Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


the year in reading

It's not over yet, but far enough along to sum up some. Rather than adding to all the 'best of' lists, which weren't all that good this time around, I'll embellish on themes that emerged in the course of the year.

I feel I've finally got a good grounding in Argentinian literature, beyond Borges and Cortázar, and Bioy Casares and Sábato and Arlt, and Puig and Piglia and Aira and (a bit of) Chejfec. I've already raved about Marechal; other works added to the fold include:
Juan José Saer, La Grande (Steve Dolph) [Open Letter]
Pedro Mairal, The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra (Nick Caistor) [New Vessel]
Silvina Ocampo, Thus Were Their Faces (Daniel Balderston) [nyrb]
Silvina Ocampo: Selected and Translated (Jason Weiss) [nyrb/poets]
Alan Pauls, A History of Money (Ellie Robins) [Melville House]
Juan Filloy, Caterva (Brendan Riley) [Dalkey]
Juan José Saer, The One Before (Roanne L. Kantor) [Open Letter]
Haroldo Conti, Southeaster (Jon Lindsay Miles) [& other stories]
Yes, I'd read Filloy (Op Oloop) and Saer (The Witness and Scars) before, but this year's are stand-outs (as was Ocampo's poetry, but all were well worthwhile). And it's not like there's not more: Andrés Neuman, for one ... in any case, it's wonderful how much more has been made available lately.

But my reading's been all over the map this year, nearly 3/4 of it in translation. Beyond Argentina, I made inroads into South Africa (with which it rhymes) and Mexico, as more has become available thence too (but not only; f'rinstance I've yet to encroach upon Arabic or Korean lit). As for individual authors, I got caught up with (or in) Pinget (thx Red Dust! and Barbara Wright), Tabucchi, and Modiano. And poetry ... the nyrb/poets series, German monuments (Benn, Bachmann, Celan), French provinces (Tappy, du Bouchet, Bonnefoy) ... mo' Oulipo (Forte, Garréta, Le Tellier, Bury) ...

Of the this year's Best Translated Book Award-eligible englishings (or should that be americanings?), I've 25 30 under my belt (plus poetry), and I'll choose one per publisher for shortlist projection (with increasing uncertainty and longerlisting in descent):
Archipelago Books: Antonio Tabucchi Tristano Dies: A Life (Elizabeth Harris)
& other stories: Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World (Lisa Dillman)
Open Letter: Georgi Gospodinov, The Physics of Sorrow (Angela Rodel)
New Directions: Clarice Lispector, Complete Stories (Katrina Dodson)
[but may add another, between Aira shorts, Castellanos Moya, and Kurniawan]
Dalkey Archive: Juan Filloy, Caterva (Brendan Riley)
Two Lines: Wolfgang Hilbig, The Sleep of the Righteous (Isabel Fargo Cole)
[still have to pick up Richard Weiner, The Game for Real Benjamin Paloff)]
Seagull: Wolfgang Hilbig, 'I' (Isabel Fargo Cole)
Graywolf: Daniel Sada, One Out of Two (Katherine Silver) [in hand not yet read]
Yale/Margellos: Patrick Modiano, After the Circus (Mark Polizzotti) [still to buy, on MAO's say-so; only eligible Y/M I've read is Máirtín Ó Cadhain, The Dirty Dust (Cré na Cille)) (Alan Titley)]
Deep Vellum: Sergio Pitol, The Art of Flight (George Henson)
[tough call, I've read half their list so far, and Piglia or Shishkin or the in hand not yet read Chudori might be chosen]
Pushkin Press: Mikhail Elizarov, The Librarian (Andrew Bromfield) still to buy
AmazonCrossing: Bae Suah, Nowhere to Be Found (Sora Kim-Russell), on the to-buy list, wonder where I'll get it ... see MAO and review links therein.
[AC mostly translates genre but throws a bit'o'lit into the mix, augmenting rather than competing; in fact, Amazon funds the BTBA prizes and provides grants to non-profits: not so much a drop in the bucket as in the thimble.]
Braziller: Juan Villoro, The Guilty (Kimi Traube)
Coffee House: Valeria Luiselli, The Story of My Teeth (Christina MacSweeney) [I've only read Faces in the Crowd]
and as for the not my cuppa:
Europa Editions: Elena Ferrante, The Story of a Lost Child (Ann Goldstein)
McSweeney's: Alejandro Zambra, My Documents (Megan McDowell) has its advocates; I'm not among them.
(and I just don't know about Knopf's Pamuk or FSG's Ulitskaya or and so on ...)

It being that time of year, the season of giving, given that half of the publishers listed above are non-profits that depend upon donor support, for those US-based (Archipelago, Coffee House, Dalkey Archive, Deep Vellum, Graywolf, Open Letter, Two Lines) I encourage your tax-deductible contributions, so that they can translate those bucks into books.

Other high points not covered above I'd like to mention and recommend:
Gabriel Josipovici, Hotel Andromeda [Carcanet]
William Golding, The Spire [Harcourt]
Percival Everett, Erasure [Graywolf]
The Tale of the Heike (Royall Tyler) [Viking]
Jenny Erpenbeck, The End of Days (Susan Bernofsky) [New Directions]
Erlom Akhvlediani, Vano and Niko (Mikheil Kakabadze) [Dalkey Archive]
Josep Pla, Life Embitters (Peter Bush) [Archipelago]
Christian Bök, The Xenotext: Book I [Coach House]
S.J. Naudé, The Alphabet of Birds (S.J.Naudé) [& other stories]
(meant to say, not the only ones ... see here for a fuller rendering, including review links and such)


barter vs banter

When it comes to the question of what money is, the answer takes the form
1) a medium of exchange,
2) a store of value,
3) a unit/measure (that is, standard) of account,
though fresh-water economics generally gives precedence to the first item.

So why hasn't language been similarly split into
1) a medium of communication,
2) a store of meaning,
3) a standard of representation,
with the first item taking precedence among some of the hard-core? (Linguistics takes a tripartite division into form, content [semantics], and context [pragmatics], but it's not the same thing.)

And of course written language traces its roots to accountancy ... I could go on with other overlaps, conceptual and otherwise, but will leave all that unpaid/unsaid.

(yeah I'm still here, just all over the place, service will resume with 2015 reading in review shortly.)