Category Archives: forthcoming books

Recently Released: The Man in the Wooden Hat


Received a copy of The Man in the Wooden Hat a while back, and not it’s been published in the U.S. Looks fairly interesting, though I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to it. But the review coverage is generally favorable.

The Guardian:

What Gardam is particularly good at – and what made Old Filth so compelling – is creating for her characters façades of complete conventionality, which are then chipped away to reveal strange internal workings.

Jonathan Yardley:

Probably it will astonish American readers to learn that Jane Gardam, who is almost unknown in this country, is now in her early 80s, has published more than two dozen books (several for children) and has been much-honored in England; she has twice won the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel of the Year. No less surprising is that many of those books are in print in the United States, so there really is no excuse for her remaining unknown over here any longer.

The New Yorker gave it a Briefly Noted.

Recently Received: Don Juan by Peter Handke and Translation Is a Love Affair by Jacques Poulin

Peter-handke Peter Handke is an author I’ve long meant to read. His novel Don Juan: His Own Version is forthcoming from FSG in February and recently arrived at my doorstep. I also managed to snag a copy of his novel Across at the SF Public Library’s gigantic used book sale, which (the book) I’ve been told is one of his best.

As to Don Juan, the Complete Review has reviewed it:

Don Juan neatly plays with that inherent contradiction of fiction: its absolutism — a complete and exclusive world rendered in mere words — which neverthless can’t eliminate the possibility of countless similar, dissimilar, and even contradictory other-worlds. A novel can end with a period on the final page, yet finality (and literal truth) are illusory.

That’s about all the review coverage I can find in English, thus far.

Translation-Is-a-Love-Affair I also recently received a copy of the wonderfully titled book Translation is a Love Affair from Archipelago (published in October).

Here’s a bit from a short review at The Moose and the Gripes:

Here the primary character is a woman named Marine. She works as a translator, sometimes “tormented by the groundless fear that [she is] living the life of a parasite.” She has recently met and began translating the work of Monsieur Waterman, an older and very established French Canadian writer. He has given her a place to live while she works on his translations.

And another review by Steven G. Kellman:

While studying translation at the University of Geneva, Marine acquired a copy of a novel written by a fellow Canadian publishing under the nom de plume Jack Waterman (who also happens to be a character in Poulin’s best-known novel, Volkswagen Blues [1984]). Because it is about the Oregon Trail, which she had visited while hitchhiking alone across the US, Marine was especially drawn to the book and longed to translate it into English. When she returns to her native Quebec, Marine encounters Waterman in what Hollywood would call “meet cute.” Standing before the graves of her mother, sister, and grandmother, she encounters an older man reading Ernest Hemingway on a cemetery bench. It is of course Waterman, and Marine, convinced that “If there was a way to get close to someone in this life—of which I was not certain—it might be through translation,” elicits Waterman’s permission to translate his Oregon Trail novel into English. He even sets her up to work in an idyllic chalet on Île d’Orléans, while he labors over les mots justes in the tower he inhabits in nearby Quebec City.

Forthcoming: The Salt Smugglers by Gérard de Nerval


We'll be publishing a review of The Salt Smugglers by 19th-century Frenchman Gérard de Nerval in the winter issue of The Quarterly Conversation. The book looks extremely interesting, and I'm planning on reading it as soon as I've taken care of a couple others. It was originally written as a series of feuilleton, and Archipelago has published this book in two-column, newspaper format.

Nerval was an immensely interesting writer, winning adherents such as Proust, Breton, and Umberto Eco (the latter of which called his novel Sylvie a masterpiece). I've seen him placed in the company of Laurence Sterne and described as a pre-postmodern author.

You can read an excerpt from The Salt Smugglers at Archipealgo's website here.

The Brooklyn Rail also has reviewed the book on this page. Here's a quote:

Straightforward fiction was unthinkable to 19th century French writer Gérard de Nerval. His work The Salt Smugglers occupies an ambiguous space between fiction and non-fiction, rendered through historical account, historical novel, satire, and gonzo journalism. The book is a response to the Riancey amendment, which was, as translator Richard Sieburth explains, “a stamp tax on any newspaper featuring a serial novel in its pages […] to safeguard the morality of the press.” The Salt Smugglers is subtitled “History of the Abbé de Bucquoy,” and de Nerval tells us the book is going to be about the Abbé. This character is missing from most of the novel, however, and instead we get: a romance involving Bucquoy’s aunt; the doomed fate of one of de Nerval’s own plays; his experience looking for old books in second hand stores, libraries, and auctions; and finally, the story of the Abbé’s prison break.

Forthcoming: Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

Bicycle Diaries David Byrne

I don't usually cover this kind of book here, but Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne seems like it would have some appeal for the audience of this site, as Byrne is generally more interesting than the average author of this kind of book.

Here's a description of the book from Byrne's website:

Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, and London, the focus is more on the musicians and artists he encounters. Politics comes to the fore in cities like Berlin and Manila, while chapters on New York City, and on the landscaped suburban industrial parks and contemporary ruins of such spots as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are more concerned with history in the urban landscape.

Excerpts from the book are floating around (though they're pretty short).

Here's a bit of a review from The Observer:

Bicycle Diaries – the title may be an ironic echo of Che Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries; who knows? – is a deceptively straightforward book, an impressionistic glimpse of some of the cities that Byrne has explored on his pushbike. As anyone familiar with David Byrne's oeuvre might expect, it is not really a book about cycling per se, more a book in which cycling is, if you'll pardon the pun, the cog for Byrne's thoughts about architecture, music, art, travel, politics, religion, kitsch, decay and – a recurring theme – our "quality of life".

And here's a bit of one from SFGate:

if you're a cyclist who appreciates the bicycle for the ways it helps to erode the atomization and social mediations imposed by cars, mass media and modern life in general, then you'll find in Byrne's ruminations a kindred spirit and a critical thinker who doesn't stop at the first obvious insight. As a free thinker, he doesn't always land in places that I agreed with, but his paths were enjoyable and provocative, not to mention quirky and personal.

Forthcoming: The Subversive Scribe by Suzanne Jill Levine

In my opinion, Suzanne Jill Levine must be a goddess of translation. I base this mainly on the fact that she's responsible for the Engligh-language editions of some of my favorite Latin American authors: Manuel Puig, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante.

She's also written a good deal about translation, and now Dalkey is re-issuing one Levine's books on translation, The Subversive Scribe. Basically, it's a series of essays built around some of Levine's greatest translations (e.g., Three Trapped Tigers, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth), where she discusses specific choices she made and gives close readings of the texts. All together, the essays elaborate an idea of translation as subversion.

I've been reading this thing essay by essay when I've had the time, and I'm enjoying it a lot so far. But don't take my word for it. You can read a chapter from the book that Levine adapted for The Quarterly Conversation.

Forthcoming: The Immortals by Amit Chaudhuri

The Immortals Amit Chaudhuri

I’m looking forward to reading The Immortals by Amit Chaudhuri, just published here by Knopf and released earlier this year in Britain. It seems to be a dual family saga novel set in the 1970s and ’80s, and it got a ton of great press in the UK.

Here’s an excerpt from the book at Knopf’s website.

I’ve found some press Stateside (surely there will be more). First is this interview with the Boston Globe:

Q. This novel has been compared to Thomas Mann’s “Buddenbrooks.’’ How does that strike you?

A. It’s an interesting comparison. When you’re creating something you have other texts in your head. I was tangentially thinking of Mann – specifically of “Toni Kroger’’ – and of how he portrays the movement from patrician fatherhood, social order, and bourgeois mercantile activity to a progeny that undermines all of that. Much of India’s literary and cultural history also fits that pattern. The poet [Rabindranath] Tagore’s family, for example, was an orthodox Brahmin one that profited from its dealings with the British while Tagore himself embodied transgression.

There’s also this review at the Christian Science Monitor, a review that is decidedly mixed:

Chaudhuri, who is also an essayist and literary critic, is something of the anti-Rushdie of Indian English literature. Where Salman Rushdie’s prose is exuberant, with novels veering perilously between the real and magical, Chaudhuri’s style is quiet and understated. His stories center on the quotidian. Epiphanies, if there are any, tend to lie in the everyday.

This also means that his novels can sometimes seem slow, even humdrum. “The Immortals” is no exception – all mood and little plot, it feels a little like one of those Mumbai afternoons before the rains: hot and heavy and unbearably still, waiting for something to break. In Chaudhuri’s novel, it never does.

Forthcoming: New Stories From The South, Edited By Madison Smartt Bell


Interesting anthology form Algonquin out next Tuesday: New Stories from the South 2009, edited by Madison Smartt Bell.

From the publisher’s website:

In the twenty-fourth volume of this distinguished anthology, Madison Smartt Bell chooses twenty-one distinctive pieces of short fiction to tell the story of the South as it is now. This is a South that is still recognizable but no longer predictable. As he says, “to the traditional black and white recipe (ever a tricky and volatile mixture) have been added new shades and strains from Asia and Central and South America and just about everywhere else on the shrinking globe.” Just as Katrina brought out into the open all the voices of New Orleans, so the South is now many things, both a distinctive region and a place of rootlessness. It’s these contradictions that Madison Smartt Bell has captured in this provocative and moving collection of stories.

The money quote from PW’s review:

There are some strong, original and revealing stories that offer a different and new way of viewing the South, but far too many are technically sound but bloodless.

The money quote from Brooklyn Rail’s “Tokens” series of reviews:

The talent in the collection is consistent, but the voices are varied, making this a provocative and insightful anthology of Southern craft.

From a review at Alvah’s Books:

If a Southern anthology captures the collective unconsciousness of its population, then how do their struggles and dreams differ from those of other regions? How does a story capture place? What does it mean to be Southern? How can this be contrasted with what it means to be more generally American, and do themes like alienation, teen pregnancy, desperate love and suicide have a greater significance in the south than elsewhere? Or are these themes common to the broader cultural landscape in an age of disrupted families, economic decline and the homogenizing effect of mass media? These are all reasonable questions that, given the geographic emphasis, resound from the pages of this volume.

Antho of New Russian Fiction

Rasskazy A few weeks ago I discussed The Wall in My Head and Best European Fiction 2010. Now, yet another anthology of literature-in-translation: Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia. (Is it just me, or are there way more of these things on the market lately?).

The list of contributors on this antho looks very impressive–a lot of young writers that seem to be on the leading edge of Russian lit–as does the translators Tin House has pulled in here. I'm hoping to read this one soon and register some thoughts.

And if you'll be in Brooklyn next month for the book festival, you'll be able to see some of these folks in person.

Forthcoming: Driftless by David Rhodes


Driftless is publishing next week in paperback. It is the first book in 30 years from American author David Rhodes. From the publisher’s website:

When David Rhodes’ first three novels were published in the mid-seventies, he was acclaimed as “one of the best eyes in recent fiction” (John Gardner), and compared favorably to Sherwood Anderson. In 1976, a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and unpublished for the subsequent three decades.

With Driftless, Rhodes returns to the midwestern landscape he knows so well, offering a fascinating and entirely unsentimental portrait of a town apparently left behind by the march of time.

From a review in California Literary Review:

In his first book in more than thirty years Rhodes proves with ease why when he stopped writing after a paralyzing motorcycle crash in 1977 he was considered one of this country’s finest writers. Following the publication of The Last Fair Deal Going Down – a brilliant, unsettling book that features an underground city beneath Des Moines, Iowa peopled with cannibalistic heroin addicts – how can this not work for some of us – his second book The Easter House, was compared by one New York Times critic to the publication of Sherwood Anderson’s classic Winesburg, Ohio. Rhodes third book was Rock Island Line, published in 1976 and reissued this year by Milkweed. In On Becoming a Novelist, published in 1983, John Gardner said that Rhodes was a young writer with a brilliant “eye for detail.”

From a review in the Christian Science Monitor:

Between “Driftless” and David Wroblewski’s “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” rural Wisconsin is turning into a hotbed of American letters this year. (Manhattan probably isn’t eating its heart out, but would-be authors might be booking scouting weekends in Madison.)

“Driftless” follows the stories of about a half-dozen residents of the tiny town of Words, Wis., “a place so rural God left his shoes there.”

It’s located in the state’s Driftless region, the geography of which gives the book its title. (There’s even a mini-Michener prologue that sets “Driftless” in motion by explaining how this particular corner of Wisconsin happened to escape the glaciers of the Ice Age.

Recently Published: Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin


Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin was published on July 1 from City Lights books.

I mentioned the author and book last week here.

An excerpt from the book can be read here in the NYT.

Everything seemed to be going well in the two aquariums that still had life in them until one day fungus appeared on some angelfish that had survived from the early, better days. At first there were only some small clouds growing on their backs. Fish look strange in such conditions. Their color becomes blurred by a large cottony halo. In the end, all the fish became infected and the angelfish sank to the bottom of the tank and died a few days later. I'm not quite sure why, perhaps to lessen the impact of seeing them like that, but I quickly bought more guppies, ones that are still with me. I chose them almost at random without paying attention to their individual characteristics. Just like the first time I bought fish, I chose one male and two females. One of them even turned out to be pregnant. As I said, unlike those first fish these turned out to be survivors. They withstand the lack of care in a very reasonable manner. . . .

Discussed here on Band of Thebes:

Q: When is seventy-two pages a novel?
A: When the author's subject is wasting away.
Ten years ago in Mexico, Mario Bellatín wrote Beauty Salon about a transvestite hosting and nursing gay men through death from an aids-like disease. When the book was published in France in 2000, it was nominated for the Prix Medicis etranger (losing to Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje). Its reception in his native land was even more dramatic according to Francisco Goldman, who says:

"When this disquieting novella appeared, told in a spare poetic language that seemed at once familiar and hauntingly strange, Mexican (and even Latin American) literature changed . . .

Reviewed at Three Percent here:

Although still an unknown in much of the English-reading world, experimental Mexican author Mario Bellatín is undoubtedly poised for a Le Clézio-esque breakthrough. A Guggenheim recipient, Bellatín is the author of nearly twenty novellas and short works, and has garnered so much success in the international market that he’s recently been courted by the preeminent French publishing house Gallimard to release several forthcoming novels in French translation prior to their publication in his native Spanish . . .

Reviewed at The Rumpus here:

By removing the specifics of the language—no named city, no named characters, no named plague—Bellatín encourages us to read Beauty Salon as a parable. And at the center of the parable we find a commentary on society’s attitude toward death, especially toward those dying of a disease judged by some to be self-inflicted.

The Latin American Mixtape

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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