“The presentation of himself as a damaged outsider, barely holding on, ups the dramatic ante, though it does seem at odds with the accomplished, balanced, commanding prose he appears able to muster with every sentence — not to mention his prestigious awards and teaching stints.” On Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering.
“Maybe our anointed literary books just have to be earnest ones because earnest ones showcase that soupçon of intelligence. Maybe humor isn’t felt to indicate a genuine commitment to looking smart.” Year in Reading alum Lydia Millet talks with Jenny Offill about humor writing, what books are “anointed” as modern classics, and Millet’s new book, Mermaids in Paradise.
On The Nervous Breakdown this week, J.E. Fishman considers the book review practices of The New York Times: “My view is very much eastern, very much old school, where a book review from the Times was the only sure sign that an author had arrived. But maybe it’s time to rethink that, and this rethinking has been long overdue.”
Who better to review a new sci-fi book than Ursula Le Guin? The Guardian editors couldn’t think of a better candidate either. She reviewed the new story collection Three Moments of an Explosion by the English writer China Miéville. Sample quote: “Pastiche, when present, is so skilful that it can go unnoticed.” You could also read our own Bill Morris on discovering Miéville’s work.
The 2012 Best Translated Book Award long list has been announced. Among the contenders in the fiction category are Edouard Levé for Suicide, reviewed on The Millions here; Mathias Énard‘s Zone, which our own Garth Risk Hallberg described as “the kind of book that can tie a critic in absolute knots“; and Jean-Philippe Toussaint‘s The Truth About Marie, which The Millions Staffer Mark O’ Connell called “a strange and unsettling novel that upholds its author’s status as one of the most exciting figures in contemporary fiction.” One of Chad Harbach‘s year in reading selections, Dezso Kosztolányi‘s Kornél Esti, also made the list.
“If rats then represent terror and chickens innocent striving for something approaching authenticity, humans, for Lispector, are strangely in the middle, often stricken with fear, or handing out terror, but ready also to soar or break loose or achieve some freedom or be fully alert to their fate in a time short enough for one of her stories to be enacted.” Colm Tóibín writes about Clarice Lispector’s The Complete Stories. You could also check out a Year in Reading by Katrina Dodson, translator of the collection and our review of the book.
Millions contributor Kaya Genç reports on Istos, a Greek-owned publishing house based in Istanbul, Turkey, that’s “interested in challenging the partial, nostalgic stereotype of the old Greek community as a fashionable elite.” Meanwhile, across town, the Çağlayan Courts of Justice shocked the Turkish literati with a warning for the Sel Publishing House: stop publishing the “obscene” works of writers like William Burroughs and Chuck Palahniuk.