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The London Review of Books is certainly among the more interesting literary periodicals appearing in print in English -- certainly always worth a look (I have been an occasional subscriber, though I am not currently one) -- but Elizabeth Day's rather fawning profile in The Observer seems to be reaching in asking Is the LRB one of the best magazines in the world ?
For all the impressive writing they've published, it's still hard to overlook one of the basic bottom lines; Day decorously notes: "For all its success, the London Review of Books struggles to make money", which is a rather strong bit of English understatement: as she then admits: "in January 2010, the magazine was estimated to be £27m in debt" (to the trust which generously supports it -- though if it: "never has to worry about paying back its loans" I would/imagine hope the tax authorities have something to say about what sounds like a bit too dodgy a tax dodge).
LRB publisher Nicholas Spice is also quoted:
"It loses a lot of money," he continues cheerfully.
The most important thing is that it has always had very generous support from its shareholders.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with such vanity-publishing: any number of fine publications -- especially those with a focus on the arts -- are generously subsidized and supported (though admittedly few have anywhere near this cushy an arrangement) and admirably, in the case of the LRB
, that benefits their writers (paid: "at a base-rate of 30p a word (rising by a considerable margin if the article is longer than average")) and, to some extent, subscribers (cheap subscription rates).
Still, given this very uneven playing field, one wonders how the unsubsidized The New York Review of Books
and the Times Literary Supplement
manage what the LRB
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This weekend's The New York Times Book Review-Q & A features Teju Cole: By the Book.
Among the questions he's asked is: "What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet ?" to which he responds:
I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider "essential," nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter.
But this does not embarrass me.
He's right not to be embarrassed by that of course -- life is, indeed, too short, and time is easily filled with any number of worthwhile things; not having read book X or Y is hardly shameful.
On the other hand, it does throw into a different light an earlier statement he makes, claiming that:
"the novel" is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it
Since he goes on to admit he's actually not engaged with what are considered the exemplary novels of the 19th and
20th century, surely his dismissal comes far too rashly .....
Maybe it's a good idea to read what are considered the 'essential' novels, to see what all the fuss is about, and only then make a grand pronouncement as to whether or not the genre as a whole is over-rated .....
(As someone who considers 'the novel' -- in all its many forms -- the be-all and end-all of literature, art, human thought, and human experience, I am, of course, biased.
But even I am careful about dismissing any specific (other) form as over-rated.)
And at least he does give a shout-out to what is a very fine novel indeed (though, yes, one for which he wrote the Introduction): Ivan Vladislavić's Double Negative
They've announced this year's recipients of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes -- who each receive: "an unrestricted grant of $150,000 to support their writing".
They are: Nadeem Aslam, Kia Corthron, Jim Crace, Aminatta Forna, Sam Holcroft, Noëlle Janaczewska, Pankaj Mishra, and John Vaillant.
Via I'm pointed to the Ipshita Mitra's Q & A in the Times of India with Philip Gabriel on translating Haruki Murakami.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari's early classic, Snow Country.
My copy is an ancient Berkley Medallion mass-market paperback -- anything to avoid the trade-paperback size, and to be able to carry the book around in my pocket -- but I must say I was disappointed to find in my copy -- the eighth printing ! -- the misprint:
"It makes me very said," she murmured to herself.
It makes me very said
, too, when such an important sentence is left with the misspelling intact across so many printings and years (it's a 1972 printing, of a version first published in 1960).
The e-mail I got on Wednesday said that the information was "embargoed until Saturday 8 March" -- without asking me beforehand whether or not I agreed to those terms; as it turns out, even one of the prize's judges and sponsors couldn't be bothered to hold out, as Boyd Tonkin already offers his overview in The Independent, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2014: Our long-list reveals a fictional eco-system of staggering diversity.
[Good luck enforcing that embargo next year, if they again send the information out early to bloggers, literary editors, etc.; all credibility has gone by the wayside.]
The fifteen-title strong longlist was selected from 126 entries translated from 30 different languages.
(By comparison: the Best Translated Book Award -- whose longlist will be announced next Tuesday -- considered about three times as many titles (indeed, entrants from just the top three countries -- France (54), Germany (40), and Italy (27) -- come close to the IFFP total ...), written in thirty-nine languages.)
The IFFP longlisted titles are:
- Back to Back by Julia Franck
- Brief Loves that Live Forever by Andreï Makine
- Butterflies in November by Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir
- The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon
- The Dark Road by Ma Jian
- Exposure by Sayed Kashua
- The Infatuations by Javier Marías
- The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim
- A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard
- A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
- The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke
- Revenge by Ogawa Yoko
- The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson
- Strange Weather in Tokyo by Kawakami Hiromi
- Ten by Andrej Longo
Aside from the five under review at the complete review
(linked), only the Julia Franck and the Ma Jian were also eligible for the Best Translated Book Award (differing US/UK publication dates ...), and the overlap in longlists will be a very, very small one.
It's certainly a solid and nicely varied list -- no more than two titles in any language, but two in both Icelandic and Arabic, as well as some Far Eastern representation (including the attention-deserving Revenge
Still, I have to say from my biased position as Best Translated Book Award judge -- and noting that the two prizes and longlists aren't entirely comparable (for one, the BTBA longlists a ridiculous (awesome !) twenty-five titles -- the BTBA longlist looks to be shaping up considerably more heavy-weight and more impressive (adding that I think this is probably the strongest longlist (and pool from which we selected) in my time as BTBA judge; as noted, the IFFP longlist is drawn from a somewhat different pool of books).
The IFFP shortlist -- the final six -- is "due to be announced at the London Book Fair on 8 April" (so look for Tonkin to leak it a few days before that ...).
See also commentary
on the longlist at The Mookse and the Gripes.
The Orange Prize for Fiction -- this week, or year, apparently going by 'BWPFF', or the 'Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction' (sorry, but it'll take a while to convince me that that will take; I'll hang on to the old name for now) -- has announced its 2014 longlist -- twenty books selected from 158 submissions.
Only one of these is under review at the complete review -- the only of these titles that's even made it to my desk: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (though there are certainly a couple more that I'd love to get my hands on, including the Catton and the McBride).
The winner will be announced 4 June (though there will be a shortlist-announcement before then -- not that I've been able to figure out when that might be expected).
It always seems like a bit of a silly exercise, asking authors what books "they wish they'd written" (The Da Vinci Code, I always assume -- funding any- and every-thing they'd care to write after that ...), but when The Telegraph asks The Folio Prize finalists -- i.e. Anne Carson and Jane Gardam, among others -- that question it seems at least worth a look.
The only one of the named works under review at the complete review is Gardam's mention, Le Grand Meaulnes.
At Wordhorse Monica Patiño Pérez offers The art of translating fiction: Q&A with Julian Evans.
See also his translation bibliography at his official site -- and while I'm thrilled to see the Michel Déon attention, it's his forthcoming (from Gallic Books) re-translation of Gide's Les caves du Vatican that I'm really looking forward to.
They've announced the finalists for the 27th Annual Translation Prizes of the French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation, awarded: "for superior English translations of French works published in 2013" (in the US).
The winner of the $10,000 prize will be announced 22 May.
'Tis the season for longlist-announcements for translation prizes -- the 15 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize finalists will be announced on Saturday (though for some reason they've already let me know -- sorry, I'm not spilling the beans (though I do note that I suspect none of the five FAF Translation Prize finalists were submitted for the IFFP ...)), and the Best Translated Book Award (for which I am a judge) will be announcing its 25-book-strong longlist on 11 March.
All five FAF Translation Prize fiction finalists were eligible for the BTBA, and three of them are under review at the complete review:
Obviously, I've been rooting for the vastly under-appreciated Where Tigers Are at Home
from day one and am very pleased to see it getting this attention (though that goes for several of the other titles here too) -- but whether it and/or any of the other four finalists made the BTBA list ... well, you'll just have to wait until next Tuesday to see.
They've announced the finalists for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, with the winner to be announced 2 April.
None of these titles are under review at the complete review; indeed, I haven't seen a one of them.
(I really should start looking into more local (i.e. US) fiction, shouldn't I ?)
In Frontline K.Satchidanandan writes at length about the Dilemmas of Indian literary criticism.
I've mentioned the outrageous events around Wendy Doniger's The Hindus, most recently here, and in The New York Times she now has an opinion piece, Banned in Bangalore.
Good to hear that:
If Mr. Batra's intention was to keep people from reading the book, it certainly backfired: In India, not a single copy was destroyed (the publisher had only a few copies in stock, and those in bookstores quickly sold out), and e-books circulate freely. You cannot ban a book in the age of the Internet. Its sales rank on Amazon has been in single-digit heaven.
It's good to hear she is in high spirits, but I worry that she puts entirely too positive a spin on all of this: surely she understands that Mr. Batra's intention was not (primarily) to keep people from reading the book, but rather using that as a vehicle for his own agenda -- which seems to be carrying the day.
And while she finds the: "dormant liberal conscience of India was awakened" by what happened ... well, sure, it's early in the day, but that hasn't really seemed to make much of a difference yet.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julia Deck's Viviane -- in the running for quite a few prizes when it came out in France in 2012, and now coming out in English from The New Press.
There's the prix Goncourt -- the biggest of the French literary prizes -- and then there are a whole lot of secondary Goncourt-prizes -- le Goncourt des Lycéens; le choix de l'Orient; le choix serbe; etc. -- but runner-up in importance is surely the first-novel-Goncourt, the 'Goncourt du premier roman'.
Previous winners include Laurent Binet's HHhH and Françoise Dorner's The Woman in the Row Behind, as well as first novels by authors such as Jean-Christophe Rufin and Shan Sa -- and they've now announced this year's winner, Arden, by Frédéric Verger, which was actually a finalist for last year's big prize, the prix Goncourt itself.
See, for example, Françoise Dargent's report in Le Figaro, Frédéric Verger, Goncourt du premier roman.
In the Brown Daily Herald Emily Passarelli has a Q & A with Foreign Gods, Inc.-author Okey Ndibe.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Vladimir Lorchenkov's novel from Moldova, The Good Life Elsewhere, just out from New Vessel Press (who continue to impress with their selection of titles).
In The Standard they consider the Diaspora influence on Zim literature, including in such works as Brian Chikwava's Harare North.
But what is also uniquely apparent is that the diaspora novel is becoming the dominant genre of contemporary Zimbabwean writing.
Those writers who are giving a global face to Zimbabwean literature are ensconced outside, far from the madding crowds of Harare or Bulawayo, not witness to the buzz, the gossip, the scandals.
Perhaps it doesn't mean anything.
Or perhaps it does -- and while I wouldn't worry too much about who is: "giving a global face to Zimbabwean literature", surely the question of why domestic writing (and publishing, and the literary scene in general) are not the vanguard is worth considering more closely.
The New York Times Book Review has a solid Q & A that Daniel Sandstrom conducted with Philip Roth (The Plot Against America, etc.) for Svenska Dagbladet, My Life as a Writer.
They've announced the shortlist for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award (amazingly managing not to mention the titles of the shortlisted stories in the official announcement ... see them at the main Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award page, or click on the names of the shortlisted authors for brief Q & As and additional information).
They've also bundled the six shortlisted stories into: "a specially produced ebook, SixShorts 2014", though it appears to only be available in the 'Kindle' format (get your copy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).
They've announced the shortlist for the Rossica Translation Prize for translations from the Russian -- and on the same page they also list the longlisted titles, a great resource for those interested in recently translated-from-the Russian literature.
None of the shortlisted titles are under review at the complete review, but quite a few of the longlisted ones are; see the Index of Russian literature under review.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Andrea Camilleri's pre-Inspector Montalbano-series novel from 1992, Hunting Season, finally coming out in English, too.
In The Independent Alice Jones and Nick Clark report that Creative writing courses are a waste of time, says Hanif Kureishi (who teaches one).
So, for example, Kureishi acknowledges:
A lot of my students just can't tell a story.
They can write sentences but they don't know how to make a story go from there all the way through to the end without people dying of boredom in between.
It's a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have.
Can you teach that ?
I don't think you can.
Nice to see him being so forthright -- but I imagine few will be dissuaded.
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Sergei Dovlatov -- the Soviet writer who emigrated to the US in 1979 and died, aged just forty-eight, in 1990 -- has been getting more attention recently, with several of his books recently being published and re-published,
including Pushkin Hills, published last year in the UK and coming soon from Counterpoint in the US (get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk) and a re-issue of The Invisible Book forthcoming from Overlook (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk)
In The Moscow Times Grace Cuddihy now reports that Dovlatov Revival Hits the Streets of New York City.