bsdaesdfst buaassdsy 8410855491 link

bsdaest buaasy 8410855491 link

asasvbest buasdy 8410855491 link

bsdaesdfst buaassdsy 9875454726 link

bsdaest buaasy 9875454726 link

asasvbest buasdy 9875454726 link

bsdaesdfst buaassdsy 645160824 link

bsdaest buaasy 645160824 link

asasvbest buasdy 645160824 link

bsdaesdfst buaassdsy 7652088715 link

bsdaest buaasy 7652088715 link

asasvbest buasdy 7652088715 link

bsdaesdfst buaassdsy 184058957 link

bsdaest buaasy 184058957 link

asasvbest buasdy 184058957 link

Favorite Reads of 2016: Kafka: The Years of Insight


I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

For a couple of years now I’ve been hearing a lot about Reiner Stach’s enormous, three-volume bio of Franz Kafka (great congrats to Shelly Frisch for the major translation job), and this was the year that I finally decided to jump in. I started with volume 3, Kafka: The Years of Insight.

This is a landmark work in terms of cluing us non-German-reading, non-academic Kafka people into tons of things that have not been widely known outside of Europe about this essential author. In addition to providing enormous insight into Kafka’s methods of writing, his means of survival, his day-to-day life, his friends, and how he established the small but crucial reputation that Max Brod was able to grow in the years following his death, Kafka: The Years of Insight also makes for fascinating reading on the era in which he lived. Just for the sections on early 20th-century publishing in the German language world, to say nothing of what it was like to live in Prague during World War I, and then Germany during the hyperinflation (both of which Kafka did) this book is fantastic. If you like Kafka at all, I greatly recommend this. And probably also fantastic for people who want to know more about literature, the life of writers, modernist literature, and the Germanic lands in the early 20th century.

Issue 46 of The Quarterly Conversation

Lots of good stuff in this issue.

If you like what you see, take a second to support these websites.


Mario Bellatín: Between Hermeticism and Communion

Mario Bellatín: Between Hermeticism and Communion

It’s difficult to find adjectives that will bear the full oddity of Mario Bellatín’s books. But it’s at least possible to say they are remarkably elastic—usually slim in size but containing a stretched-waistband world of absurd characters, uncanny scenarios, and endless transformations. In Bellatín’s accounts of reality, nothing remains what it is for very long, nothing is cataloged properly or fixed in place. Soon enough it shifts shape, or inverts. Male to female, fanged to toothless, indecent to prim, alive to dead; Central Europe becomes California, a beauty salon an aquarium and a hospice, a roadhouse an underground railroad for Jewish refugees.

The Scrim and Fog of Translation

The Scrim and Fog of Translation

The pieces of writing in the couplet of new essay collections by Eliot Weinberger, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei and The Ghosts of Birds, though varying in their tactical scopes, share an overall strategic concern: no cultural labor is truly free from its source. This applies to translation as much as it applies to the manufacture of history. All of the antecedent things that evolve across the ether surrounding their precedents are forever tethered, although often by an invisible tissue of strange virtual possibility. Weinberger, with great sensitivity, explores the notion of that tissue just as much as the cultural objects it engenders.

Beyond Malcolm and Garnett: The Possibilities and Limitations of Translation

Beyond Malcolm and Garnett: The Possibilities and Limitations of Translation

This past June, in an essay (“Socks”) in the New York Review of Books, the writer Janet Malcolm, best known for her writing about psychoanalysis and her legal battles with the former director of the Freud Archives, added wood to discussions—some long burning, some more recently ignited—about the ideal approach to translation. Ever combative, Malcolm writes that “a sort of asteroid has hit the safe world of Russian literature in English translation. A couple named Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have established an industry of taking everything they can get their hands on written in Russian and putting it into flat, awkward English.” Most specifically, Malcolm claims that this couple’s, and Marian Schwartz’s, recent translations of Tolstoy are vastly inferior in approach and readability to the classic translations done by Constance Garnett a century ago.


The Edwin Frank Interview

The Edwin Frank Interview

Great literature is literature that remains news, and there’s a way to publish things that can cast a new light on things we take for granted in our own time. The metaphors I tend to think of are somewhere between the vinyl bin, where you can flip through and there’s a whole range of music and so on, or the repertory film theater that can move from Japan to B movies and so on. So that was always the idea, but at the beginning it was very much about reprints, and that was true for two or three years. Partly because the series was doing well there was a moment where it seemed right to begin acquiring books and doing new translations of books.

In Translation

From The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol

From The Magician of Vienna by Sergio Pitol

As Flann O’Brien, he wrote two masterpieces: At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman; a novel written in Gaelic, An Béal Bocht (The Poor Mouth), a sort of requiem in a whisper for a language on the verge of extinction, and for the last inhabitants who still speak it, descendants of warrior kings and talented poets, degraded to a condition in which the difference between their life and that of pigs whose breeding sustained them was scarcely perceptible; as well as two minor novels written in his waning years, The Hard Life and The Dalkey Archive, and the play Faustus Kelley. He was a personality with three faces: a public functionary, an avant-garde novelist known only by a tiny handful of enthusiasts, and the author a popular column in Dublin’s most important newspaper. Journalism ended up invading his creative faculties, by making him famous and unhappy, by turning him into a creation of his pseudonym.


The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei

The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei

We’re all familiar with unreliable narrators, those first-person storytellers whose words we are not sure we can trust. In The Invisibility Cloak, Ge Fei takes this to the next level: he gives us an unreliable narrator in an unreliable career struggling with unreliable characters in an unreliable country. What is reliable in The Invisibility Cloak is the translation. This is Canaan Morse’s first full-length novel, but he is one of a new generation of ambitious translators who are redefining standards of quality in writing English without sacrificing accuracy in treating the Chinese.

Vaseline Buddha by Jung Young Moon

Vaseline Buddha by Jung Young Moon

In Jung Young Moon’s novel Vaseline Buddha, the narrator lurks in every one of its paragraphs, constantly disrupting the flow of his own narrative whenever it shows a hint of becoming a full-fledged story. “Free-wheeling” might be too modest a phrase to capture the excess of freedom the narrator exhibits in his chaotic romp. Jung has taken the wheel of narrative from his book and hid it, or perhaps he has destroyed it. His carriage will never get the reader from point A to point B. Our trickster guide will teleport his visitor through broken images in an elliptical dance around what is beyond language. To borrow Wallace Stevens’ line, Jung frolics through the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Martutene by Ramón Saizarbitoria

Martutene by Ramón Saizarbitoria

The 2013 publication of Martutene earned Ramón Saizarbitoria his second Euskadi Literature Prize and helped to cement his status as one of the patriarchs of Basque literature. A grand and audacious novel, Martutene is just over 800 pages and presents a nuanced perspective of the contemporary Basque experience. History, politics, language, and culture ripple through the characters’ daily interactions. Saizarbitoria dramatizes the best and worst of the contemporary Basque experience—national pride and cultural intolerance, as well as gastronomy and terrorism.

Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux-Chauvet

Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux-Chauvet

For those familiar with canonical texts of Haitian literature, the translation of Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s 1957 novel La Danse sur le volcan into English is a long time coming. Vieux-Chauvet is a key figure of Caribbean literature, known for interlacing charged subjects such as slavery, colonialism, erotic desire, racial injustice, and the influence of Vodou in Haiti, and it is surprising that, until now, only her famous trilogy of novellas Amour, colère et folie—originally published by Gallimard in 1968 with the support of Simone de Beauvoir—has been translated. From a writer whose most frequent subject is the psyche of Haitian women during violent and politically charged moments of Haiti’s history—she herself fled the Duvalier régime after the publication of her trilogy—Dance on the Volcano is an intimate rendering of the Haitian Revolution and a nuanced portrayal of the brutality that resonated across all realms of society in the colony of Saint Domingue at the turn of the 19th century.

The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane

The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane

In the novel The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy, by Paulina Chiziane, fidelity is not scarce but actually in abundance. The reader just has to broaden their definition of what being faithful is, especially when the author puts it to the test in a story where five women realize that they all have been married to the same husband. This renewed concept of fidelity will have little to do with blind obedience because by the end of the story the women begin to have more faith in their own abilities to acquire work, new relationships, and independence on their own terms.

Colonel Lágrimas by Carlos Fonseca

Colonel Lágrimas by Carlos Fonseca

Colonel Lágrimas is ambitious and something to remember. It tells the story of a hermit attempting to cipher the monstrosity that is 20th-century history into an intimate code. The novel is an exploration of obsession, genius, madness, and of the futility of historical meaning in the face of a past in ruins and the gargantuan archive that remains. Loosely basing his novel on the life of the great mathematician Alexander Grothendiek, Fonseca takes advantage of that biographical silence that was Grothendiek´s final decades. Colonel Lágrimas fills this biographical void with a bursting yet elegant flight of crazed and creative power.

Pieces of Soap by Stanley Elkin

Pieces of Soap by Stanley Elkin

There is an unfortunate shortage of grotesquerie in literary criticism. Prudish intellect has somehow muscled the burping body from the realm of books, as if we do not read and write, too, through the revelations and failures of our flesh. The grand critics have already assembled in holy raiment—Trilling, Wilson, Kermode, Ozick, Wood—to lay a white cloth over the roughly hewn table of literature, smoothing over its splinters, its sap. While of obvious merit, their collected work is, in itself, something like a history of manners: spotless, chaste, the well-planed beams of a gleaming critical edifice. This is not necessarily a knock against them (I read much of their work with admiration); call it rather a lingering desire for something supplementary, a meaner model, runny as an egg or rich as butter, words to stain lips and lapels, to pass gas (as Gass’s does), flippant, bloated, savage, overcooked but rarely overwrought: a criticism of both gut and guile. Such a mode would, of course, need its exemplar, its Falstaff, comingler of erudition and eructation. Such a mode, finally, needed only Stanley Elkin.

Alice Iris Red Horse: Selected Poems by Yoshimasu Gozo

Alice Iris Red Horse: Selected Poems by Yoshimasu Gozo

Because he prizes concept over medium, I would argue that Yoshimasu is an artist before a poet. If a project needs to be visual, he is a photographer and filmmaker, as in gozoCiné, ethereal short films that mix sound, music, and spoken word with shaky, sometimes filtered images. If the concept requires an aural element, he’s a musician and chanter with what has been called “a unique ‘vocalization’ recitation style, which relies upon a highly rhythmic delivery and intense vocal modulations.” If the concept requires language, he is a poet, but even then he is not limited to one language, or even to language at all.

In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi

In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi

As the new collection In Praise of Defeat, deftly translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, shows, Laâbi’s early poems are poems of protest and of incarceration. They powerfully evoke the need for poetry to bear witness. Laâbi was jailed in Kenitra Prison 1972 for because of his writing and as a co-founder of Souffles, the influential literary journal. He was sentenced to ten years and served eight, spending some of that time in solitary confinement. His poems detail the torture that he suffered. The powerful poem “Beneath the Gag, the Poem,” an excerpt of which appears in In Praise of Defeat, is at once account of torture and incarceration, a cry to humans and poets to bear witness, and evidence of the transporting power of metaphor.

Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabó

Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabó

It has taken a while for Szabó’s work to see the light of day. Her first novel in English translation, The Door, published by Columbia University Press in 1995 did not cause much of a stir. It wasn’t until the success of Len Rix’s retranslation of The Door ten years later with publisher NYRB Classics that she started to see some success. Whether this was due to the merits of the new translation, the marketing skills of the publishers, or just down to the whims of fortune, Szabó is finally having her moment in the English-Speaking world. Previously Szabó has been popular in German translation, and in her native Hungary she is considered one of the major writers (although even the Hungarians had to wait until after the Stalinist era, when the ban on publishing her books was finally lifted). Now with the U.S. arrival of Iza’s Ballad, in George Szirtes’s crisp, polished translation, American readers are starting to see that The Door was only the tip of a much larger iceberg.

A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar

A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar

Raduan Nassar’s A Cup of Rage has been a cult classic in Brazil since its publication in the late 1970s, but was not published in English until last year. From the first page, which opens in media res, it is apparent why Nassar has achieved such renown in his homeland, despite only publishing two novels before retreating from public life: his prose moves with a violence, vitality, and sexual energy that burns like a splash of acid. At only 45 pages, it barely meets the expectations of “novel,” yet the experience and reward of reading it are equal to that of a much longer fiction. Constructed of seven one-sentence chapters and anchored by a vitriolic, brutal center-piece, A Cup of Rage is a book to be read in the span of a single sitting—even if its density conspires against that.

You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett

You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett

In You Must Change Your Life, Rachel Corbett writes a dual biography of monumental figures in the artworld, a book that feels comprehensive but that only requires under 300 pages (30 of which are notes). We get to know both the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and the sculptor Auguste Rodin as persons and artists, as Corbett relates their marriages, major works, and personal crises. To add new dimension to these biographies, she illuminates how their relationship is at the heart of Rilke’s most famous book in the U.S., Letters to a Young Poet. So framing their story presents and questions the advice Rilke gives about the artistic life, its sacrifices and burdens, and its implications for love, marriage, and family life. Corbett also traces significant ideas about the new science of psychology, turn-of-the-century Europe, and artistic developments.

Support CR, TQC

I’m going to keep this brief. Running Conversational Reading and The Quarterly Conversation takes time, energy, $$$, etc. There’s a great audience and community around these sites, and I love to do them. I have no intentions of stopping, but if you are in a position to support these sites, that would make keeping them around so much easier.

There are some really easy ways to support. Skip on down below to learn about those.

I’m hoping to make this blog in particular extra fantastic in 2017. One of the things I’m eager to do next year is lots more short interviews on the site. That’s in addition to the usual mix of lists, brief essays, recommendations, and assorted odds and ends.

Here are a few of the posts you may have enjoyed so far this year (+ the “interesting new releases” list and my rundown of favorite reads of the year):

And here are the ways to support these sites.

Number one, the easiest thing is to just do your regular Amazon shopping after visiting Amazon through my links. You get your stuff, I get a kickback, and we probably entirely kill Jeff Bezos’s razor-thin margins. Everybody wins!

Another nice thing would be to purchase one of my ebooks for yourself. You get some great reads, I get a little of your money, unbeatable deal for everyone.

Right now I’m offering a pretty sweet buy on the Latin American Mixtape and The Missing Books. That is 35,000 words for just $4.99.

You can read the whole deal right here, or just get it below.

The Missing Books——which has been featured in Literary Hub, 3 Quarks Daily, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, and many others, as well as co-signed on Michiko Kakutani’s Twitter feed——can also be purchased separately:

Kindle ($4.99)

And, of course, Paypaling me a little funds is always nice.

Favorite Reads of 2016: Hitchcock by Truffaut

I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

Possibly the greatest film book ever (a Sight & Sound poll of 51 critics had it tied for 2nd place) Hitchcock by Truffaut is definitely the greatest single book on Hitchcock.

For Truffaut’s generation of filmmakers, Hitchcock was the ultimate master, so the young director proposed a series of interviews covering ever film Hitchcock had ever made. The result is an absolutely engrossing journey into Hitchcock’s mind (he’s quite candid and pans a lot of his own films) and a distillation of his art.

If you’re at all into film, this is an absolute must-read. And even if not, this is just a purely entertaining, fascinating book.

Favorite Reads of 2016: My Struggle Volume 5 by Karl Ove Knausgaard


I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

I admit, Knausgaard was losing me. Volumes 3 and 4 of My Struggle have things to recommend them, but on the whole they just didn’t have the megawattage that made Vols 1 and 2 such a revelation. Fearing the worst, I picked up My Struggle Volume 5 with a dutiful heart (once you’re 2,000 pages in, that’s no time to cut your losses), and it turned out to be really, really good. You can read my full explanation of why this book works here.

I’m actually really, really looking forward to Volume 6, which, apparently (god does Don Bartlett deserve a rest) isn’t going to hit in 2017 but rather 2018!

Favorite Reads of 2016: Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto


I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

Zama has been a long time coming, and it’s definitely worth it. This novel is just about perfect, and it’s become a source of almost unanimous admiration among Latin American authors. To see the kind of enthusiasm and major star power behind this book, have a look over here.

The precision of the writing in this book is just remarkable (and congrats to Esther Allen on a beautiful translation); it’s philosophically deep; it’s witty; it’s existential and futile, but not in a cheap, cynical, or otherwise shallow way. If you dig Beckett, Kafka, etc, etc, do yourself a favor.

Favorite Reads of 2016: Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin


I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

Yes, Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed is a 600-page book of interviews with Werner Herzog. Yes, 600 pages worth of hardcover text is a hell of a lot of time to spend with anybody.

But you’ve got to admit, Herzog is one hell of an intriguing dude. He’s got a lot of ridiculous stories. Like the time he overstayed his visa in the U.S., broke his leg, and ended up staying with an rural U.S. family that he just happened to meet for months. Or the time he ate his shoe at the premiere of Errol Morris’s first documentary. Or, you know, that time he dragged an enormous ship over a mountain in the middle of the Peruvian jungle to make a movie.

More than just Uncle Werner spinning yarns (some of which I’ve got to guess aren’t exactly true), this is just an amazing film book. It covers all of Herzog’s films, which in itself is a major accomplishment, and you’ve probably missed a few (there are well over 50, including many, many obscure ones), so it is a wonderful way to catch up. And Herzog does prove himself something of a film theorist (despite his protestations that he’s just a regular guy who despises all those eggheads), and he’s got some fascinating ideas about the point of film.

Most of all, this is just a fun read. If you’ve got the time, you can easily knock out a hundred pages of this book in a day. It’s fun!

Favorite Reads of 2016: Trouble in Paradise by Slavoj Žižek

I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

I sometimes think of Žižek’s books as a series of cultural readings in search of a thesis. It’s not that Žižek doesn’t have a thesis for each book, it’s more that he prefers to let it well up through the texture of his prose. The read attraction of his readings of the ever-evolving products of global capitalism. You come for the readings and the riffs, and somehow you end up getting a thesis by the end.

Which is to say, in my reading Žižek either succeeds or fails by the quality, freshness, and contemporaneity of his riffs, and by that standard Trouble in Paradise is a big hit. In the brief introduction alone we get compelling readings of Ernest Lubitsch’s classic films, the latest Batman reboot, South Korean culture vis a vis global capitalism, “Gangnam Style” (not to be missed), the hermaphroditism of North Korean dictators, and (of course) an old Jewish tale. That’s 20 pages.

By the end of the book, Žižek has wound many of the major political and cultural global developments of the past 5 years into a pretty compelling theory of where capitalism is, and where it is headed. He has even woven in a pretty good defense of Marxism, which Žižek still believes in and still holds out hope for.

Just in terms of sheer density of information, quotables, and educational value, this is a book well worth the time of anyone who cares to think about what are dominant systems governing our world and where they are headed. I completely recommend it.

Favorite Reads 2016: Die a Little by Megan Abbott


I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

Megan Abbott is definitely a noir writer worthy of anyone’s time. Earlier this year I made my introduction to her work with Die a Little, and I wrote it up. Strong recommend.

One of the reasons I love editing The Quarterly Conversation is that it opens up so many authors I would never find out about otherwise. Having some of the best, most open-minded, engaged readers in our world writing reviews and essays of top notch writers is a little like having my own private research staff cluing me in to great stuff. For a writer who thrives on creative influence as much as I do, this is incredible.

Case in point, last issue Angela Woodward (a very interesting writer herself) intro’d me to Megan Abbott with this essay. After editing it and publishing it, I knew I had to check Abbott out.

The elevator pitch for Abbott is that she does feminist noir. That’s a reductive label, but it’s a powerful way to coordinate what makes Abbott’s fictions feel so interesting to me, so I’m just gonna go with it.

Favorite Reads 2016: Roger Lewinter


I’m sharing some of my favorite reads of 2016. See them all here.

Roger Lewinter was a discovery for me this year, thanks to New Directions releasing two titles: The Attraction of Things and Story of Love in Solitude.

Probably one of the easiest points of comparison for Lewinter is W.G. Sebald: they have that same fragmentary feel, there’s the eccentricity of following your own obsessions (no matter how small, personal, and obscure), there’s that sense of hidden currents connecting the world of the work, and there’s that first-person narrator who both is and isn’t the author.

Of course, that’s just one point of comparison. Lewinter is an original, so I don’t want to play up the Sebald comparisons too much. What is most immediately striking about these books is the intricacy of the text: not only are Lewinter’s sentences generally long, they are syntactically very complex. They don’t have the sort of baroque order that tends to rein in long-sentences-makers like Proust or Bernhard, and nor are they run-on sentences masquerading as long sentences, as in an book like Mathias Enard’s Zone.

Rather, Lewinter’s sentences are rather chaotic, accelerating in some places and slowing down in others, never reliably moving at a given speed or direction. Lewinter also makes use of all punctuation at his disposal (often in creative ways). These are books that take a little time to get used to, although once you grasp the art of reading Lewinter’s sentences, you will find that they are exceedingly carefully constructed, and the short pieces that make up each of these books are very well-conceived (as are the books as a whole). (Credit to Rachel Careau for amazing translation work.)

If you’re someone who loves language, do yourself a favor and enjoy these remarkable books. And if you’re just someone who loves goo books, do the same.


The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


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.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.