What’s the best book of the 21st century? To date, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao seems to be the favorite – the BBC polled a few dozen US critics and Junot Diaz‘s novel came in first place. The full list is available from The Guardian, and includes Zadie Smith‘s White Teeth and Michael Chabon‘s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, both of which appeared alongside Oscar Wao in our own “Best of the Millennium” list a few years ago.
“I took a ride (on an elephant); but it was by request—I did not ask for it, and didn’t want it; but I took it, because otherwise they would have thought I was afraid, which I was.” Mark Twain, the consummate American, travelled the world in style–despite having almost no money. Allow me to direct your attention to this complementary Millions piece on Twain and the art of travel writing.
Know a great title that’s not in our latest Book Preview? Tweet it using the hashtag #otherbooks2015. Coined by Steve Himmer — who’s written for us — the hashtag lets readers suggest noteworthy books that didn’t appear on our list. You can find even more additions in this Metafilter thread.
If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker’s new book, Checkpoint. I haven’t read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson’s new collection of pieces from ESPN.com’s page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
We don’t often stop to think about the art of literary translation, but translator Margaret Jull Costa examines the field in her Times Literary Supplement essay on The Cahiers Series. “What these fascinating Cahiers offer is an insight into what literary translators actually do, as well as fuel for the endless debate about what we mean when we talk about ‘faithful’ translation.”
“Samuel Greenberg belongs in the pantheon of literary manqués,” writes Jacob Silverman. The poet was a favorite of Hart Crane, who described him as “a Rimbaud in embryo.” But did Crane take his adoration too far? Did he in fact “remix,” re-purpose, or plagiarize some of Greenberg’s work?