Archive for December, 2011

Sunetra Gupta at the World Prose Portfolio

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

A lovely feature on Sunetra Gupta, including a new work of fiction, “Fernando,” is up at the World Prose Portfolio—I’ll offer a taste:

To find herself in a space like this, who would have thought it? Walls newly plastered and the wind sweeping through, when a rare wind there was, and otherwise the stillness, the sullen heat of the afternoon, and the tap-tapping of the builders, two floors below, putting in the kitchen – ripping out what had been installed there in the 1970′s and replacing it with gleaming steel and marble that harmonised strangely with the yellow arches – in a way that she would never have been able herself to conceive of, and yet was so easy for her daughter to see.

Her daughter’s house this, a narrow mountain village house recently purchased in this remote corner of Italy, where she had agreed – nay begged – to be installed to oversee the building work that had to be done to make it habitable.

Are you sure you want to do this? Anamika had asked her.

Well, why not?

You do not have to do this, her daughter had said.

But it is what I want, she had assured her.

Anything but to have to return to the flat in Calcutta where there was nothing more to do now but to tell the servants what to cook for lunch and dinner, and then to sit and read, perhaps make a few telephone calls, and receive those that came, and then the stillness of the afternoon with nothing else to do but read again, and finally the world coming life again and a semblance of duties emerging from such necessary events as the re-opening of shutters, children’s voices in the communal garden, footsteps outside of people once again starting to come and go, nothing to do with her at all, but dragging her in nonetheless into a sort of ceremony of living, nothing more than that. And how was it different when he was alive? Her husband, the renowned brain surgeon, with whom she had so little in common, and yet whose habits had girdled and protected her to an extent that she had never supposed until his sudden death had pressed it upon her that she had nothing to do, no-one to be, otherwise.

Read the rest here.

Kevin Brockmeier hails Alex Epstein

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Over at The Millions Year in Reading 2011 series, Kevin Brockmeier relates his discovery of Alex Epstein:

Several writers I have long admired impressed me anew with their latest books — among them Kate BernheimerPeter S. Beagle, Goncalo Tavares, Cesar Aira, and Karen Russell — but let me concentrate on two authors whose names I had never heard before this year:

covercoverFirst is the Israeli writer Alex Epstein, two of whose collections were recently translated into English by the poet Becka Mara McKay and published by Clockroot Press: Blue Has No South and Lunar Savings Time. If you took the short forms and odd structural techniques of Lydia Davis and wedded them to the fantastic impulses of Ray Bradbury, you would get something like these books, which together contain some two hundred strange, pliant, elliptical, yet surprisingly tender treatments of angels, rain, lullabies, minotaurs, moons, zen masters, literature, and time travel. A glimpse at the titles should be enough to tell you whether they are the kind of stories you would enjoy: “On the Mourning Customs of Elephants,” “The Number of Steps on the Moon,” “An Instruction Manual for a Rented Time Machine,” “The Angel Who Photographed God.”

Read the rest here!

Adania Shibli at “The Collagist”

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

The newest issue of the great online magazine The Collagist features an excerpt from Adania Shibli’s soon-to-be-released We Are All Equally Far from Love:

Yesterday, while it was still fine and hadn’t yet started to rain, I went with the neighbors’ children to a local park to play. The four of us ran around, hiding here and there, and there were lots of butterflies that looked as if they were playing with us. Afterwards we sat on a large rock, and it was then that I discovered I was seeing everything in order to write about it to him. More than that, I discovered that I had forgotten how to live without his letters. It made me afraid of finding myself one day without them.

A few hours later, when I arrived home, I found a short letter from him.

Read the rest here.

“Karapanou was a major force whose books demand to be read”

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Warm thanks to Scott Esposito for his review of The Sleepwalker in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. In full below, and link here:

This novel, or anti-novel, or collection of linked tours de force, opens with a bored and adolescent God vomiting a new savior onto an unnamed Greek island. Although in due time we discover that this new Christ is a bizarrely murderous, androgynous, sexually rabid police officer, this is only after Margarita Karapanou has abandoned her strange opening to introduce us to an assortment of blocked artists, homosexuals, and numerous other island dwellers. These characters resemble protagonists, but are more like fellow observers, albeit ones caught up in an increasingly lurid pageant that draws in everyone with the fascination of catastrophe. Karapanou’s book feels like a naïve form of modernism, each of the text’s short, storylike chapters a work of bricolage built from the diverse materials circulating in her cluttered mind. Like the best art, her plots unfold without self-consciousness or apparent purpose, yet they resist simple interpretations and have an impressive structural solidity. Her extremely muscular, tight prose makes a fine medium for the book’s relentlessly surreal, breathtakingly complex happenings, reminiscent of a Latin-inflected Pynchon. Though the book thus described may sound like a mess, The Sleepwalker in fact exudes a sense of strong thematic unity in its slow, relentless progress toward apocalypse—which, when it does arrive, is just as rich, satisfying, and inevitable as everything that has led up to it. If The Sleepwalker is any indication, Karapanou was a major voice whose books demand to be read.

And thank you as well to the RCF!

Dr. Pi is “a fantastic translation and a rollicking good read”

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I’m overdue to put up some fantastic recent reviews, including this one of Edgar Bayley’s The Life and Memoirs of Dr. Pi & Other Stories (translated by Emily Toder), which was reviewed by Dustin Michael in the most recent issue of Big Muddy. It’s only in print, but here’s an excerpt:

The Life and Memoirs of Dr. Pi and Other Stories is a fantastic translation and a rollicking good read… Bayley is a master of word economy and concision, and it is breathtaking to watch him establish scene and advance plot in so little space. … Like the best cowboys from American westerns, Pi is taciturn but not smug, a confident and unhesitating man of action… Even Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s down-on-his-luck detective, whom Bayley pulls unceremoniously from some dusty noir pantry shelf and re-bakes into Pi in equal parts homage and spoof, seems hesitant and verbose by comparison. …

To follow the adventures of Dr. Pi is to imagine a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/Jules Verne hero facing Raymond Chandler goons for quick bouts in an arena designed by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Bayley’s wit is a gleaming razor; his masterful command of language betrays his career as poet and a playwright. Even as the stories parody various literary genres (noir, magical realism, classic mystery), they follow Max Beerbohm’s advice regarding caricature—that all elements “be melted down, as in a crucible, from the solution, be fashioned anew.”

And as a bonus, here are some amazing Bayley poems, just translated by Emily Toder, from the latest issue of Gulf Coast.