Category Archives: the book of chameleons


The NY Times profiles library-ladder makers Putnam Rolling Ladder Company


* Not exactly news, but could someone with greater influence than I possess help The Guardian understand that they’re not obliged to cover every single Harry Potter-related story that comes down the pike?

* The Millions discusses anticipated books left to publish in 2008. And if you want more hot forthcoming books action, you can check the catalogs I run down regularly on Fridays and my two BEA roundups

* FC2 is getting dropped from the University of Florida. Guess innovative fiction is too much for a university to support these days.

* There’s a new Words Without Borders up.

* I just new they were going to start doing this sooner or later. Now custom agents have the power to randomly search your electronic media.


* A number of reviews for The Book of Chameleons: Three Percent, The Complete Review,

* Ready Steady Blog uncovers a thorough, not-terribly-complimentary review of James Wood’s poorly titled How Fiction Works


* The LRB on Philip K. Dick


* A Harvard study claims to have refuted the thesis of the book The Long Tail. (The author responds.)

The Rest

* Newsweek recommends summer reads, and their list is actually a lot better than you would expect. There’s Nathan Englander, Chatwin, and Hitchens before he became tired.

* Shane at eNotes discusses his pleasure with finding books for $1.00 and less at the Salvation Army store. I can beat that . . . I’ve been finding the best stuff lately just sitting in boxes on the sidewalk.

* Imperial America somehow managed to offer us all video of Christopher Hitchens being waterborded as part of some kind of proof to the beefy critic that it is indeed torture. Glad he’s convinced. And if you click the link and read Scott McLemee’s thoughts on the footage, perhaps you’ll ask yourself, as I did, "how does he know how ‘any dominatrix’s client’ is treated?"

* Is email losing its importance?

Summer Books: Simon & Schuster and Counterpoint/Soft Skull

Friday Catalogs: Simon & Schuster and Counterpoint/Soft Skull Summer ’08

Simon & Schuster


First up is a book I’ve been hearing a lot about lately, The Book of Chameleons by Angolan Jose Eduardo Agualusa (available, trans. Daniel Hahn). The book received last year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and has been likened to Barges and Calvino. It involves a man who sells pasts, and the plot deals with Angola’s history. Reviews in The Complete Review and the Orlando Sentinel.

I’m heartened to see Simon & Schuster publishing a collection of short stories in translation, Love Today (available, trans. Anthea Bell). The author is Maxim Biller, who has placed two stories from this collection of 27 in The New Yorker.


Currently available is a book that is getting a number of good reviews (see the LA Times and The Barnes & Noble Review), The God of War by Marisa Silver. The book takes place near the Salton Sea at the bottom of  California and deals with a broken family living in a trailer. As James Gibbons puts it in the Times,

This air of thickening menace is enhanced by the narrative’s setting in
1978, well before the spectacular mass deaths of wildlife at the Salton
Sea in the 1990s but at a time when the area’s imminent environmental
catastrophe had eerily begun to manifest itself. Scores of tilapia
carcasses wash ashore toward the end of novel; a week later, area
residents discover the remains of pelicans and other birds that had
eaten the fouled fish.

Also worth mentioning that is that S&S will publish over here in July the 2007 Costa award winner, The Tenderness of Wolves (Stef Penney). If you’re interested in more, you can read a fair amount of it on Google Books.

Counterpoint/Soft Skull


Author Tom McCarthy, who saw a lot of success with his novel Remainder, is now publishing a nonfiction study of the comic books about Tintin, the young Belgian reporter, entitled Tintin and the Secret of Literature (available). For more, see the review in the current Bookforum:

McCarthy’s answer, mercifully, is no. Comic books are not literature,
he contends; Hergé’s groundbreaking books, which, as interviewer Numa
Sadoul has noted, “take up an or­ig­inal and autonomous ground between
drawing and writing,” are especially not literature. To read them with
reverence would be a terrible mistake. Which is not to say that Tintin
harbors no secrets. On the contrary, the oeuvre, as McCarthy
demonstrates with hermeneutic élan, is full of mysteries, the most
important of which is Tintin the character’s relationship to literature

David Ohle’s The Pisstown Chaos sounds just strange enough to be interesting, a novel about "disease and forced relocation." It involves decreed de- and re-coupling every five years and, parasitic infections, and someone called Revered Herman Hooker.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


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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