Literary roundup: new books, old habits

The Millions’ Year in Reading series is in full swing and frankly, what the majority of these writers and critics seem to have been reading in 2012 just reminds me that I read in an entirely different universe than they do. So many of the selections sound so quaint and dull, Romance novels with a veneer of intellect or just the same highly marketed hits that inevitably make up the idiotic ‘Best Books’ lists of advertising inserts articles in the New York Times and the like.

There have been some exceptions so far though. A notable one was languagehat’s Stephen Dodson, whose recommendations give a great overview of Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet history, with books by Timothy Snyder, Oksana Zabuzhko and Yuri Slezkine among others. Then there is David Vann’s recommendation of Indian writer Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis, which he described as the “most satisfying shock” in his reading this year and which is described by its publisher as “a book about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction, love, and God and has more in common in its subject matter with the work of William S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with that of the subcontinent’s familiar literary lights.”

A Bouquet

Twisted Spoon Press has published the English translation of Karel J. Erben’s classic collection of folktales A Bouquet in a translation by Marcela Sulak. You can read about the book, writer and illustrations accompanying the book by Czech artist Alén Diviš on the publisher’s website here. An excerpt of the book is available here.

Twisted Spoon: “First published in 1853, it is dotted with murder and mayhem : graves opening and the dead walking the earth, the animate becoming the inanimate and vice versa, ogres and monsters of lake and wood, human transformations reminiscent of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.”

Death of an Athlete

Another new English translation is Hungarian writer Miklós Mészöly’s Death of an Athlete, translated by Tim Wilkinson as reported on Hungarian Literature Online (HLO). As HLO notes, this is his first work translated into English. For a short bio of Mészöly go here.

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3 Comments on “Literary roundup: new books, old habits”

  1. 07/12/2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I know what you mean about reading in a parallel universe. Past years have seen me so out of ‘fashion’, that I barely read any books published that year at all – so I could never have participated in a Best of 2010 or 2011. This year, I’ve been doing reviews for Crime Fiction Lover website, so I have read more recent releases. But when I am not on ‘reviewing duty’, I seem to steer clear of the ‘buzz titles’. Reverse snobbishness, perhaps?

    • 07/12/2012 at 10:15 pm #

      I don’t think it’s reverse snobbishness. Most of these listed/recommended books just don’t appeal to me and not only won’t I read them this year, but I won’t read them ever. They’re read this year by others because of the PR and marketing behind them – then they fade from view for the most part.

      • 07/12/2012 at 10:17 pm #

        Yes, I suppose I am waiting to see what remains after the PR machine has passed… and then I read the much smaller selection that has been left behind. The survivors.

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