The Blind Owl might be described as a cross between Kafka and Poe—there’s a definite creepy/Gothicness, but there’s also the sense of the void at the center of the modern world. It’s just a short book, but it has many outstanding features, and author Sadegh Hedayat is excellent at working his various motifs together like a musical composition. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I think out of everything I read in 2011, The Notebooks of Malte Laudris Brigge would have to be my single most favorite thing. I could tell that I was in for an exceptional experience when certain trusted reader friends of mine, seeing that I had picked up the book at San Francisco Public’s annual huge book sale, spoke of the book in the kind of reverential tones that are only elicited by books of the highest quality. The book is composed of what I suppose you would call “entries” in Brigge’s notebooks, but there’s really very little . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Laszlo Krasznahorkai is one of the few authors I can seriously regard as today carrying on the work of the great modernists. The Melancholy of Resistance is a very hard book to pin down, but if anything it is about the energy, terror, seduction, and appeal of fascism. The book is about a Leviathan-like whale that comes to a town in Hungary, and how the spectacle of it exerts power over the masses and is used by the powers that be. Krasznahorkai’s long sentences are frequently remarked on, and they are great, but this book also includes a . . . continue reading, and add your comments
To introduce Suicide, here’s what I wrote at the top of my interview with the book’s translator:
Without a doubt, one of the best things I’ve read this year is a small book called Suicide. It was written by the contemporary French writer Edouard Levé, who, ten days after delivering the manuscript, in fact did commit suicide, but the book is not so much a suicide note or explanation as it is an exactingly wrought object.
It was only on a second reading that I was able to truly appreciate how precise the prose is, and how . . . continue reading, and add your comments
How to explain the relative neglect of John Hawkes, beloved by both Leslie Fiedler and William H. Gass? His prose style is simply unmistakable, his grasp of structure constantly surprises you. I’ll quote Gass, who introduced me to Hawkes:
This is the effect of Hawkes’s fiction: It sees the world from just inside its surface, a surface at which it looks back the way Orpheus so dangerously did, thereby returning an unlamenting Eurydice to Hades. It is as if a wall were examining, from its steadfastly upright state, the slow peel of its paint. The position is unprecedented. And . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I’m thrilled that New Directions seems to be investing in Enrique Vila-Matas. After bringing out a couple of his novels in 2007, this year they published the excellent Never Any End to Paris, and next year will see the publication of his Dubliesque, his most recent novel in Spanish. (One hopes after this they’ll start digging further into his rich backlist.)
Anyway, I’m going to outsource this recommendation to myself, since I already spent quite a bit of time this year writing about what a great book this is. First, from my review of . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Earlier this year I exhorted everyone to read Margarita Karapanou. And now I’m doing it again. The Sleepwalker is an amazing little book, certainly one of the leanest, most interesting pieces of writing you will have the pleasure of reading. (And huge praise to translator Karen Emmerich for the work she did with this author’s Greek.)
Let me offer two quotes to describe this book to you. First, from the Greek author Amanda Michalopoulou:
I was 19 years old, a student of French literature, when I read The Sleepwalker. I realized then that books can trap . . . continue reading, and add your comments
When I was working on my half of Lady Chatterley’s Brother earlier this year, I read a whole lot of Javier Marias. And while I could easily recommend to you A Heart So White or Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, I’m going to put in for The Man of Feeling, because I get the idea that it’s often neglected vis a vis Marias’ later works. This is the first book of what I’ve come to call Marias’ “mature phase” as a writer, and though it’s much smaller than the books that would come later . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The premise that The Master Switch is dedicated to demonstrating is that the Internet is not such an unprecedented democratization of expression as we customarily believe: in fact, the TV, radio, and film media were all at one time considered to offer similar potential as the Internet now does, and each was subsequently straitjacketed by a consortia of powerful media players. In The Master Switch, Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu makes the case that each of these media have more or less conformed to a cycle of initial promise and openness to closure and consolidation, which the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I already mentioned this one in a “favorite reads” post I did for The Millions. My Two Worlds is truly large, and deep, and expansive, even though it’s just over 100 pages long. It felt so new and unpinnable that I had a hard time writing about it, even though I also felt that the book had much in it that could be written about. In my opinion, that’s a sign of something potent.
I eventually did write about it, right here.
My Two Worlds is a dance, a seduction that draws us right up to . . . continue reading, and add your comments