One wants to like Music for Torching by AM Homes, a book that I read at the insistence of some people after asking for recommendations of worthwhile English-language authors. Suburban decay is a lovely theme for a novel by an American about America, and Homes' first chapter is worth the big deal everyone's made about it. (Briefly: an ungrateful, completely unhappy suburban couple with two young boys attempts to burn down their house. It only partly succeeds. Novel goes from there.) Yet I never fully felt that this novel had captured my interest.
Homes . . . continue reading, and add your comments
JC Hallman is still blogging up a storm about his book over at the Tin House blog. (And, for about the 18th time, we've published an adapted version of his intro to the book that I think everyone should check out.)
Hallman has stopped poking the ribs of the academic community on the Tin House blog and is now discussing the nightmare that is trying to publish a profitable anthology.
The problem with The Story About the Story was multi-fold. When we write about reading, we want to cite things, to use examples—these become permissions issues, . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Lots of interesting thoughts on The Trial by Frank Kafka at this post of Andrew’s.
This one in particular struck me:
And while The Trial has never, I think, been read in these terms of indomitable human wills, etc., what I do think is the case is that Kafka’s writings have been homogenized (so that the tone of some of the stories is taken to be Kafka’s only tone) and that the product of that homogenization was employed as the necessary complement of the project to restore the human will: reading Kafka . . . continue reading, and add your comments
If you know Kobo Abe, it's probably as the guy who wrote the book that became the movie about a Japanese businessman trapped into a giant hole in the desert, where he is forced to shovel sand and eventually comes to see his prison as his home.
I watched The Woman in the Dunes not too long ago, and now I've gotten on an Abe kick. I'm currently working through The Broken Map, which shares a lot of themes with Dunes: a pervasive sense of futility; the almost imperceptibly gradual but profound . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Dan Green has an interesting post on the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld. The post touches on a number of points related to his novel All Whom I Have Loved, but I wanted to quote Dan's take on Appelfeld vis a vis Kafka:
Appelfeld is often enough compared to Kafka, but this comparison in turn generally assumes that Kafka's fiction is allegorical in a more or less overt way. But of course Kafka created narratives that appear to incorporate an allegorical level of meaning only to complicate and ultimately to deny that meaning. Kafka's world purports to . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Writing on Franz Kafka: The Office Writings in The New Republic, Louis Begley makes Kafka criticism sound a little, well, Kafkaesque:
Thus was constituted the trove of Kafka's painfully personal papers that has since been ransacked by scholars looking for the sources of his inspiration, for the materials that he put to use in his fiction. They have battened by preference on scraps of paper: unconnected pages in his notebooks, for example, of which there are many. Stanley Corngold, one of the editors of The Office Writings, repeats in his contribution to the volume, as though they . . . continue reading, and add your comments
This essay on several recent books by or about Kafka turns up this gem from the ossified Austro-Hungarian empire:
At the fin de siècle, the state bureaucracy already held considerable sway over people’s lives and selves, and Kafka wrote from the center of the age’s contradictions and anxieties. When he assumed his position at the Insurance Institute in 1908, after having spent a dismal year in the employ of Assicurazioni Generali, an Italian insurer, the Dual Monarchy was groaning under a superabundance of paperwork. Legislation enacted in the 1880s had ushered in the European welfare state, and its . . . continue reading, and add your comments
This Space points me to The Next Village, a blog that invites writers and artists to respond to a very short short story of Kafka’s. (It’s about 50 words long.)
An interesting way to spread your affection for a piece of literature.
On the heels of the new translation of Kafka’s novel Amerika, the NTYBR publishes a short essay on it by Adam Kirsch.
Kirsch spends some time situating the work in Kafka’s oeuvre and discusses the provenance of the titular k:
The [previous] translator Michael Hofmann, whose English version of the book appeared in 1996, correctly called it “the least read, the least written about and the least ‘Kafka’ ” of his three novels. Now Schocken Books, which has been the main publisher of Kafka’s works since the 1930s, hopes to reintroduce his first novel to the world . . . continue reading, and add your comments