When it comes to the pleasures of reading out loud, Michael Robbins isn’t so much interested in “why we find certain sounds in certain combinations pleasing or disturbing,” but he does enjoy “the hows.”
The Harvard Hoaxer‘s not-to-be-missed resume (pdf) includes several impressive under-contract book projects, including The Mapping of an Ideological Demesne; Wampum and the Origins of American Money; and A Short History of North America. Pretty impressive, for a 23-year-old.
Anna Sun profiles the work of Mo Yan, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. While Sun acknowledges Yan’s popularity and prolific output, she also notes that what the Nobel committee referred to as “hallucinatory prose” is more often than not “repetitive, predictable, coarse, and mostly devoid of aesthetic value.” Indeed, Sun writes, “the English translations of Mo Yan’s novels … are in fact superior to the original.” [Ed. Note: It appears the Kenyon Review link was briefly not working; this Google cache may work better — h/t Dan Farrely]
In Johns Hopkins Magazine, a remembrance of the Languages of Criticism and Sciences of Man Symposium, which brought together Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, among others. About Derrida, Professor Richard Macksey (whose library you may have seen) recalls: “I’m not sure we were clear about where this guy was going.”
Why do Americans read so few translated works? A lot of reasons come to mind, but one is that translated books are often the purview of small publishers, who don’t have the same marketing budgets as the larger companies in the industry. At The New Yorker’s Currency blog, Vauhini Vara looks at the statistics compiled by Three Percent, a database at the University of Rochester that tracks publications of translated works in the country. Related: Oliver Farry’s interview with the Portuguese writer António Lobo Antunes.
Over at the Observer, Brent Underwood writes on how he self-published a fake book on Amazon. He sold a total of three copies, enough for him to earn the #1 Best Seller badge in several categories. Now his fake book has landed an actual book deal and is available in paperback.