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The Literary Saloon Archive

11 - 20 July 2020

11 July: Jurij Koch Q & A | Book sales in ... the US
12 July: Elizabeth Harrower (1928-2020) | Margaret Sayers Peden (1927-2020) | MFA China ? | Villa of Delirium review
13 July: Poetry in ... Assam | Nicola Barker Q & A
14 July: French Book Week | Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction | Read Russia Prize longlist | A Death review
15 July: New Vintage Classics series | Cavalcade review
16 July: 'Most Anticipated' for the rest of 2020 (?) | Mexican horror comic books
17 July: Miles Franklin Literary Award | Prix Jean Monnet finalists | New Asymptote
18 July: Bestselling in ... the US | The Lusíads review
19 July: The Guardian cut-backs | The last 100 reviews
20 July: Juan Marsé (1933-2020) | Mary-Kay Wilmers Q & A | Zero Degree review

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20 July 2020 - Monday

Juan Marsé (1933-2020) | Mary-Kay Wilmers Q & A | Zero Degree review

       Juan Marsé (1933-2020)

       Premio Cervantes-winning (in 2008) Spanish author Juan Marsé has passed away, as reported by his literary agency.

       Quite a few of his works have been translated into English -- including two in recent years from MacLehose Press; get your copy of, for example, The Snares of Memory at or

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

       Mary-Kay Wilmers Q & A

       In The Observer Tim Lewis has a Q & A with the co-founder and editor of the London Review of Books, in Mary-Kay Wilmers: 'At Faber, TS Eliot was referred to as the GLP -- Greatest Living Poet'.

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

       Zero Degree review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Tamil author Charu Nivedita's Zero Degree -- originally brought out in English translation by Blaft Publications.

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

19 July 2020 - Sunday

The Guardian cut-backs | The last 100 reviews

       The Guardian cut-backs

       As reported at The Guardian by Jim Waterson, Guardian announces plans to cut 180 jobs, as they expect revenue to be down £25 million this year.
       Seventy of the cut jobs are expected to be editorial positions. Apparently the entire Saturday Review section -- heavy on book reviews ... -- is also to be shuttered; see Benedicte Page's report in The Bookseller, Dismay as Guardian prepares to close Saturday Review.
       While they: "are planning a new and exciting Saturday supplement" there is of course concern that books-coverage will be further diminished, which would be a shame.

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

       The last 100 reviews

       I recently reached 4600 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4501 through 4600).

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over 183 days -- slightly quicker than the previous 100 (188 days) -- and totaled 143,466 words (last 100: 131,184 words), i.e reviews were, on average considerably longer (indeed longer than they've ever been; sorry ?). The longest review was 5490 words, and twelve reviews were over 2000 words long.
       Reviewed books had a total of 26,810 pages, slightly above the previous 25,743, making for a pages-per-day rate of 146.50 (up from the previous 137.54). The longest reviewed book was 1155 pages, and three titles were 900 pages or longer; five were shorter than 100 pages.

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 30 different languages (including English); English led the way by a considerable margin, with 27 titles, followed by French (14), and then Japanese (8), German (6), and Spanish (5). It's been a while since English was that far ahead of any other language. Only one new language was added -- Khmer -- bringing the total number of languages covered to 81. (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Male-written books were, as pretty much always, dominant, with 72 of the reviewed books written by men; still, the 28 titles by women were the most ever in any 100-review block. The historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review is now ... 16.48 per cent.

       - Books were rated in a narrow range, with true stand-outs -- none higher than A- (9), none lower than B (61).

       - Fiction dominated, as it always does, with 81 titles that were novels/novellas/stories. I did finally get to more plays again than usual -- five.

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

18 July 2020 - Saturday

Bestselling in ... the US | The Lusíads review

       Bestselling in ... the US

       At Publishers Weekly John Maher has an overview of the Bestselling Books of 2020 (So Far) -- with actual (NPD BookScan) numbers.
       The top selling adult title is still Delia Owens' Where the Crawdads Sing, with 714,666 copies sold, while John Bolton's book sold over half a million, good enough for third place. (Remember, this is for the first half of the year -- i.e. through 30 June -- and hence doesn't include the latest Trump title, Too Much and Never Enough, which just came out last week but has apparently already outsold all these books).
       In the YA category, one title outsold the Owens -- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins.
       (I haven't reviewed -- or indeed seen -- any of the titles on these lists.)

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

       The Lusíads review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Luís Vaz de Camões' sixteenth century epic, The Lusíads, in Landeg White's translation, published in the Oxford World's Classics series.

       Few works are as clearly their nation's defining epic -- Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz is a rare other example -- and few have had as great an influence on their national literature, down to the present day.

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

17 July 2020 - Friday

Miles Franklin Literary Award | Prix Jean Monnet finalists | New Asymptote

       Miles Franklin Literary Award

       They've announced the winner of this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award, a leading Australian novel-prize, and it is The Yield, by Tara June Winch.
       See also the HarperVia publicity page, or get your copy at or

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

       Prix Jean Monnet finalists

       They've announced the three finalists for this year's Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne, an award for the best European work written or translated into French; see, for example, the Livres Hebdo report.
       One of the finalists is under review at the complete review -- Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me.
       The winner will be announced 21 September (though the award ceremony will only be 21 November).

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

       New Asymptote

       The July issue of Asymptote is now out -- lots of great content that should keep you covered through the weekend.

       Among the material: Sarah Timmer Harvey has: An Interview with Frédéric Beigbeder -- mainly about his recently translated A Life Without End, but it's also interesting to hear:
Controversially, the English translation of your novel 99 Francs was completely anglicized. Even the setting was changed from France to London. What did you think of this choice ?

Allowing it was a huge mistake. That translation is a painful souvenir. I changed my publisher after that happened. I should have refused, but I was young and foolish.
       The English translation was originally published as £9.99 (yes, everything was UK-ized) and, although this translation is indeed an abomination, it made it into a second-format printing -- mass-market paperback-sized -- with a new title, Was £9.99, Now £6.99 (yes, pretty clever) and the corresponding new price, and a just slightly altered cover:


       No excuse for the translation, but, yes, that's a damn good cover (re-)design.
       (The French edition has also undergone title/price/cover changes over various editions -- as also the official French currency has changed, from francs to euros, in the meantime; the currently-available edition looks like this.)

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

16 July 2020 - Thursday

'Most Anticipated' for the rest of 2020 (?) | Mexican horror comic books

       'Most Anticipated' for the rest of 2020 (?)

       Publishing schedules have been quite disrupted this year, but the books fortunately keep coming.
       The Millions now offers its Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview. Fairly extensive, and big-publisher heavy, but certainly quite a few titles of interest.
       The Literary Hub had their shorter Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2020, Part 2 a couple of days ago. Quite a bit of overlap with The Millions' list -- and even more big-publisher dominated -- but probably a few you'll want to have look at too.
       Still, a whole lot more is being published -- including many promising-sounding titles, especially from smaller and independent publishers, so continue to keep an eye out and don't just rely on lists like this .....

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

       Mexican horror comic books

       At Silvia Moreno-Garcia offers A Brief History of Mexican Horror Comic Books -- which is actually quite thorough for a blogpost .....

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

15 July 2020 - Wednesday

New Vintage Classics series | Cavalcade review

       New Vintage Editions series

       In The Bookseller Katherine Cowdrey reports that Vintage Classics launches new series of pocket-sized translations -- called Vintage Editions. There are only a limited number of titles on the official Penguin UK site at this point, but it looks promising.
       I don't know about those French flaps, but the dimensions -- 178mm x 110mm -- are music to my ears. Mass-market paperback size ! (As longtime readers know, this is my preferred book-size, and the size I believe (practically) all fiction paperbacks should be available in.)
       The selection of titles also looks good -- though most of these are already under review at the complete review, so I don't have a great reason to get copies of these .....

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

       Cavalcade review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of the last in Walter Satterthwait's trio of Pinkerton-novels, Cavalcade.

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

14 July 2020 - Tuesday

French Book Week | Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction
Read Russia Prize longlist | A Death review

       French Book Week

       Literally Swiss, the European Literature Network, and Pro Helvetia are holding French Book Week -- quite a bit of interesting material.

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

       Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

       They've announced this year's Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction recipient, and it is Colson Whitehead.
       This is a relatively new honor that's already been through three names: it started out as the 'Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction' (that lasted one year), then became the 'Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction' (four years), before they adopted the current name.
       It is kind of hard to ignore/forget that the second one of these was awarded to ... John Grisham (in 2009).
       It does not appear that any prize-money goes with the honor .....

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

       Read Russia Prize longlist

       They've announced the twenty-title strong longlist for this year's Read Russia Prize, a US$10,000 (split between the translator(s) and the publisher) biennial prize for a work of Russian literature published in English translation (re-translations permitted).
       Seven of the titles are from the Russian Library at Columbia University Press.

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

       A Death review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Zalman Shneour's 1909 novel, A Death: Notes of a Suicide, a translation from the Yiddish recently out from Wakefield Press.

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

13 July 2020 - Monday

Poetry in ... Assam | Nicola Barker Q & A

       Poetry in ... Assam

       In The Wire Apoorvanand reports that In Assam, Much Ado Over a Poet Exercising His Right to Use a Metaphor, as: 'Poet Nilim Kumar's readers are now baying for his blood because he dared to use three sacred icons of Assamese spirit and imagination: Siu-Ka-Pha, Gadapani and Kamalakunwari, in a poem'.

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

       Nicola Barker Q & A

       In The Guardian Alex Preston has a Q & A with Nicola Barker: 'If I have a life philosophy, it's ferocious innocence'.

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

12 July 2020 - Sunday

Elizabeth Harrower (1928-2020) | Margaret Sayers Peden (1927-2020)
MFA China ? | Villa of Delirium review

       Elizabeth Harrower (1928-2020)

       Australian author Elizabeth Harrower has passed away; only a very brief mention in the Sydney Morning Herald (and a paywalled obituary at The Australian) so far, but there should be more coverage, at least in/from Australia, soon -- Harrower was a major writer, whose work was relatively recently revived when, after an almost fifty-year silence, In Certain Circles was published in 2014 (though she did write it much earlier); see also the Text author page.
       (Updated - 13 July): See now Jason Steger in The Age, Acclaimed novelist Elizabeth Harrower dies aged 92.

       (I have The Watch Tower but embarrassingly haven't gotten to it yet; I just ordered a copy of In Certain Circles .....)

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

       Margaret Sayers Peden (1927-2020)

       Translator Margaret Sayers Peden has passed away; see, for example, the family obituary in The Missourian.
       Several of her translations are under review at the complete review, including Ernesto Sábato's The Tunnel, Fernando de Rojas' Celestina, and Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo. And see also her Q & A with James Hoggard at the Center for Translation Studies.

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

       MFA China ?

       An interesting piece by Dylan Levi King at Paper Republic -- Moment of Epiphany: What if Harold Bloom had been born in Shandong ?
       King observes:
The average Sinologist (nobody here at Paper Republic, though) might consider Chinese literature to have come to an end in 1949, but the idea that Western literature ended in 1964 is even more widespread in China.
       Interesting, too, the conclusion that:
I've said before that the best way to understand contemporary Chinese novels is through European 19th century literary realism. The books are too long and too overstuffed with peripheral characters because everyone internalized the lessons of Thomas Hardy and Tolstoy or their descendants. I think it's going to be a while before that's not true.

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

       Villa of Delirium review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Adrien Goetz's Villa of Delirium, recently out from New Vessel Press -- based on the impressive real-life Villa Kérylos.

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

11 July 2020 - Saturday

Jurij Koch Q & A | Book sales in ... the US

       Jurij Koch Q & A

       In Transitions John K. Cox has: 'An interview with Jurij Koch, an eminent writer among the Slavic-speaking community in eastern Germany', in The Sage of Sorbia.
       Surprisingly, none of Koch's work has been translated into English -- though the piece does state that his The Cherry Tree is forthcoming from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota (though there's no information about it available at their site yet).
       Cox also recently reviewed a volume of Koch's memoirs, Windrad auf dem Dach, at World Literature Today.

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

       Book sales in ... the US

       As Jim Milliot reports at Publishers Weekly, Print Units Post Surprising Increase in First Half of 2020.
       Yes, as reported by BookScan: "print unit sales saw a 2.8% increase in the first half of 2020, over the comparable period in 2019" in the US.
       Okay, some segments did not do so well:
Print unit sales of adult nonfiction fell 3.4% in the first half of 2020, as a 42% plunge in travel titles paired with double-digit declines in the business/economics, health/fitness/medicine/sports, computers, and religion subcategories
       Still, good to see some good news in the publishing/bookselling industry.

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

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