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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction / anthology

As you were saying

edited by
Fabrice Rozié, Esther Allen, and Guy Walter

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase As you were saying

Title: As you were saying
Author: various
Genre: Anthology
Written: 2007
Length: 76 pages
Original in: French/English
Availability: As you were saying - US
As you were saying - UK
As you were saying - Canada
  • American Writers Respond to Their French Counterparts
  • Stories by Marie Darrieussecq, Rick Moody, Camille Laurens, Robert Olen Butler, Jacques Roubad, Raymond Federman, Lydie Salvayre, Rikki Ducornet, Grégoire Bouillier, Percival Everett, Philippe Claudel, Aleksandar Hemon, Luc Lang, and John Edgar Wideman.
  • With a Preface by Jean-David Lévitte
  • With an Introduction by Esther Allen

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Our Assessment:

-- : interesting idea and mix

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 30/11/2007 Tayt Harlin

  From the Reviews:
  • "More compelling is the volume's one full-on collaboration, between Camille Laurens and Robert Olen Butler (.....) Few of the contributions are as full-bodied as this; there is a dashed-off, glib quality to many of them. (...) Perhaps the most successful item here, both in its style and in ts use of details and rhythms of middle-class suburban existence, is Philippe Claudel's 'Still Life'. (...) It is an impressive set piece that, like much else here, leaves the reader wanting more." - Tayt Harlin, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       As you were saying pairs texts by French and American writers in a clever cross-cultural experiment in fiction. The idea was, as Esther Allen writes in her introduction:

The French novelists would compose the first part of each text, which would then be translated into English and given to the Americans, who would be free to respond to it in any way at all: continuation, variation, juxtaposition, contradiction, digression, closure -- whatever reaction the original text inspired.
       It's a solid line-up of authors that participated, fourteen novelists who have all achieved some success -- and each of whom has also published works in the language foreign to them (books by the French authors have been published in English translation, books by the American authors in French).
       [It tells you something about the New York-based complete review too that, at the writing of this review (June, 2007), we have works by six of the seven French authors under review (the only one missing is Luc Lang) -- with reviews of four titles each by three of them -- yet we don't have a single work by any of the American authors under review .....]
       The pieces are short -- often very short --, and the approaches taken vary greatly. Only one set of authors -- Camille Laurens and Robert Olen Butler, in "She had waited for this" -- do away with the divide between stories, presenting a single, unified tale. Others offer everything from practically flip-sides to completely different takes.
       It is the Americans that write in response to the French pieces, but some of the French authors lay down a variety of challenges -- including Bouillier calling out his counterpart ("Neither the Pope nor Percival Everett, no, no one will die in your place, if you can really call this living").
       Appearances -- and specifically physical unattractiveness -- are surprisingly prominent, from Darrieussecq's opening face-lift-tale (and Rick Moody's plastic-surgery-filled complement) to Lydie Salvayre's Perrault-adaptation, In praise of ugliness.
       These stories are decent introductions to many of these authors, giving a good sense of their approaches and styles. Some are entirely typical -- Raymond Federman's seems like it could have come from any of his books -- though some only show part of the writer's repertoire (so Federman's counterpart, Roubaud).
       It's an interesting exercise, but without some explanation of what the authors were thinking and were after -- as well as without simply more material -- the volume feels more like an issue (or just a section) from a literary magazine . Though if it is the first in a series, it may eventually add up to something more substantial .....
       Worthwhile as part of a larger conversation - which is what it seems to be trying to be -- but a bit thin when considered alone.

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