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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 November 2016

11 November: Dubravka Ugrešić's Neustadt Prize | ECI Literatuurprijs | Translation in ... India
12 November: Ilse Aichinger (1921-2016) | Leopoldo Alas reviews
13 November: South African Literary Awards | 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei review
14 November: Jean Echenoz profile | Translation from ... Urdu | The Judgement of the Mummy review
15 November: Swiss Book Prize | Lydia Davis Q & A | Strange Tale of Panorama Island review
16 November: Prize for Non-Fiction | Publisher profiles | Goat Days review
17 November: Dylan and the Nobel, the next chapter | Literary prizes: (American) National Book Awards - Irish Book Awards - Etisalat longlist
18 November: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o profile | 'Bad Sex in Fiction' finalists | Royal re-publications
19 November: NYPL Mid-Manhattan branch renovation | The Washington Post's best of the year list(s) | Mannequin review
20 November: A Humument - the final edition | Screwball Television review

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20 November 2016 - Sunday

A Humument - the final edition | Screwball Television review

       A Humument - the final edition

       I've long been a fan of Tom Phillips' 'treated Victorian novel', A Humument -- though I hadn't realized just how different the various editions are; at his site you can compare the pages from the original book and Phillips' first two editions to get an idea of what he's done.
       The one I have is the green-covered first revised, but there have been quite a few since then, and apparently he's now launched the definitive and 'final edition' (the sixth); see also the Thames & Hudson publicity page, or get your copy at or
       I haven't seen this one yet, but it's reviewed in The Scotsman, by Roger Cox, who says:
The effect on the first-time reader (I had only previously seen a couple of pages under glass in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) is dazzling, verging on overwhelming.
       It is definitely one of the more impressive text-experiments of the past half-century, and I look forward to seeing this final iteration.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Screwball Television review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the collection of Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls, edited by David Scott Diffrient with David Lavery, Screwball Television.
       This came out in (and, embarrassingly, I've had my copy since) 2010, but now -- with Netflix four-part addendum to the old TV series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, airing 25 November -- seemed a good time to get to it.
       And two other Gilmore Girls-related titles have already long been under review:        Of course, you could also always turn to some of All 339 Books Referenced In Gilmore Girls (here at BuzzFeed).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

19 November 2016 - Saturday

NYPL Mid-Manhattan branch renovation
The Washington Post's best of the year list(s) | Mannequin review

       NYPL Mid-Manhattan branch renovation

       The much-revised renovation of the New York Public Library's centerpiece, the so-called Stephen A. Schwarzman Building -- the one with the lions out front, and the fancy reading room -- has rightly gotten the most attention in recent years -- but it's only part of a long-ongoing saga (and more far-reaching plans). One that includes some major missteps, such as the one that affected me most, the sale of the once-wonderful 53rd Street Donnell branch opposite the Museum of Modern Art, which used to house the library system's (main) circulating World Languages Collection. (There's a new, sleek, mini-branch in that space, finally, but ... yeah, no.)
       Most of the World Languages Collection was moved to the Mid-Manhattan branch -- the biggest open stacks library in the system -- and that's one of the reasons why I still go out of my way to visit that one a couple of times a month. They ran it down for a couple of years (as part of the plan to sell the space off), but have been putting some effort back in it (albeit cutting back on the number of titles (while increasing the number of duplicate copies of many titles ...)) -- but now they've announced their renovation plans for that branch, with the annoying note that: "Construction is expected to start in late 2017, and work is expected to be completed in early 2020". I.e. it will be inaccessible for that time -- with four libraries meant to serve as temporary sites in the meantime.
       The plan is that: "The Schwarzman Building will inherit the primary functions of MML" -- which I am curious to see. Worryingly, the space isn't ready yet: "Construction on this space, which will not impact service in the rest of the building, will begin in early 2017". Hmmmm, wonder how that transition will go. And whether opening times etc. will also be adjusted (the MML's 8:00 to 23:00 weekday opening times, and 10:00 to 18:00 Saturdays and Sundays are by far the most extensive and accommodating of any branch -- another reason why it's a favorite).
       As to the MML renovation plans: I'm not so sure about that open space -- I'd prefer more shelf space (well, and more books on the shelves). But I have to admit, the rooftop terrace is a nice touch, and I look forward to that.
       Of course what most matters is the size of the collection -- cut way back in recent years, title (and volume) wise.
       And that wait until 2020 (if on schedule ...) sounds dreadfully long; much as I appreciate my local branches, I'm going to miss that bigger space and collection.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Washington Post's best of the year list(s)

       Best of the year lists are coming fast and furious now: see, for example, The Washington Post's Best Books of 2016, a top ten (yeah, none under review at the complete review) plus editors' picks of notable fiction and non, and in a variety of categories (mystery, poetry, comics, etc.).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Mannequin review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ch'oe Yun's Mannequin, one of the titles in the latest batch from Dalkey Archive Press' Library of Korean Literature.

       Her There a Petal Silently Falls came out in English a few years ago and got some attention (see the Columbia University Press publicity page, or get your copy at or, and hopefully this will bring her more. Along with Bae Suah (e.g. Nowhere to Be Found), Han Kang (e.g. The Vegetarian), and Shin Kyung-sook (e.g. Please Look After Mom), an impressive group of women writers from South Korea are finally getting some deserved international recognition, and this novel is yet another that is certainly worth your while.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

18 November 2016 - Friday

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o profile | 'Bad Sex in Fiction' finalists | Royal re-publications

       Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o profile

       In the Financial Times Neil Munshi profiles author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
       Among the things discussed: the Nobel Prize (it: "would be validating but not essential"), and his memoirs, the third volume of which, Birth of a Dream Weaver, recently came out.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       'Bad Sex in Fiction' finalists

       They've apparently announced the six finalists for the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award; see, for example, Alison Flood's report, Blue Peter star beats top authors to Bad sex award nomination, in The Guardian -- and, helpfully, quotes from the shortlisted works.
       One of the finalists is even under review at the complete review: Erri De Luca's The Day Before Happiness.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Royal re-publications

       Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej recently passed away, but as part of the posthumous tributes to him the Thai Culture Ministry: "plans to republish 17 books written or translated" by him, as reported by Dumrongkiat Mala in the Bangkok Post, in King's literary work to get new airing.
       Interesting to learn that he translated William Stevenson's A Man Called Intrepid (get your copy of the English original at or
       Of course, given Thailand's ridiculous lèse-majesté laws (and their ridiculous enforcement), these books are presumably un-reviewable, since any criticism implies criticism of you know who (and apparently even though he is dead, that remains a no-no).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

17 November 2016 - Thursday

Dylan and the Nobel, the next chapter
Literary prizes: (American) National Book Awards - Irish Book Awards
Etisalat longlist

       Dylan and the Nobel, the next chapter

       The surreal saga continues.
       As you all know, the Swedish Academy decided to award out of the box this year and, absurdly, named Bob Dylan this year's Nobel laureate in literature. At first Dylan just ignored them; then -- after two weeks ! -- they got the long-awaited call -- The Call from Bob Dylan ! -- and everyone got all excited again, because he said he did want to show up to pick up the prize at the ceremonies in December, "If it's at all possible"
       Well, guess what ? Apparently it's just not possible, a prior or other engagement -- dinner date ? pedicure ? a time-share in Cabo he booked for those weeks ? -- getting in the way. Yes, the Swedish Academy has announced that Bob Dylan has decided not to come to Stockholm.
       No word as to whether or not the letter included bank information instructing them where they should wire those 8 million Swedish kronor they promised him. But, hey, at least the Swedish Academy fan-boys and -girls now have a 'personal letter' from Dylan to frame and hang on the Academy walls .....
       The Swedish Academy is trying to pretend it's no big deal, noting that: "In the recent past, several laureates have, for various reasons, been unable to come to Stockholm to receive the prize" -- though not noting that they didn't show up because they were too old, sickly, or agoraphobic to travel, and not noting that they still played along, with their acceptance speeches played via video, or read out by those they sent to pick up the prize in their stead. I suspect, however, that much cursing has resounded in the hallowed Academy halls in recent days -- and I'm sure the I-told-you-sos are being chanted ever more gleefully and loudly. (As I've mentioned before, I think the most interesting thing about this fiasco is where does the prize go from here. I can't imagine the Dylan-championers have any credit left in the Academy, while the catastrophe that this 'cool' choice is proving to be surely emboldens those with very different -- hey, possibly even literary -- sensibilities. Can't wait 'til next year !)
       The Swedish Academy press release does also say:
We look forward to Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture, which he must give -- it is the only requirement -- within six months counting from December 10, 2016.
       It's unclear what possible punishment there could be for his not giving a 'lecture' (presumably onsite), but somehow I don't think this threat will much impress him. And will they really take away the prize if he doesn't give a 'lecture' ? (Withhold the money, sure -- but what's a million dollars to Dylan ? It's not like he's someone trying to live off his writing, who actually could use the money.)
       "More information will follow on Friday, November 18", the Swedish Academy promises. I can't wait -- and I'm almost beginning to feel sorry for them as they anticipate the next humiliation Dylan throws their way .....

       (Updated - 18 November): In a Svenska Dagbladet report there is some speculation about who might pick up the Nobel on Dylan's behalf; Per Wästberg suggested singer Lionel Ritchie, who apparently helped the Academy get in touch with Dylan -- but he declined.
       They also report that Dylan might (emphasis on 'might', no doubt ...) show up in Stockholm in April, and today's sad Swedish Academy press release seems to be hoping for that too:
There is a chance that Bob Dylan will be performing in Stockholm next year, possibly in the spring, in which case he will have a perfect opportunity to deliver his lecture.
       Meanwhile, they also confirm there will be no substitute lecture or event (had they been thinking sing-along ? sit-in ?) in lieu of Dylan's.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literary prizes: (American) National Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's (American) National Book Awards -- and it really doesn't come as a great surprise that The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, took the fiction prize.
       As always, I'm way behind on my US-fiction-coverage, so the Whitehead isn't under review at the complete review yet, but see the Doubleday publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literary prizes: Irish Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's 'Bord Gáis Energy' Irish Book Awards.
       Given all the categories (and sponsors), I have no idea which of these are the 'big' prizes, etc. -- the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year ? -- but ... well, you can try to figure it out for yourself.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Literary prize: Etisalat longlist

       They've announced the nine titles that have made the Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016 longlist -- this prize being for African 'first-time authors whose books were published in the past 24 months'.
       Good to see that African publishers dominate -- though it is telling that the African publishers are all located either in South Africa or Nigeria .....
       The shortlist will be announced next month, and the winner next March.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

16 November 2016 - Wednesday

Prize for Non-Fiction | Publisher profiles | Goat Days review

       Prize for Non-Fiction

       What used to be, until this year, the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction but is apparently now supposed to be called the 'Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction' has announced that the £30,000 prize goes to Lawless World-author Philippe Sands' East West Street; get your copy at or
       Hisham Matar's The Return was also in the running for this, and:
On accepting the Baillie Gifford Prize 2016, Philippe Sands told the assembled audience that he and fellow shortlistee Hisham Matar had decided in advance that if either were to win, they would share the prize and donate it to an appropriate refugee charity (barring a decent bottle of cognac and some good pickles).
       In an odd twist, both of these books were also shortlisted for the Biographers' Club Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2016 -- and they announced yesterday that here the Matar had pipped the Sands. No word yet whether the £3,500 prize money for this one gets thrown in the pot as well.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Publisher profiles

       In The Bookseller Natasha Onwuemezi has a Q & A with Carcanet-founder Michael Schmidt, while in The Guardian Alison Flood profiles founders Juliet Mabey and Novin Doostdar of Oneworld.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Goat Days review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Benyamin's Goat Days -- surely the most-discussed Malayalam novel of the past decade.
       While an English translation has been available for a few years, from Penguin India, the just-out Seagull Books edition finally really brings it to the US market (among others).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

15 November 2016 - Tuesday

Swiss Book Prize | Lydia Davis Q & A
Strange Tale of Panorama Island review

       Swiss Book Prize

       After the German and the Austrian book prizes, the Swiss now get around to handing out their (German-language) one, and they've announced that Imperium-author Christian Kracht has won the Schweizer Buchpreis for his cinematic novel, Die Toten; see also the Kiepenheuer & Witsch publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Lydia Davis Q & A

       The TLS' still relatively new weekly online feature of 'Twenty questions with ...' is a bit of an odd mix of question, especially the lightning round of 'Quick questions', but at least they have (so far) found more interesting respondents than the hit-and-miss selection at The New York Times Book Review's By the Book-column -- and this week it's Lydia Davis answering the questions.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Strange Tale of Panorama Island review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Edogawa Ranpo's Strange Tale of Panorama Island.

       This came out in 2013, and didn't get nearly the attention it deserved -- despite (or because ?) Maruo Suehiro's 'manga' version also came out in English later that year, from Last Gasp.
       But I do wish English-language publishers could settle on how to transliterate his name: here it's 'Ranpo', elsewhere 'Rampo'. Pick one, stick to it: let's get some uniformity here.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

14 November 2016 - Monday

Jean Echenoz profile | Translation from ... Urdu
The Judgement of the Mummy review

       Jean Echenoz profile

       In the Times of India they have an IANS profile of Jean Echenoz, I breathe better and freer in India.
       He's apparently spent a lot of time there -- but, disappointingly:
The writer feels connected with the land but denies much familiarity with Indian literature, saying: "I can't really say that I know Indian literature well. I know very little about it. I read more classics. I don't read any contemporary literature."
       Indeed, he proves that even great authors can be (literarily) closed-minded:
He said he's not familiar with foreign literature or languages. "I really don't have the time to dabble in it though I am very much interested in whatever is going around in the contemporary world," he said.
       Much as I admire his work -- and I admire it greatly: Piano ! 1914 ! etc. ! -- ... sheesh.
       Dabble, folks ! Dabble !

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Translation from ... Urdu

       In Dawn H.M. Naqvi considers The art and craft of translation -- and specifically the Urdu-to-English situation, wondering: "Where is our Gregory Rabassa ?" and noting that: "The old guard [...] has dwindled; the next generation seems mostly incapable".
       He also mentions that several major Urdu works were translated by their authors, including "the greatest of Urdu novelists", Qurratulain Hyder's River of Fire -- and wondering: "whether Hyder should have left the translation to somebody else" .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Judgement of the Mummy review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Christian Jacq's The Judgement of the Mummy.

       When I came across this I was surprised to find that there wasn't a US edition, given his popularity; when I finished it ... not so much. Who'd have thought ? (certainly not me ...) US publishers can, on occasion, be reasonably discerning.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

13 November 2016 - Sunday

South African Literary Awards | 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei review

       South African Literary Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's South African Literary Awards.
       There are both book- and author-categories -- the perhaps most noteworthy being the unusual 'Posthumous Literary Award', won this year by TT Cloete and Chris van Wyk. (Among the oddities of this odd category: the rules have it that there are: "No age restrictions" -- something I wouldn't really have thought was an issue.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the new, expanded edition -- "(with more ways)" ! -- of Eliot Weinberger's small translation-classic, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

12 November 2016 - Saturday

Ilse Aichinger (1921-2016) | Leopoldo Alas reviews

       Ilse Aichinger (1921-2016)

       Leading Austrian author Ilse Aichinger has passed away; see, for example, the DeutscheWelle report
       Her classic The Greater Hope was released in a new translation (the previous one, Herod's Children, appeared back in 1963 and has long been out of print; Time called it "thoroughly unbearable") very recently (earlier this year) -- albeit (only) by German (!) publisher Königshausen & Neumann; see their publicity page, or (try to) get your copy at or (Tip to US/UK/Australian/etc. publishers: license this.)
       But her other work, including her poetry, is also well worth seeking out.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Leopoldo Alas reviews

       New York Review Books recently released His Only Son, a two-in-one volume of Margaret Jull Costa's new translations of the nineteenth century title novel and a novella by Leopoldo Alas -- writing as: 'Clarín' --, and these are the most recent additions to the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

11 November 2016 - Friday

Dubravka Ugrešić's Neustadt Prize | ECI Literatuurprijs | Translation in ... India

       Dubravka Ugrešić's Neustadt Prize

       The wonderful Dubravka Ugrešić got to pick up her Neustadt International Prize for Literature last week, and at the Literary Hub they have her acceptance speech, "Who am I, Where am I, and Whose am I ?"
       Also at the Literary Hub, Chad Post reports on the proceedings, in The American Nobel: at Norman, Oklahama's Neustadt Prize Festival (but: god how I wish they'd stop comparing it to that Scandinavian prize, which does no one any favors).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       ECI Literatuurprijs

       Formerly the AKO, now the ECI Literatuurprijs, it's the big Dutch literary prize -- and they've announced that the first winner (in this name/incarnation) is Rivieren, by Martin Michael Driessen -- apparently a popular choice, since it also took the readers' prize.
       See also the Dutch Foundation for Literature information page, or G.A. van Oorschot publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Translation in ... India

       At The Critical Flame Mini Krishnan and Bhanumati Mishra have a conversation 'on Publishing Indian Translation', covering a lot of the relevant issues.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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