Readersforum's Blog

January 27, 2014

The 9 Best Books That Don’t Exist

SandBy Gabe Habash

It’s time to make you really sad: here are 9 great books…that don’t actually exist.

But while the world would certainly be a better place if they did exist (except #4 and probably #1), if you haven’t read the books they’re from, change that right away.

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December 28, 2013

10 Books Based on Other Books

2666By Álvaro Enrigue, trans. from the Spanish by Brendan Riley

Álvaro Enrigue’s story collection Hypothermia explores identity and isolation through the eyes of garbage collectors, professors, and outcasts. It’s also loosely based on Dante’s Inferno. Enrigue picked 10 books that took inspiration from books that came before them. In “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, Jorge Luis Borges tells the story of a writer who set out to reproduce Don Quixote de la Mancha without consulting the original text written by Cervantes. “He did not wish to compose another Quixote” –says Borges– “but the very Quixote itself. Needless to say he never set himself to the facile task of mechanically transcribing the original; it was not his intention to copy it.” In Borges’ story, Pierre Menard dedicates years to writing thousands of pages on his recollections of the novel and by the end of his life he achieves success: he reproduces two and a half chapters from Cervantes’ book without having copied them. In “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” Borges, himself a voracious reader, responds to a question which typically torments writers: Do books emerge from our experience or do they come from other books? The following is a list of great literary works which have set out to modify our reading of other, earlier ones.

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February 19, 2013

’2666′ in Pie Chart Form

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 1:24 pm

seriouslyBy  Gabe Habash

…Guerrero, at that time of night, is more like a cemetery than an avenue, not a cemetery in 1974 or in 1968, or in 1975, but a cemetery in the year 2666, a forgotten cemetery under the eyelid of a corpse or an unborn child, bathed in the dispassionate fluids of an eye that tried so hard to forget one particular thing that it ended up forgetting everything else.

So you read 2666. You probably have questions. Such as:

1. What’s with all the dreams?

2. What exactly is Archimboldi doing in Mexico?

3. What is happening?

4. I’m tired.

The problem with asking any of those questions is you won’t find the answers in 2666, a world-eating novel where looking for an answer just leads to more questions. In his notes, Bolaño mentions a “hidden center” concealed beneath the novel’s “physical center.”

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February 13, 2013

Can Writers Retire? Let Us Count the Ways

570_rimbaudBy Bill Morris

While living in Durham, N.C., back in the 1980s, I met a guy who was studying creative writing at Duke University. I have come to think of him as the doomed acolyte. One day he told me that his teacher, venerable Reynolds Price, rolled into the classroom in his wheelchair and gave the class a curious assignment. Price told the students they were not to touch the short stories they were working on for the next week. Don’t change a single word. Don’t add or delete a comma. Don’t even look at your stories.

When the class reconvened the following week, Price asked how many had fulfilled the assignment.  About half of the students, including the doomed acolyte, raised a hand. Price then stunned the room by advising those who were able to follow his instructions that they should consider dropping out of the course. His reasoning was brutal and simple: Anyone who is able to stop writing for an entire week — even for a single day — does not have the right stuff to become a writer.  True writers, Price was saying, are in the grip of a compulsion. They have to write, and they are powerless to stop doing it. It is why they are alive and it is what keeps them alive.

That story came back to me — and it came into question — when I heard the news that Philip Roth has quit writing fiction. ”To his friends,” Charles McGrath wrote in The New York Times, “the notion of Mr. Roth not writing is like Mr. Roth not breathing.” I’m sure Reynolds Price’s friends felt the same way about him. Roth, author of more than 30 works of fiction over the past half century, has stuck a Post-it note to his computer that reads: “The struggle with writing is over.” Roth said he looks at that little sticker every morning and it gives him “such strength.”

I’ve been writing every day for the past 40 years or so, sometimes getting paid to do it and sometimes not, and through all those years I’ve assumed I will keep doing it until my wits leave me or I die. In other words, I’m a long-time disciple of the gospel according to Reynolds Price, a believer that writers are people who are both blessed and cursed by the compulsion to distill their experience of the world into words on a page

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February 8, 2013

The 10 Most Notorious Parts of Famous Books

bolanoBy Gabe Habash

A little controversy goes a long way in the book world, where tweets from prestigious publishers resembling Kanye West lyrics cause people to flip out. In the case of the books below, notoriety and controversy have added an extra facet to their reputations, propelling discussion and (in some instances) fierce debate that involved censorship. Here are our picks for the most infamous passages of famous books. Some spoilers follow.

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January 4, 2012

Most Anticipated: The Great 2012 Book Preview

2012 is shaping up to be another exciting year for readers. While last year boasted long-awaited novels from David Foster Wallace, Haruki Murakami, and Jeffrey Eugenides, readers this year can look forward to new Toni Morrison, Richard Ford, Peter Carey, Lionel Shriver, and, of course, newly translated Roberto Bolaño, as well as, in the hazy distance of this coming fall and beyond, new Michael Chabon, Hilary Mantel, and John Banville. We also have a number of favorites stepping outside of fiction. Marilynn Robinson and Jonathan Franzen have new essay collections on the way. A pair of plays are on tap from Denis Johnson. A new W.G. Sebald poetry collection has been translated. And Nathan Englander and Jonathan Safran Foer have teamed to update a classic Jewish text. But that just offers the merest suggestion of the literary riches that 2012 has on offer. Riches that we have tried to capture in another of our big book previews.

The list that follows isn’t exhaustive – no book preview could be – but, at 8,400 words strong and encompassing 81 titles, this is the only 2012 book preview you will ever need.

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November 26, 2011

Undead good: are zombies invading literary fiction?

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:55 pm

The latest issue of Granta magazine features a zombie tale from the late Roberto Bolaño. Who’ll be next to grapple with the undead?

A still from Granta's animated take on The Colonel's Son by Roberto Bolano

By Alison Flood

Zombies: the top new literary fiction trope? First Colson (MacArthur “genius” grant) Whitehead took on the undead in the highly acclaimed Zone One, in which a team of recruited soldiers works to clear Manhattan of “skels” and to deal with their PASD (Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder). Now in Granta magazine’s latest issue, themed around horror, there’s The Colonel’s Son, a short story from the late Roberto Bolaño in which the narrator tells of a B-grade horror movie he’s seen. “A girl gets bitten by a zombie; the boy she loves tries to save her; the father of the boy, in turn, tries to save him. Bloodshed spreads across the city, as one by one witnesses become victims … and then killers … ”

                                                                                                                                                                                      …read more

February 15, 2011

Lost Roberto Bolaño novel to be serialised this spring

The Third Reich, dating from the 1990s, will be published for the first time in English by the Paris Review.

Roberto Bolaño, pictured in 1998. Photograph: Julian Martin/AP

Benedicte Page

A newly uncovered novel by the late Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño will get its first English language publication this year in the literary quarterly the Paris Review. Described by its translator Natasha Wimmer as “buoyant” and “funny”, The Third Reich tells the story of a German man who is a war-gaming champion. It will be serialised in four parts, with the first out in the magazine’s imminent spring issue.

 A typescript of the novel was found among the writer’s papers after his death in 2003. According to the Wylie Agency, which represents Bolaño’s work, it dates from the 1990s and is a “completed novel that is meticulously corrected by hand”.       …read more

              

January 15, 2011

Literature and Exile

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , — Bookblurb @ 5:27 pm

Roberto Bolaño delivered this speech in 2000 at a symposium organized by the Austrian Society for Literature in Vienna. It was translated by Natasha Wimmer and appears in Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches (1998-2003), forthcoming from New Directions.

I’ve been invited to talk about exile. The invitation I received was in English, and I don’t speak English. There was a time when I did or thought I did, or at least there was a time, in my adolescence, when I thought I could read English almost as well, or as poorly, as Spanish. Sadly, that time has passed. I can’t read English. By what I could gather from the letter, I think I was supposed to talk about exile. Literature and exile. But it’s very possible that I’m completely mistaken, which, thinking about it, would actually be an advantage, since I don’t believe in exile, especially not when the word sits next to the word “literature.”…read more

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