“I cannot help feeling, on being invited to contextualize my own fiction, that the least qualified person possible has been asked. It is more still: hesitance, dread, that as a blind man in a failing aircraft I have been offered the yoke. I imagine it is the same for other writers, for the very fact that you write a story, and not a critical essay, suggests that near everything you hope to say lies outside the bounds of explicit statement.” Despite all that, here’s an essay by Greg Jackson at Granta in which he attempts to contextualize his own fiction.
A big week for new fiction. Ian McEwan's latest novel Solar is out. Kakutani just called it his "funniest novel yet." Also now apparently available (despite its late April pub date) is the latest in the long line posthumously published works by Roberto Bolaño, Antwerp, a slim volume that has been described as both a prose poem and a crime novel. Deborah Eisenberg's big new volume of collected stories is also out today, as is Rachel Cusk's The Bradshaw Variations. Hilary Mantel is a fan of the latter. And finally, The Lotus Eaters, a debut novel from sometime Millions contributor Tatjana Soli.
In fiction, people are reading a new novel by a former sports writer, Mitch Albom. Perhaps you recall an earlier book of his: Tuesdays with Morrie, it sold millions of copies. This new book, Five People You Meet in Heaven, though fictional, covers much of the same life and death territory that his bestseller did. Also big right now is the latest incisive and sharply funny novel by Diane Johnson, L'Affaire. From what I've heard, her books are character driven, modern, droll, and witty. Johnson is a two-time Pulitzer finalist and a three-time National Book Award finalist, so she is the real deal. Also, a new book by newly minted Nobel Laureate, J. M. Coetzee, has been rushed to stores. Originally intended for release in November, Elizabeth Costello, was released early to take advantage of and celebrate Coetzee's latest honor.And in non-fiction??? Plath-mania continues with the release of what is apparently one of the best books yet written about the deeply troubled poet and her husband Ted Hughes. Her Husband: Hughes and Plath, Portrait of a Marriage by Diane Middlebrook is another in a long line of books that look at Sylvia Plath and Hughes, and from what I hear it's quite good. Steel yourself for a tremendous resurgence in interest in Sylvia Plath, as the release of a biopic starring Gwyneth Paltrow approaches. For those of you intending to keep it real, get a copy of The Bell Jar quick before they put Gwyneth's face on it. Meanwhile, true crime aficionados and Mafia watchers are rushing to get their copies of The Brass Wall by New York Times journalist David Kocieniewski which is about an NYPD detective who infiltrated the mob, but was later betrayed by a fellow officer. Apparently this one reads as though written directly for the screen.Lots of movie talk today, which is good because it allows me to mention that Phillip Roth's highly-regarded novel, The Human Stain, while always a strong seller, has kicked it up a notch in anticipation of what is apparently a highly-regarded film version. (As I mentioned a few weeks ago, ditto Dennis Lehane's Mystic River). The other paperback that people are buying is a bit less serious, but it seems like a pretty terrific gag gift for David Beckham fans as well as anyone who watches Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Metrosexual Guide to Style: A Handbook for the Modern Man.
The longlist for this year’s Best Translated Book Award came out. Fiction finalists include Year in Reading alumna Katrina Dodson’s translation of Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories (reviewed here by Magdalena Edwards), Ann Goldstein’s translation of Elena Ferrante's The Story of the Lost Child, Lisa Dillman’s translation of Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World (discussed here in our Book Report), and Christina MacSweeney's translation of Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth (reviewed here by Lily Meyer). Poetry finalists include Jason Weiss’s translation of Silvina Ocampo and Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s translation of Yi Lu.