying to understand China’s “ultra-unreal” reality: “If Magic Realism was the way in which Latin American authors presented their view of their reality, then Ultra-Unreal Realism should be our name for the literature through which the Chinese regard their reality. The Chinese word ‘chaohuan’ (ultra-unreal) is something of a play on the word ‘mohuan’ (magic), as in ‘mohuan xianshizhuyi’ (magic realism)— ‘mohuan’ is ‘magical unreal,’ and ‘chaohuan’ is ‘surpassing the unreal.’”