The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Sunday Salon: Book lists

Posted on: December 2, 2007

I’m in the mood to do a list, not those end of the year kinds, more of a chatty, what’s been up with my reading lately and how about those latest purchases. I’ve spent some time in Spanish-speaking territory with The People of Paper by Plascencia and then the Mercé Rodoreda story collection. I’ll do my best but I don’t think the Hodgson book will last much longer. My next Salon read will likely be another translation, Desire and its Shadow by the Mexican author, Ana Clavel.

I’ve been in a translation mood so I dropped by Dalkey and Serpent’s Tail to see what they had to offer. Here’s some of what I left with:

  • Embracing Family by Nobuo Kojima, translated by Yukiko Tanka – I had a yearning to own more Japanese literature. Verbivore is cooking up a challenge next year and I’d like to have a nice selection on tap from which to choose.
  • The Planterium by Nathalie Sarraute, translated by Maria Jolas – (Why do I need to go to Amazon to find out who translated the books?) Besides the fact that it’s French lit. the plot sounded like a lot of fun.
  • Zoo, or Letters Not about Love by Victor Shklovsky, translated by Richard Sheldon – I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this Forward article on the author, but I liked what Joshua Cohen had to say about Shklovsky, and I chose this book because it’s an epistolary, which I like now. The article may even have been responsible for putting me in the translation mood.

Serpent’s Tail has one of the most…eclectic does not seem the right word, but their roster of writers and backlist is pretty all over the place in the most positively odd way imaginable.

  • A Brief Life by Juan Carlos Onetti, translated by Hortense Carpentier – When I read the book description I thought that a book couldn’t sound more wonderful. (Then I internally groaned at my hyperbole.) Still, such a first reaction guarantees acquisition. I’ve never read a Uruguayan author before (I think).
  • Floria Tosca by Paola Capriolo, translated by Liz Heron – One of my friend’s professors has been nagging me to read this for what seems like ages but has only been two months. The back cover has a TLS quote that praises the book for its philosophical element; Goldberg: Variations by Josipovici had a similar TLS quote. I’m hoping it’s a good sign.
  • Smile by Paul Smaïl, translated by a whole pot of people – I’m a bit concerned that less than 200 pages required 3 translators, but the book’s themes interest me and I liked the first page a lot.
  • Voices by Dacia Maraini, translated by Dick Kitto and Elspeth Spottiwood – Beyond Hammett I rarely come across mysteries that merit more than a blink. But if any do catch my eyes, they tend to be by an Italian.

How about those NYRB classics? You haven’t heard me gush about those in a while. I haven’t read any lately but does that ever prevent me from buying more?

I got The Goshawk by T.H. White because a fantasy author that practised falconry is too good a thing to pass by. It’s almost too perfect. And now I may possibly get around to The Once and Future King since Steve Donoghue thinks it’s worth a shot.

I’ve never been disappointed by a NYRB C book (yet?) but ever so often I’m surprised at how well I get along with the works of their female authors. Their novels and short stories are always so persistently strange and weird, and they achieve that effect without the *pyrotechnics of their male brethren. (Not that I don’t like pyrotechnics. I do.) I have no idea if Rebecca West meets that description but I saw it on the store shelf and did not hesitate: woman writer? check. NYRB classic? Check. Now I own The Fountain Overflows. I also picked up the Edith Wharton short stories collection because she’s an author I plan to get around to. Eventually. I’ll probably start with the short stories first before I get to umm…House of Mirth. Sunflower by Gyula Krúdy translated by John Batki joined the stack because I figure I don’t read enough Hungarians.

Other notable purchases were Diary of a Bad Year by Coetzee because I wanted to; Italy Out of Hand: A Capricious History by Barbara Hodgson because Trading Memories convinced me that her travel writing is worth paying for (and it had one of one those pretty golden thread bookmarks and an illustration of Mary Shelley); Melusine by Sarah Monette which I meant to get pretty close to a year ago, somehow forgot, then spotted the hardcover on the bargain shelf for less than $5. But Virtu is in paperback (and mass market too, my precious) so I’ll get that full price.

At some point I’ll mention my Peepal Tree Press finds.

* I take that back. I think it’s down to that French/British thing. Richard Hughes’ brand of weirdness is more along the lines of Warner or Aussies like Stead rather than the crazy French. (But boy, do I love their craziness.)

12 Responses to "Sunday Salon: Book lists"

It’s years since I read ‘The Once and Future King’ but I remember loving it and then being so disappointed by the Disney film, which had all the fancy bits and none of the philosophy. Thanks for reminding me. I must look out for a second-hand copy and read it again.

I loved that Rebecca West novel, and I’m a big fan of Edith Wharton too. One thing: be warned, the Sarraute has NO plot, whatever publishers may try and tell you. I like her writing and find her quirky and intriguing and original, but plot was something that the nouveaux romanciers avoided doing on purpose. I have never read The Once and Future King, but it is also on my list of books I’d love to get around to one day!

Ann I don’t remember much about the Disney version at all, which says something because I was a huge Disney fan as a kid and remember most of their animated films. I’m hoping to get it second hand too.

litlove oh, no plot is fine. When I said I liked the “plot” I was really only referring to the premise, which was the avaricious nephew waiting for his aunt to pass on so he can get her digs. (I figured Dalkey’s “but the plot is only the surface!” was code for “there isn’t much of it”.) I’ve been meaning to try a novel from that writing group for a while now. I know I have a Robbe-Grillet novel around somewhere….

I don’t think I’ll be spoiling the Rebecca West for you by mentioning that there’s a poltergeist within its pages (it shows up early on).🙂

I knew it! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. Good ol’ NYRB.

I read The Once and Future King when I was about 15. It was one of the more memorable books I read as an adolescent. I was making up imaginary holiday book lists today — books I want to buy as presents but don’t necessarily have any one to give them to. This was one of the first ones I put on the list. I’ll have to think now of someone I know I can give it to.

One note about Barbara Hodgson’s travel works, you might want to check out Lives of Shadows as well. It’s an illustrated novel. If you Google Book Search for the title you can look inside at how she’s combined the text and illustrations. In Trading in Memories there are short mentions about collecting little pieces for this novel.

Paola Capriolo: someone else recently recommended this author to me, thanks for mentioning Floria Tosca. I was wondering where to start.

Cam I’ve heard so many good things about it — I really should get it ASAP. Surprisingly the local (chain) store doesn’t have it in stock. I thought it was a pretty important fantasy work…

Monique I’ve read all of her novels, thanks.🙂 It’s how I recognised the cover of Lives of Shadows from her negatives of houses in Damascus.

I liked the fact that she mentioned her novels too and totally squeed over the bit on Falklands! It was perfect. And I’m glad she got to The Sensualist at the end; I had expected it in the Budapest chapter and when it didn’t I thought that meant she wouldn’t get to it at all.

What a coincidence that we’ve both had her recommended to us. We hang with good people.😉

I’m late to this thread, but: You’ll like Edith Wharton’s stories. They are elegant and subtle, Jamesian (they were close friends, you know) without that Jamesian opacity. And . . . the occasional ghost thrown in for good measure. I hope your collection includes “Ethan Frome” (a novella that sometimes is published on its own).

Hooray for more Japanese literature – I should get cracking on that challenge!

I also would like to read the Sarraute….someday.

John B, Henry James is one of those writers I’m not stuck on reading but if, as you say, her work lacks his “opacity”, I remain optimistic.

Verbivore your “some day” sounds very far away: no doubt I’ll get to her before then and can tell you what I think.😀

Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So good to find anyone with some authentic ideas on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is one thing that is wanted on the web, someone with a bit of originality. useful job for bringing one thing new to the internet!

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