Literary Saloon

the literary
weblog at the
complete review

the weblog

about the saloon

support the site





to e-mail us:

literary weblogs:

  Books, Inq.
  Critical Mass
  Guardian Books
  The Millions
  NewPages Weblog
  Three Percent

  Rép. des livres

  Arts & Letters Daily
  The Millions
  The Rumpus
  Two Words

  See also: links page

the Literary Saloon at the Complete Review
opinionated commentary on literary matters - from the complete review

The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 January 2023

1 January: Coming in 2023 | International Booker Prize submissions | Kanishka Gupta profile | 2023
2 January: Q & As: Jon Fosse - John E. Woods | Edith Pearlman (1936-2023) | ChatGPT book reviewing
3 January: 1972 Nobel Prize archives | 2023 translations from ... Arabic | The Shards review
4 January: 2022 translations from ... Russian | Year in reviews | Most Popular Reviews - 2022
5 January: Fay Weldon (1931-2023) | Brigitte Reimann | How to Turn Into a Bird review
6 January: Lídia Jorge Q & A | Forbidden Notebook review
7 January: King Faisal Prizes | The German book market, 2022
8 January: ChatGPT | Geetanjali Shree lecture | Review copies in 2022
9 January: Bestselling in the US in 2022 | Russell Banks (1940-2023) | Abdulrazak Gurnah Q & A | The Motion Picture Teller review
10 January: Most anticipated in 2023 | Charles Simic (1938-2023) | Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards finalists

go to weblog

return to main archive

10 January 2023 - Tuesday

Most anticipated in 2023 | Charles Simic (1938-2023)
Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards finalists

Most anticipated in 2023        

       The Millions has now posted their Most Anticipated: The Great 2023A Book Preview (i.e. for the first half of the year) -- only 85 titles this (half-) year (they're trying to be "more selective").
       It's ... a selection. And there are certainly some titles of interest -- but a whole lot more is coming out.

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

       Charles Simic (1938-2023)

       Poet Charles Simic has passed away; see, for example, the obituaries in The New York Times and AP.
       None of his work is under review at the complete review. I always enjoyed his pieces at The New York Review of Books.

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

       Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards finalists

       They've announced the finalists for this year's Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Awards, "Iran's most lucrative literary prize"; see also the Tehran Times report.
       Four titles are finalists in the novel category; not sure that any of these will make it into foreign markets.

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

9 January 2023 - Monday

Bestselling in the US in 2022 | Russell Banks (1940-2023)
Abdulrazak Gurnah Q & A | The Motion Picture Teller review

       Bestselling in the US in 2022

       At Publishers Weekly Jim Milliot looks at what the bestselling books in the US in 2022 were, finding Colleen Hoover Was Queen of 2022's Bestseller List.
       Helpfully, the top twenty-five sellers are listed with the number of copies sold (as counted by NPD BookScan). The top-selling title, Hoover's It Ends with Us, shifted 2,729,007 copieds; books by her also took the next two places, and she had six of the top ten titles. (Meanwhile, I have never seen one of her books ....)
       I'm afraid I haven't reviewed any of the top twenty-five (and don't expect I ever will).

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

       Russell Banks (1940-2023)

       American author Russell Banks has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The New York Times and AP.
       Two of his novels were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize -- Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter.
       I have not read any of his work.

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

       Abdulrazak Gurnah Q & A

       At Sayari Debnath has a Q & A with the Nobel laureate, in ‘The win makes time more precious’: Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature.

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

       The Motion Picture Teller review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Colin Cotterill's new novel, The Motion Picture Teller.

       Cotterill is best-known for his long-running Laos-based Dr.Siri Paiboun-series, but this is a stand-alone (set in Thailand).

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

8 January 2023 - Sunday

ChatGPT | Geetanjali Shree lecture | Review copies in 2022


       ChatGPT is all the rage, as with it the potential for real-world applications of AI suddenly hits much closer to home for many people, especially those whose livelihoods depend, in some way, on reading and writing.
       At Marginal Revolution Tyler Cowen has some interesting thoughts on GPT and my own career trajectory -- beginning with: "For any given output, I suspect fewer people will read my work".
       I am, of course, curious as to how ChatGPT will affect the complete review -- and here too that seems one of the likely consequences.
       While my own reviews/opinions tend to attract the most attention -- that's what readers tend to mention/focus on -- I have always thought of the site as more of an information- than opinion-resource, an aggregator: the idea has always been to provide as much information about any title under review, hence also the focus on linkage, and the quotes from other reviews. Broadly, I believe the site is also mainly used for that -- explaining also why, for example, when (probably over a decade ago already) Google-results-pages became much more 'informational' -- with sidebars giving basic book information (length, dates, Goodreads user ratings, etc. etc.) -- and readers no longer had to click through to any search-result page to get at least the most basic information about a book, traffic to the site declined significantly. (Other search engines have followed suit to varying degrees, but it doesn't matter; they remain, as always, inconsequential: Google is still the only search engine that brings in any kind of traffic.)
       The complete review provides book reviews, in the broadest sense of the concept, -- rather than literary criticism, even if occasionally my reviews can veer into that territory --, trying to provide the information (and as much of it as possible) that could be useful to prospective readers, to help them decide whether or not a particular book might be of interest. I think the format, and the information (and links) provided, do that quite well. Of course, many more people are satisfied simply with the information on the top Google search page -- or the information they find at Amazon or Goodreads. Still, I think I have found a decent niche, at least for the few titles that I manage to get to, and that if you are interested in more information about a given book you'll find, in most cases, *better* information on any given title than you would at most other resources (including, save for the most prominent titles, Wikipedia), and I think that the site continues to get decent traffic for that reason. (After a long decline, traffic has surged upwards again -- over 60 per cent, year on year, in 2022.)
       A few days ago I noted about an article, We asked ChatGPT to review some books. Human reviewers are not becoming redundant anytime soon, that I wasn't nearly as sanguine as they were: surely, these ChatGPT reviews are no less helpful than if you scan reviews at Goodreads (and probably more so than what you find at Amazon). Since, as noted, the complete review provides more than just reviews, that doesn't worry me so much; in this regard ChatGPT would be little more than yet another review-source. But now Five Books has done the interesting experiment of asking ChatGPT: "to recommend books to us on the topic of AI". The resulting conversation on The best books on Artificial Intelligence is no less informative or useful than most of the cases where they ask a human expert ...... And so here is where it already gets interesting, as ChatGPT is (already) obviously much more useful than any other kind of book-recommendation-algorithm (most of which, beginning and ending with Amazon's are, let's face it, really not very good). The potential here would seem great indeed -- and while individual opinion-pieces on (i.e. reviews of) books will continue to be of interest to some readers, I suspect they'll become even more obviously secondary resources.
       The great advantage of ChatGPT is its conversational format. Google recognized the appeal of this a while ago, prominently adding a 'People also ask' box among the top search results, but that too is fairly static. ChatGPT really is user-driven, the interaction as if with another (knowledgeable) person. (The complete review, meanwhile, is basically simply encyclopedic -- a listing, where users have to hunt down (or are pointed to, by search results) information.)
       For now, it's easy to make fun of some of the ChatGPT responses, and I've struggled to figure out how to make the best use of it (I'm not much of a conversationalist, for one; it's not how I acquire or look for information), but it's hard not to see this as becoming a very widely relied-on tool. One can understand why Google is concerned about its search business and why Microsoft's also-ran Bing is partnering up with ChatGPT; the technology will certainly mark a new approach to search, which many people will find useful. (That said, dear god do we need a true search engine, of the good old basic kind; Google is a good current-information (breaking news, sports scores, etc.) provider and still excels with very precise searches (say, where a lengthy quote comes from) but has become terrible for, for example, searches for information about books and authors.)
       For now, ChatGPT is perhaps most interesting as an easy way for students to (not) do their homework assignments -- it's surely only a matter of time before the first ChatGPT-generated PhD dissertation is submitted (if it hasn't been already ...) -- but this is also going to go way, way beyond that. And for all the hype, I think it is still being way underestimated.

       (Updated - 9 January): As noted, everybody seens to be talking about (and with) ChatGPT -- see, for example, now also John Naughton in The Observer, making the case that The ChatGPT bot is causing panic now -- but it'll soon be as mundane a tool as Excel, and Paul Taylor On ChatGPT in the London Review of Books.

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

       Geetanjali Shree lecture

       At they have an edited version of Tomb of Sand-author Geetanjali Shree's recent M.R.Narayana Kurup Memorial Annual Lecture, ‘Clarity is not the protocol of literature’: Geetanjali Shree on the writer’s responsibilities.
       You can also watch her deliver the lecture on YouTube.

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

       Review copies in 2022

       In 2022 I received -- just like in 2021 -- 331 (print) review copies. (I no longer count e-review copies since I almost never (find myself able to) review from that format and usually can't even bring myself to open one after I've downloaded it; only three review at the complete review were based on e-copies in 2022.)

       By 31 December I had reviewed 88 of the 331 review copies -- 26.59 per cent, which is less than last year (31.72%) but near the historic average. (I have since reviewed three more titles received in 2022.)

       The top three publishers providing review copies were the same as the top three in 2021 -- although the top two again switched spots.
       The top fifteen providers of review copies in 2021 were:
  • 1. New York Review Books 30 (2021: 20)
  • 2. Other Press 23 (32)
  • 3. Dedalus 19 (17)
  • 4. Dalkey Archive Press 12 (5)
  • -. Harvard University Press 12 (13)
  • 6. Archipelago Books 11 (14)
  • -. Deep Vellum 11 (9)
  • 8. Columbia University Press 10 (15)
  • -. Soho Press 10 (14)
  • 10. Europa Editions 9 (15)
  • -. Yale University Press 9 (9)
  • 12. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 8 (9)
  • -. Sublunary Editions 8 (13)
  • 14. Princeton University Press 7 (0)
  • -. Oxford University Press 7 (5)
       Great to see more books again from Dalkey Archive Press -- who, for many, many years had, of course, been the provider of by far the most review copies.
       See also the index of all Books Received and Acquired in 2022.

       I am, of course, grateful for all the review copies I receive, and appreciate that publishers provide me with so many.

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

7 January 2023 - Saturday

King Faisal Prizes | The German book market, 2022

       King Faisal Prizes

       They've announced the winners of this year's well-endowed King Faisal Prizes, with Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language-author Abdelfattah Kilito winning the Arabic Language and Literature category.
       See also Rashid Hassan's report in Arab News on all the winners, King Faisal Prize 2023 awarded to international list of recipients.

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

       The German book market, 2022

       The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels reports on the German Book market results 2022: Consumer spending reluctance is also evident in the book market, with the number of books sold down three per cent and turnover "across the central sales channels" down 2.1 per cent.
       On the positive side: fiction -- which is, after all, the most important thing -- was one of only two categories (along with travel) that actually saw increased sales -- up 4.3 per cent.

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

6 January 2023 - Friday

Lídia Jorge Q & A | Forbidden Notebook review

       Lídia Jorge Q & A

       At Words without Borders Margara Russotto and Patrícia Martinho Ferreira have a Q & A with the author, Literature, a Triumphant Art: A Conversation with Lídia Jorge

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

       Forbidden Notebook review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Alba de Céspedes' 1952 novel, Forbidden Notebook, just (about) out in a new translation, by Elena Ferrante-translator Ann Goldstein.

       This is one of these books (and authors) that have gotten "re-discovered" (in a concerted, global action): a new Italian edition is out, new translations have come out in a number of languages -- and it's interesting to see that among all these it has also recently been published in Persian, in Iran; see the Elmi-Farhangi publicity page and the Tehran Times report (I note also that the Persian edition came out almost a year before the US and UK ones will .....)
       It's always interesting -- and often surprising -- what (still) gets published in Iran -- and this book, in particular, resonates strongly with the events that have unfolded there since it came out; I can imagine that very many readers there can closely relate to the narrator.

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

5 January 2023 - Thursday

Fay Weldon (1931-2023) | Brigitte Reimann
How to Turn Into a Bird review

       Fay Weldon (1931-2023)

       Fay Weldon has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian and The New York Times.

       Only three of her titles are under review at the complete review -- Auto da Fay, Big Girls don't Cry (also published as Big Women), and Mantrapped -- but I binged on her work before I started the site, in the 1990s and very much enjoyed it.

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

       Brigitte Reimann

       Two volumes of East German author Brigitte Reimann's diaries have been published in English translation in recent years -- I Have No Regrets and It All Tastes of Farewell -- but none of her fiction has been translated so far -- until now, with Siblings due out next month, from Transit Books in the US and Penguin Classics in the UK; pre-order your copy from, or
       In The Guardian Kate Connolly profiles her, in East German feminist author gets English debut, 50 years after death -- where Penguin Classics commissioning editor Ka Bradley calls her: "an exciting but strangely overlooked writer". Strangely indeed ! Amazing, also, that her magnum opus Franziska Linkerhand, has not yet been translated into English -- but at least Bradley says: "it should be next".
       Reimann, Christa Wolf (City of Angels, etc.) and Irmtraud Morgner (The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by her Minstrel Laura) are the towering trio of East German women writers -- and all still well worth reading

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

       How to Turn Into a Bird review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of María José Ferrada's How to Turn Into a Bird, recently out from Tin House.

       Her previous novel came out in English as How to Order the Universe, and I wonder whether they can keep this 'How to'-sequence going. (The titles bear no resemblance to the originals -- How to Order the Universe was Kramp, and How to Turn Into a Bird was El hombre del cartel.)

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

4 January 2023 - Wednesday

2022 translations from ... Russian | Year in reviews
Most Popular Reviews - 2022

       2022 translations from ... Russian

       At her Lizok's Bookshelf Lisa Hayden has her annual rundown of translations into English from Russian for the past year -- 48 in 2022, up from 39 in 2021.
       I have several more of these, but surprisingly only two are under review at the complete review so far: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky's Countries That Don't Exist and Eugene Vodolazkin's Brisbane.

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

       Year in reviews

       I'll have an overview of 2022 at the complete review up shortly, but meanwhile see some year-in-reviews from other sites and readers, such as:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Most Popular Reviews - 2022

       The most-viewed reviews at the complete review in 2022 were:
  1. Noli Me Tangere, José Rizal
  2. El Filibusterismo, José Rizal
  3. Three Days and a Life, Pierre Lemaitre
  4. The Dilemma of a Ghost, Ama Ata Aidoo
  5. Silverview, John le Carré
  6. Never, Ken Follett
  7. The Legends of Khasak, O.V.Vijayan
  8. Basti, Intizar Husain
  9. Krishnakanta's Will, Bankim-Chandra Chatterjee
  10. The Sentence, Louise Erdrich
  11. Grey Bees*, Andrey Kurkov
  12. Bullet Train*, Isaka Kotaro
  13. Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  14. The Anomaly, Hervé Le Tellier
  15. Killing Time in a Warm Place, Jose Dalisay
       Reviews with an asterisk (*) are ones that were first posted in 2022. Six new reviews made the top 50 (down from eight in 2021) -- with 2021 reviews also continuing to have a strong showing in 2022.
       In 2021 there were 23 reviews that hadn't been in the previous top 50; in 2022 there were 21 -- still quite high turnover.
       See also all the top 50 reviews of 2022.

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

3 January 2023 - Tuesday

1972 Nobel Prize archives
2023 translations from ... Arabic | The Shards review

       1972 Nobel Prize archives

       The Nobel Prize in Literature archives are opened up fifty years after the fact, and so the 1972 archive has now been opened.
       Heinrich Böll took the prize that year.
       In Svenska Dagbladet Kaj Schueler has his annual first-peek into the archive but, alas, the piece is paywalled.

       At least the Swedish Academy has released the list of nominations (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) -- always interesting to see who was actually being considered.
       Future laureates --all more than a quarter of a century later ! -- Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, and V.S.Naipaul make their first appearance among the nominated authors, as did Joseph Heller (!), Astrid Lindgren, Norman Mailer, and longtime failed Nobel hopeful Philip Roth.
       Good also to see that Arno Schmidt was nominated again.
       Overall, it's a pretty good list -- a bad year for Japanese nominees (there don't seem to be any), but pretty decent coverage of much of the rest of the world, including Arabic-writing Said Akl, Tawfiq al-Hakim, and Taha Hussein (but no Mahfouz yet).

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

       2023 translations from ... Arabic

       At ArabLit they have a useful overview of what's Forthcoming 2023: Arabic Literature in English Translation.
       I hope to get to see some of these.

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

       The Shards review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Bret Easton Ellis' first novel in over a decade, The Shards, due out shortly.

       Contemporary American fiction ! Well, occasionally I do manage to get to some .....

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

2 January 2023 - Monday

Q & As: Jon Fosse - John E. Woods
Edith Pearlman (1936-2023) | ChatGPT book reviewing

       Q & A: Jon Fosse

       At the Los Angeles Review of Books Remo Verdickt and Emiel Roothooft have A Second, Silent Language: A Conversation with Jon Fosse.
       They talk mostly about Septology -- which I've only seen the first third of; I do hope eventually to see (and cover) the whole thing.
       (Quite a few other Fosse titles are under review at the complete review -- the first one I reviewed was Melancholy, back in 2006.)

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

       Q & A: John E. Woods

       At The Collidescope George Salis speaks with the Bottom's Dream- (and much else, by Arno Schmidt and others) translator, in From Heaven to Haystack and Back: An Interview with John E. Wood.

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

       Edith Pearlman (1936-2023)

       American author Edith Pearlman, known for her short stories, has passed away; see, for example, the obituary in The New York Times
       I haven't read any of her work.

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

       ChatGPT book reviewing

       At We asked ChatGPT to review some books. Human reviewers are not becoming redundant anytime soon.
       They find:
The Artificial-Intelligence-powered bot appears to work with public domain information, templated paragraphs, and a profusion of clichés in these ‘reviews’.
       For reasons of obvious self-interest I'd like to believe the headline, but reading these reviews ... well, they're no worse than half the reviews I link to (many of which are, admittedly, not *professional* ones)

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

1 January 2023 - Sunday

Coming in 2023 | International Booker Prize submissions
Kanishka Gupta profile | 2023

       Coming in 2023

       There are, no doubt, lots of good books to look forward to coming in 2023, and there are already a couple of overviews out offering some guidance. See, for example:        The Millions and the Literary Hub always do extensive 'Most Anticipated'-lists, but these doesn't seem to be out/up yet.

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

       International Booker Prize submissions

       As longtime readers know, one of my biggest pet peeves is that the vast majority of literary prizes refuse to reveal what books are actually in the running for the prize, i.e. what books have been submitted (and found eligible). Particularly egregious is the Booker Prize, which limits how many books a publisher/imprint can submit; it used to be worse (a strict two-book limit) but the system still guarantees that many worthy titles aren't even in the running.
       (Honorable exceptions among prizes, ones which reveal what books are in the running, include the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, the Canadian Governor General's Literary Awards, the Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, and the Boekenbon Literatuurprijs.)
       Like the Booker Prize, the International Booker Prize refuses to reveal the books in the running. Sometimes some of the judges post cruel tease photos of the books they are considering (i.e. pictures where the books and their titles themselves are, for all intents and purposes, unrecognizable). So how refreshing it is now to see one of the judges for the 2023 prize, Fred Studemann, spill at least a good number of the beans on Twitter:

2023 International Booker Prize submissions

       I suspect this picture and tweet will disappear shortly, but I've taken a screenshot and I assume other enthusiasts have already transcribed the whole list. [Updated: the post seems to have been removed even more quickly than I anticipated; the photo apparently ... not so much (which is why you still see it above). I guess there are advantages to Twitter being a bit of a mess right now under its new owebership.....]
       (Updated - 11 January): Well, the picture is now gone, too -- but the information is out there, e.g. here.
       But the best thing would be of course if the Booker-folk just published a list of all the titles being considered themselves !

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

       Kanishka Gupta profile

       Via I'm pointed to Paromita Chakrabarti's profile in the Indian Express, Meet The Agent: Delhi-based Kanishka Gupta, whose agency represents some of the subcontinent's biggest literary talents, including this year's Booker winners.
       The agency is the Writer's Side -- apparently: "the largest literary agency and consultancy in South Asia, representing more than 1,000 writers across different genres from all over the world.".
       That's certainly ... a lot.

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


       2022 was the year I hit 5000 reviews at the complete review, 2024 will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of the site. No such milestones in 2023, but it's really just about the reviews anyway, and I expect to keep churning those out at the same more or less steady rate: yes, as always, what you'll find at the site is: more of the same.
       I did get to fewer books than I have in a while -- only 165 reviewed in 2022 -- but I do expect to get to more this year. I did focus too much on longer titles in 2022 -- the average reviewed book was 306 pages, which is considerably above the historic average (and also an indicator that I was looking at way too few poetry volumes and plays, among other things) -- and if I manage to cut back on those, that would certainly help things. (If ... -- there are still piles of big books that I want to get to, so I'm not sure how that will work out.)
       Traffic was up significantly at the site all year (for no clear reason) -- I'll have final numbers for you in a few days --, which is always nice to see; I'm glad to see readers still find the site to be of use and interest.
       I have no specific reading or reviewing resolutions for the year -- I'm happy just to be able to keep on going -- though of course various ambitions (and so much to catch up on ...) constantly dance through my mind. So many books I'd love to get to !
       I'd say I can't wait to get started, but of course I've never stopped -- so on we go, into the new year !

       Wishing all of you a wonderful 2023 -- and a lot of good reading !

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

previous entries (21 - 31 December 2022)

archive index

- search the site -

- return to top of the page -

© 2023 the complete review

the Complete Review
Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links