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8/26/16

Review: A Contented Man and Other Stories by Zoë Beck, translated by Rachel Hildebrandt

https://weysis.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/zoe-beck_a-contented-man_lweyward-sisters-publishing-07-2016.jpg?w=573&h=860A Contented Man and Other Stories by Zoë Beck, translated by Rachel Hildebrandt (Weyward Sisters Publishing, 54 pages, August 7)


Zoë Beck's dark, haunted collection is Weyward Sisters Publishing's second offering (see my review of the first- Snow Flurries and Other Stories), and it will make you clamor for more.

Each of the four stories- "A Contented Man", "Rapunzel", "Still Waters", and "Flann, the Púca"- showcases Beck's talent for crafting quietly horrifying tales, be they stories of obsession, blood feuds, or creatures out of folklore. They are told without embellishment, building up slowly but inexorably to disturbing ends.

In Translation: July Fiction and Poetry

I’m very excited about the fiction and poetry out in translation this month: we have the first book of Mongolian poetry to be published in the U.S. (thank you, Phoneme Media!), fiction from Jordan about the aftermath of the Arab Spring, a new novel by award-winning Mexican author Carmen Boullosa, and a work of experimental fiction by Chile’s Alejandro Zambra. It’s going to be a good month, guys.


Boullosa Before by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Peter Bush (Deep Vellum Publishing, 120 pages, July 26)
A bildungsroman, ghost story, and revenge novel all rolled into one, Before has won Reforma’s “Best Novel Published in Mexico” award and the Xavier Villarutia Prize for Best Mexican Novel. Here, Boullosa explores the end of innocence through one woman’s return to the scenes of her childhood.




Goodbye, Elie Wiesel, and Thank You

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/elie-wiesel1.jpgYes, 2016 has felled many well-known writers, musicians, and other cultural icons, but the recent death of Elie Wiesel is, for me, particularly upsetting. I don’t know why, but I’d always assumed that he would be around forever, reminding us of our better natures and the strength and hope of basic human morality.

You’ll find many remembrances of and interviews with the Auschwitz survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and prolific author in the coming days, so this post will focus on his most well-known works. After all, Wiesel is no longer physically with us, but his words live on, and that is crucial when we remember the millions of victims of the Holocaust.

(You can find a complete list of Wiesel’s books here.)


8/10/16

Review: The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

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The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (Knopf, 224 pages, May 10)

I've been a Shostakovich fan for a long time, but not entirely because of his oeuvre (I love some of his music, but not all). It was also the Shostakovich mystique that intrigued me- that aura surrounding the composer's life and the questions that dogged him even after death.

And then I heard about Julian Barnes's biographical novel based on Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich's life under Soviet terror and I knew I needed to grab a copy immediately.

8/6/16

Review: Before by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Peter Bush

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51ULFwpumSL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBefore by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Peter Bush (Deep Vellum Publishing, 120 pages, August 2)


First published in 1989, Before is the kind of novel that constantly points back to itself, emphasizing its own hyper-real narration and downplaying, if not outright obfuscating, important "facts." For instance, is the narrator dead? Is Esther actually her mother (seems so), but then why won't the narrator refer to her as her mother for most of the book? I could go on..

Not having certain answers, though, doesn't matter here- it doesn't matter if the narrator is dead because her words are extraordinarily alive. Take this passage in which she reflects on "memory":

I wouldn't dare live through what I experienced as a child because, once recollected, the facts turn into dangerous needles that could sew up my heart, sear my soul, and turn my soul into strips of dead flesh. As we live we hardly realize that we are alive...To relive what we've seen by the lucid light of memory would be unbearable and, as far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't be brave enough. (68)

Throughout the novel, the narrator explains that she is gripped by fear, hounded by it even, and her world is not the stable world of objects and people that are what they seem. Rather, as in this passage, even the act of remembering is fraught with danger, because something as intangible as that can transform itself into threatening needles. She constantly hears footsteps and roams the house at night searching for their source (but to no avail). At times, she encounters other girls who also hear these steps, but one disappears and the other never discusses it.

And then, without warning but nonetheless seamlessly woven into the plot, the magical realist elements emerge: a dresser that can transform drawn objects into tangible ones, shadows without corresponding objects, magical stones that take away the narrator's dreams...

Everything is in flux and in motion in Before, corresponding to the narrator's emotional and psychological state leading up to and including the twin traumas of losing her mother and achieving puberty. A nameless, shapeless Fear embodies this sense of hyper-reality for the narrator:

I was afraid, this time afraid of everything and everybody. Not only what pursued me was a threat, what surrounded me was too: my white bedroom curtains, curtains alive like insects, like animals caged in a zoo I wouldn't want to visit, slumbering beasts awoken and enraged by my presence. And the curtains were nothing by the side of the stormy sea, the sea of the floor of the house! (101)
Not to get too autobiographical here, but this shapeless, indeterminate fear reminded me of my own childhood in some ways, where anything I encountered that didn't fit into my understanding of the world terrified me. I'm pretty sure that most kids experience this in one way or another, but at the time (age 6-12), I was scared of the most random things: revolving dioramas, certain paintings, examples of new technology...It could pounce at any moment, and despite being surrounded by family or friends, I'd feel helpless and alone, trapped in my own brain. This kind of unexpected, nameless fear is probably a holdover from our ancestors, who had to be ready for everything from wild animals to natural disasters and poisonous plants.

Anyway, I look forward to reading more of Boullosa's work (and there is a lot of it, which is good), and I urge you to check out Before.

7/23/16

Review: Snow Flurries and Other Stories by Romy Fölck, translated by Rachel Hildebrandt

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51GBEApAWYL.jpgSnow Flurries and Other Stories by Romy Fölck, translated by Rachel Hildebrandt (Weyward Sisters Publishing, 45 pages, July 12)

This compact, gut-punching collection is the first release from the new Weyward Sisters Publishing, which focuses on international noir and crime fiction by women writing in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. After all, what better way to announce yourself than by giving the world four stories that turn questions of morality, revenge, war, and memory on their heads?

Snow Flurries is relentlessly bleak without being depressing as Romy Fölck introduces us to the world of the former East Germany. Taken over by the Soviet Union at the close of World War II, it became the site of repression, shortages, and terror. In Fölck's stories ("Snow Flurries," "The St. Paul's Pact," "Elbe Glimmers," and "Old Guilt"), we witness the collision of past and present as old resentments are handed down across generations and past crimes return to haunt their perpetrators.

7/14/16

Hard-Core Bookish Insults

You may have seen this blog post of bookish insults floating around the internet, and they’re pretty amusing. But we here at the Riot figured that we’d try our hand at some really mean bookish insults- like, the kind of insults that would make your professors visibly cringe and send most well-adjusted people crying for their mommies. Now, Brenna recently gave us a new installment of literary Yo Mama jokes, but we’d like to add some more insults to the mix here. Enjoy, and only use when necessary because they leave scars.

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7/6/16

Books to Look For (July): Biography

http://images.abovethetreeline.com/ea/TW/images/jacket_covers/original/9781781314463_06fc2.jpg?width=1000  http://images.abovethetreeline.com/ea/CHDC/images/jacket_covers/original/9781606064832_0d136.jpg?width=1000 

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100 Must-Read Works of Speculative Fiction in Translation

100 Must-Read Works of Speculative Fiction in TranslationThere’s a great big world out there, filled with accomplished authors writing in every language. Speculative fiction is an especially vibrant genre, and with works like Cixin Liu’s award-winning Three-Body Problem garnering much-deserved applause here in the U.S., and multiple anthologies of Spanish-language fiction becoming available, there’s never been a better time to build your TBR list.





Argentina
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Anthony Kerrigan.
Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Amalia Gladhart.
Memory by Teresa P. Mira de Echeverría, translated by Lawrence Schimel.

In Translation: June Fiction and Poetry

It’s summertime here in ‘Murica, so if you’re headed to the beach, be sure to bring these fantastic books from Iran, France, Cuba, and Israel with you. Also if you’re headed to the pool. Or the park. Or the cafe. Or really anywhere. Enjoy!

FremonProustiennes edited & abridged by Jean Frémon, translated by Brian Evenson (Fence Books, 80 pages, June 21)

Here Frémon distills some of Marcel Proust’s most beautiful prose into “Proustiennes,” inviting us to delve (back) into the extraordinary À la recherche du temps perdu and belle époque Paris.




The Genius of the Dark Tower

https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/dark-tower-books.jpg*warning: here be spoilers*

You’ve probably heard that a Dark Tower film is actually in the works, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey (slated for next February). Are you excited? BECAUSE I’M EXCITED. I only just finished listening to the entire series, a journey that took 10 months. Why so long? I started it just after my daughter was born, and listened in bits and pieces almost every night while I washed dishes or folded laundry. What an experience.

But for those of you who’ve read the entire series, you know what I’m talking about. This is old news to you. But the fact that this movie news came out just as I was finishing the series seemed particularly ka-ish, if you know what I mean.

6/16/16

Totally Legitimate Literary Excuses

You know when someone accuses you of something, or criticizes you, or rakes you over the coals, and you can only come up with a really lame excuse to cover your derrière? Well, today is your lucky day because I’ve written out some great literary excuses for you to use in such situations. Simply print out this list or write it/tattoo it on your arm and voilà! People will stop giving you sh#t. Ok, this is not guaranteed, but at least it’s better than nothing, right?

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Authors I Love to Hate

https://2982-presscdn-29-70-pagely.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/angry_books-e1462144630488-270x142.pngYou know what I’m talking about. Someone mentions their favorite writer and you’re all like EYE ROLLLLL. Of course, everyone has their own literary taste, and we shouldn’t judge one another, but we should understand that one person’s favorite is another’s nails-on-the-chalkboard.

Now you know me and how I get very emotional about my favorite writers and books (i.e. just say “Thomas Mann” in my presence and I melt into a puddle of devoted awe). Not surprisingly, I have equally strong emotions when it comes to those works that…irritate me.

Below are some authors who make me impatient, irritable, or just downright tired. I know this list will anger some people, so just direct all of your hate-mail to rachel@fakeemailaddress.blah. Thanks!

5/24/16

Review: One of Us is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart, translated by Martin Aitken

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Q4ORIcnZL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOne of Us is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart, translated by Martin Aitken (Open Letter, 260 pages, July 12)


The second novel in Open Letter's Danish Women Writers Series (the first is Naja Marie Aidt's Rock, Paper, Scissors), One of Us is Sleeping is not so much a book as a doorway into one woman's brain.

The narrator's two main preoccupations- the disintegration of an intense romantic relationship and her mother's cancer diagnosis- are woven together in a tight coil of regret, doubt, and nearly-crippling anxiety. Just as many of us cannot help but rethink and rehash certain details of our lives, questioning our actions and others' motives until we nearly drive ourselves crazy, so the narrator jumps around in her memory to try to figure out where her relationship went wrong. Old conversations, silences, separations- all swirl around in her mind, often marked by brief but intense reflections on the nature of time, colors, home, love, and more.

Klougart deftly transports us into another person's mind while simultaneously showing us our own.  One of Us is Sleeping is a novel about missed connections, lost opportunities, and the trap of standing still instead of moving forward. It's haunting, but the only ghosts are in the narrator's own memory.

5/22/16

A Virtual Reality Anne Frank Film? NOPE

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTa5clLcRaY7obVtHMy6f7TqDCIVCoCyNZ1EGTzixdJ4ZmH5N1EAccording to The Guardian, a virtual reality film is in the works that will bring viewers “into” the Amsterdam annex where Anne Frank hid with her family from the Nazis from 1942-1944.

I think I speak for many people when I say to Jonathan Hirsch (the producer): just….just don’t.
Anne Frank’s story is undoubtedly one of the most compelling to come out of the brutality and carnage of World War II. I read her diary many years ago, and was moved by its honesty and optimism, even as Anne was forced to live in hiding for years.

But the ways in which people have pounced on this tragic story over the years is shameful, in my opinion. Aren’t there enough freakin’ plays and films about the Frank family’s experiences? Do we really need another one, and one that is so voyeuristic? Thankfully (and hopefully), we will never know what it’s like to have to live cramped and silent for years, terrified at the slightest noise because it might mean that we’ve been discovered and will be dragged out to be sent to a camp or shot. So let’s not pretend that we can understand.

In Translation: May Fiction and Poetry

I say this every month, but I’m really excited about these new translations, you guys. We have some Tamil poetry co-translated by Ravi Shankar (RAVI SHANKAR!), a work of fiction-not-fiction from Spain, a novel by a Romanian Nobel laureate, and the story of a troubled childhood in Morocco. Dig in!


andal The Autobiography of a Goddess by Andal, translated by Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar (Zubaan Books, 176 pages, May 15)

This is an exciting new collaborative translation of the work of 8th-century Tamil poet Andal. A “powerful expression of female sexuality in the Indian spiritual tradition,” Autobiography of a Goddess includes the Thiruppavaii, thirty pasuram sung before Lord Vishnu, and the erotic Nacchiyar Thirumoli.


In Translation: April Fiction and Poetry

Yes, April is the cruelest month because I have a list of new translations here for you, which means that your TBR pile/shelf/bookcase is going to get larger and more unwieldy. You’re going to have to live until you’re 800 or so just to read all the books you already have (don’t worry, I feel your pain). And so, without further ado, I bring you fiction from Japan, Portugal, and Cameroon, and poetry from Austria.

queirosThe Yellow Sofa by José Maria de Eça de Queirós, translated by John Vetch (New Directions, 128 pages, April 18)

Acclaimed Portuguese writer and diplomat Eça de Queirós (1845-1900) wrote twenty books in his lifetime, among them The Yellow Sofa, a story about marriage and forgiveness in the face of betrayal. His work has been compared to that of Dickens, Flaubert, and Tolstoy.


5 Bizarre 19th Century American Novels

I’ve read a lot of books so far in my time here on Earth, so I can say pretty confidently that there are some novels out there that are so unbelievably wierd/nutty/cuhrazy, you have to pause every twenty pages or so just to stare at a wall and wonder “did I just read that??!

So when were some of the most bizarre American novels written, you ask? The twentieth century? NOPE. The nineteenth, you guys (for the purposes of this post, the “long” nineteenth century, as they say in academia when things fall a little outside the date boundaries). That was one wacked-out hundred years. I mean, civil war and railroads all over the place and imperialism and financial crises every five seconds and all kinds of new-fangled inventions…people’s heads were a-spinnin’. Makes sense that they wrote the following novels:


brownWieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale (1798) by Charles Brockden Brown

I was first introduced to this interesting gentleman’s work during my first semester of grad school and DAMN but his stuff is freaky. He has one novel about a yellow fever outbreak, one about a sleepwalker, and a few others. Wieland was based on the true story of a farmer’s murder of his entire family because “voices” told him to do it. In Brockden Brown’s version, the “voices” are actually all from the same man, a ventriloquist named Carwin who’s been hanging around the Wieland estate and stirring up trouble. It’s gothic and Poe-ishly dark and this ventriloquist guy is pretty unique.

More Bookish Ideas for James Patterson

droneIt seems that there’s nothing James Patterson won’t do to promote books. In recent years, he’s given a ton of money to libraries and independent booksellers, and now he’s trying to turn more people into readers through “BookShots“- short movie-like pieces that are faced-paced and easy to read.

Well. We here at the Riot decided to brainstorm even MORE ideas for James Patterson, in order to help him with his quest(?) to turn every person on the planet into a reader:

Patterson invents a brain implant that transmits books directly into your mind.

Patterson rides around on drones, throwing books through people’s windows.

An Absolutely Serious Analysis of TOOTLE

tootleI’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Tootle, far from being a cute children’s book about a curious baby train, is actually virulent fascist propaganda.

Now, my 3-year-olds are a little obsessed with it, and that’s fine. It’s pretty amazing that they’ll sit through such a relatively lengthy book right before bed. The content, though? Well, it’s really problematic, but if my husband and I were to try reading a different book while surreptitiously dropping Tootle into an industrial shredder, the twins would drop us into the industrial shredder instead so…

But seriously, people. According to the story, this baby train named “Tootle” goes to train school and takes classes in stopping for red flags, staying on the rails (NO MATTER WHAT), and all kinds of other things. But Tootle, being a curious, rambunctious creature, takes off-rail romps through meadows, racing horses, making daisy-chains, and generally having a helluva time. But the citizens of the town realize that Tootle is breaking the cardinal rule (staying on the rails) and they get together to teach him his lesson: i.e. do what you’re told and stay on the straight and narrow or we’ll make you cry.