Tim Parks’s review of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian has some pretty interesting things to say about the nature of reviewing translation, but it also takes some shots at the novel and its proponents: “Looked at closely, the prose is far from an epitome of elegance, the drama itself neither understated nor beguiling, the translation frequently in trouble with register and idiom. Studying the thirty-four endorsements again, and the praise after the book won the prize, it occurs to me there is a shared vision of what critics would like a work of ‘global fiction’ to be and that The Vegetarian has managed to present itself as a candidate that can be praised in those terms.” Here’s a Millions review of Kang’s Man Booker International prize-winner.
Last week, I mentioned Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, which caused a stir in Germany with its tale of a time-hopping Hitler. Now, Daniel Torday reviews the book for the Times, judging it both for its historical research and its merits as a work of fiction. Sample quote: “The German public’s acceptance of the artist they think they’re watching provides a critique of pop culture. But it feels like bringing the Luftwaffe to a knife fight.”
Lev Grossman offers some first thoughts on Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, the David Foster Wallace biography written by D.T. Max due out in September. More interestingly, Grossman wonders whether we’re nearing the death of hysterical realism, that manic, maximalist genre James Wood defined in his review of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.
The New York Times recently asked Jennifer Szalai and Mohsin Hamid why there isn’t a Great American Novel written by a woman? Both writers concluded that there is no such thing as the Great American Novel. “But if the idea of the Great American Novel is blinding us to exquisite fiction written by women, then perhaps its harm is exceeding its usefulness,” Hamid wrote. We think that’s a bit of a cop out. But a few women showed up on our list of the Greatest American Novels.
Ever since Pulphead, we can’t get enough of John Jeremiah Sullivan, so we’re happy to hear he’s at work on his next book, The Prime Minister of Paradise. Sullivan will tell the story of Christian Priber, a German American who tried to establish a utopia in 18th century South Carolina. “This man, he really represented the height of the enlightenment at the time,” Sullivan said during a recent interview at Notre Dame. No word on an official release date yet, but it’s already being optioned for film by Scott Rudin.
“All I know was that in Paris I felt haunted, like a double exposure photograph that shows a figure and then a milky specter behind. I felt stalked by a creature of my own making, a monster that was both my mother and myself.” Darcey Steinke writes about Paris, loss, and monsters in an essay for Granta.