Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


BTBA 2020 longlist

I'd read fewer of the BTBA-eligible works this past year, on the order of 3% (funny how that number always seems to crop up). This year's nominees are more promising than last; though I've only read two of the fiction and one of the poetry so far (on which more below, along with honorable mentions of some that I thought would make the longlist), several of the others have been on my radar, and a couple already on order.

For publishers on the fiction list, FSG tops the list with three entries, while Archipelago and Graywolf return after a year's absence with two apiece, two also for Knopf (including its Pantheon imprint). And Charco makes the cut in its first year of eligibility (though I'd expected Margarita Garcia Robayo's Fish Soup (Charlotte Coombe), Columbian out-and-downer shorts [LARB] to be the one selected), while Verso makes its first appearance (Vigdis Hjorth, on order). Meanwhile, Deep Vellum and Coffee House dropped out; I thought the latter's Mario Levrero, Empty Words (Annie McDermott), discursive handwriting (and handwringing) [NPR] might make the list (looking forward to The Luminous Novel).

So, a few words on the little I've read so far:

Juan Carlos Onetti, A Dream Come True (Katherine Silver) [Archipelago]: short stories often centered on residents of the river town Santa Maria, another Yoknapatawpha County (Faulkner's influence marked) or Macando (Onetti cited by Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes as an influential precursor). Hits his stride in the '40s and keeps going strong.

Daša Drndić, EEG. (Celia Hawkesworth) [New Directions]: fatal illness of History, neveragain overandover ... kinda cumulative kinda accretive kinda what-the-hell, see also MAO: though this is cumulative, I agree that the others are better, sort of the same as with another book I'd expected to see selected, Laszlo Krasnahorkai's Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming (Ottilie Mulzet) [New Directions], worthwhile but not of the caliber of prior work, diminishing returns seeming to have set in (not for lack of ambition; and I thought it might just be me, but while I'm not as negative as Andrew Singer in WLT I'm also not satisfied that it completes a four-book project [not a tetralogy]) (overreliant on an established style ain't the same as mature, more like overcooked) (and still eagerly awaiting the delayed From the cardinal points, sundry features) (but I digress)

Gemma Gorga, Book of Minutes (Sharon Dolin) [Oberlin]: 60 prose-poems in spirit of Ponge, quotidian metaphysicality; just happened upon in my looking into Catalan lit (and one of two nominated Catalan poetry titles) [sample]

And see also 3%'s continuing coverage of Why this book should win.

In other news, Archipelago Books is extending its offer of free ebooks, both in time and titles!