This caught my eye, mostly since I just got through delivering a paper on precisely this topic.
Javier Calvo: The other day I saw a book by Alejandro Zambra on a list of the most anticipated books of 2013 in the United States, and I wanted to ask you this: what do you think of this phenomenon, which to me is one of the most important things that have happened in American publishing in a long time? I’m talking about the attention Spanish-language fiction has been getting since Bolaño. How have you experienced this change as a translator, reader, scout, etc?
Mara Faye Lethem: Do you see it as so distinct from the Boom? Because I don’t.
Javier Calvo: I do see significant differences from the Boom. To begin with, I think the boom was much more a strategy, and as such it had a center. And when I say strategy, I say it almost in the sense of the British Invasion: we’re going to take over North America. Here, I don’t see too much strategy, and as a matter of fact I don’t see how an editor could hope to get rich on the books of Aira or Zambra. Secondly, the Boom in America was a much more asymmetrical phenomenon, the rich neighbor’s consumption of a series of consumer elements related to exoticism and magic.
Look, for example, at the resounding failure as strategies of all the “commercial brands” of exportation of Latin American literature: McOndo, the Crack Movement…
In the current case it’s true that Bolaño has been sanctioned by the American world of culture as the “Chosen One” to replace GGM [Gabriel García Márquez] as the Great Novelist in Spanish, but I also see differences: it seems to me that the acceptance of the new literature in Spanish already lacks that aspect of consumption of the poor, the exotic, and the distinct. I believe that now, strangely, it already has a certain aspect of normalcy, acceptance of the two-directional cultural tides that exist between Spanish and English. Although this may perhaps be overly optimistic.
Mara Faye Lethem: Well, when they talk about Aira as the new Bolaño, yes, that implies a certain strategy of marketing. I think that the case of Bolaño has been an astounding example of the unpredictability of the editorial world, and the strategy of buying books in other people’s styles is ridiculous, but shows no signs of waning. I suppose people’s lack of vision, as well as their fear, just get bigger and bigger than their risk-taking….
I suppose I see the Boom in another way, as the time when people that thought of themselves as educated had to have read certain authors in translation. Maybe I’m naïve, but I didn’t see it as cultural colonialism, just as an opportunity to open up the conversation.
In the United States, there has always been a very limited interest for literature in translation, but it has existed: Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Banana Yoshimoto, etc. And I think that Latin American literature, based on proximity and on actual interest, has always occupied an important place. Always taking into account that it is translated very, very little. I see that editors are still relying a lot on things like the Granta list to make their selections. But yes, I perceive a major recognition of the poverty of a reading culture that places more weight on exportation than importation—yes. Also, I’m seeing more literary agents from the Anglo-Saxon world represent foreign authors.
A couple comments:
Someone during the presentation raised the point about McOndo and Crack. I don’t really know enough about those movements to say why they never caught on in the U.S., other than to say that they never really made sense to the American marketplace like Boom authors and Bolano have. As far as I know them, they defy a lot of U.S. stereotypes about what Latin American fiction is, which obviously makes them hard to commercialize in the U.S. as Latin American fiction.
I’m also curious about this point of Aira being promoted as the new Bolano. While that’s not inconceivable (people grafted Bolano to Garcia Marquez despite their writing having almost no significant similarities), I’m not seeing Aira being discussed in that way. Perhaps that has something to do with New Directions having more integrity than your average publisher, and perhaps it has to do with Aira forming his own category in such an obvious way that even hack reviewers find it hard to make the connection.
Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that post-Bolano we’re seeing authors (like, for instance, Alejandro Zambra) who make a lot more sense as successors than Aira.
It’s nice to see Gaddis’s letters reviewed in the Times, even if this review is symptomatic of that paper’s decline.
Kinda ballsy to make the lede how the critics completely messed up on The Recognitions and J R and then not quote from the Times’ participation in said fiasco . . .
It’s almost as though they learned nothing from the past decade.
For the moment, data about how well MOOCs work are diffuse and scant. A cornerstone of the case for them is a randomized study that Bowen helped plan, through the Ithaka organization, a Mellon Foundation spinoff. It showed no significant difference in educational outcomes between online learning and traditional classroom learning. The MOOC in question was a statistics course, however, and a “hybrid” one: its students had a weekly in-classroom Q. & A. session. When MOOCs are a purely online experience, dropout rates are typically more than ninety per cent.
“I feel as if we’re very much in the experimental stage,” Kathleen McCartney, a developmental psychologist and the dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told me one afternoon in her offices on the edge of the old Radcliffe Yard. This summer, she’ll leave Harvard to become the president of Smith. In May, 2012, when edX was announced, Alan Garber, the provost, asked her to serve on its board. “It really is a value-added question,” she said. “What is the value added that a college or a university, and professional schools within the university, can offer?” Later, she got up to look for a paper that had impressed her. “This guy is a really good thinker,” she said, handing me a printout of a report by Michael Barber, an adviser to the publishing and education conglomerate Pearson, with two co-authors. The paper, titled “An Avalanche Is Coming,” was released this past March by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a British think tank. The avalanche in question, according to the report, is the upheaval that digital culture will bring to universities. Its authors write, “The one certainty for anyone in the path of an avalanche is that standing still is not an option.” For instance, it says, Brezhnev’s Soviet Union was in the path of an avalanche and didn’t prepare—look what happened. Also, Lehman Brothers. The foreword was by the economist and former Harvard president Larry Summers.
Interesting article. It shows how much humanities higher education is under assault now from technology.
Traveling this week. Blogging might be a little light.
Witold Gombrowicz was a strange guy. Kronos, apparently his last unpublished text, sounds like an especially strange book.
The new book lays out Gombrowicz’s meticulous monthly tabulation of concerns – his erotic ventures as lists of partners’ first names and his health and lack thereof are the carnal, corporeal priorities. Then travel, meetings, invitations, exchanges of gifts and letters. In finding a form for his unrelenting self analysis, the new book gives the writer something of a last word on his life.
A key work that was conspicuously absent for decades – as a full biography . . . continue reading, and add your comments
We seem to be in a weird place right now vis a vis books. For the most part, Jaron Lanier comes across as non-alarmist non-techno-utopian in this interview (e.g., “My cyber-friends think if you can just come up with a perfect scheme, that some perfect digital scheme will solve all the problems.”) but then we get on to the book business and it’s “oh my god!!!!”
To me a book is not just a particular file. It’s connected with personhood. Books are really, really hard to write. They represent a kind of a summit of grappling with . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Somewhere at the intersection between the social sciences and literary criticism we find Franco Moretti’s writing on literature.
“The form of any portion of matter, whether it be living or dead,” writes D’Arcy Thompson in his strange wonderful book On Growth and Form, “may in all cases alike be described as dur to the action of force. In short, the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’ . . .” Diagram: Cartesian space. But diagram of forces. The distribution of events between the Black Forest villages and the administrative towns is the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Obviously I get the point of why things like this are necessary, and to the extent that artistic endeavors can make a good argument for themselves in the language of capitalism, good for them. But I do also feel that this sort of thing takes away from the message that the arts should be sending: we’re not capitalism and we don’t want to be.
As the post points out, the arts don’t exist to make money; they only do so because anything that doesn’t make money in this world soon dies. Art is practically unique in this . . . continue reading, and add your comments
A nice review of George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time.
It’s really nice to see this book continuing to be discussed months after its release. It should be read. A lot.
On the copyright page of Peter Dimock’s new novel, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time (Dalkey Archive), a curious set of subject headings appear:
1. Book Editors–Fiction. 2. Synesthesia–Fiction.
Such headings are rarely seen by themselves, and most certainly never together. So not only are Library of Congress staff reading the books they catalog with attentive care, but . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Hard to out-Jameson Jameson.
In Post-Postmodernism, Nealon argues that culture has changed since Jameson’s 1980s, and that the economy has, too. He defines a new era: “intensification” marks us now, as “fragmentation” marked the earlier period. In this book, the repeated “post” in “Post-Postmodernism” signals that intensification. (Repetition may be intensifying but may also have other effects. I weary at the verbal drumbeat of “intense […] intensive […] intensities […] intensively” all in half a page on 26; or “intense […] intensified […] intensification […] intensities […] intensified […] intensification,” all on page 31.) Nealon’s attempt at . . . continue reading, and add your comments