Peter Handke tr. Krishna Winston and Ralph Manheim
PositiveBooklistEach of these essays is a master class in self-absorption. Handke is peripatetic and restless, and each piece is at once an instance of generic travel writing and a record of extraordinary noticing. He proceeds not just from place to place, but also from instance to instance, sensation to sensation. He looks so deeply into himself, he finds the world ... The translation is superb, capturing Handke’s kinesthetic style that makes novel thoughts and perceptions possible, each image an ember, blown on until it glows.
Peter Handke, tr. Krishna Winston
PositiveBooklistThis is almost a prehistory of experience, a demanding, engrossing narrative tracking tiny moment-to-moment changes of mood and impression, the sort of interior detail most writers would consider insignificant. Indeed, this intense focus on interior minutia creates a sense of tedium as Handke avoids providing so much of what we expect from novels. Then again, life has a way of giving us too little of the kind of excitement we crave ... Handke offers a reading experience that requires, and repays, a certain surrender.
Silvia Ferrera, tr. Todd Portnowitz
RaveBooklistFerrara, a professor of Aegean civilization at the University of Bologna, has crafted a book about a dizzyingly complex topic—the creation of written language—in a way professors too rarely do. Not that there’s any swashbuckling tomb-raiding here, just a careful scientist with a chatty, lucid style and a knack for anecdote ... If one has any doubts that the ancient past deserves our attention as much as the future Ferrara also energetically imagines, this book should dispel them. Encountered at the right time, this book could ignite a passion, even change a life.
PositiveBooklist... reads like the work of an upstart outsider out to make a career; and Muldoon] is as angry as he ever was ... Never maudlin, occasionally prosaic, often bloody-minded, Muldoon doesn’t apologize for ripping straight from and riffing on headlines in the time of COVID-19. Here, too, are sonnets, lyrics, and elegies as good as any he’s written ... Muldoon’s poetry remains unremittingly consequential.
PositiveBooklist... a syncretic work that draws on a great variety of Western and Indian sources and genres, combines memoir and musicology, and reads like an essay. At times the vocabulary is technical, yet one doesn’t necessarily feel instructed. This narrative could be studied, but it’s nothing like a textbook. Instead, it is an inquiry into a method and a way of life, a work of praise and of belief suspended ... [Chaudhuri\'s] life, even in England, was transformed by this musical devotion, and his chronicle, like a raga, is a wonderful exposition of becoming.
PositiveBooklistExcept for a few inspired pages devoted to the death of William Burroughs, his friend of 33 years, this is not a memoir one reads for the prose, but rather for its frank witness to moments in literary, artistic, and social history.
PositiveBooklistNo matter the focus, Koestenbaum proceeds with an agile, sidling insouciance. Prone to enthusiasms, he can verge on hyperbole, and a few pieces are slight, leaning too close to self-help, a perilous direction for an author so exquisitely self-absorbed. Yet it is his unswerving commitment to his own taste and instinct that allows him so much insight into the works of others who are equally committed to their affinities and practices. What he beautifully observes about poet Adrienne Rich might just as well be said of him: \'Rich was a natural historian with an ear for the music that politics makes in the body.\'
PositiveBooklistIn this volume of selections from six previous collections, Joseph’s best poems juxtapose the human, which is moral, with the diction of the state and of stateless wealth, which is amoral, in such a way that Samuel Beckett’s claim, \'Being is constantly putting form in danger,\' becomes true in a way that Beckett could not have intended. Beckett didn’t have the words for the new ways that money and data separate us from our lives and the meanings we attach to them. If this sounds abstract, Joseph makes it terribly clear and intimate in ways few other poets ever consider.
Behrouz Boochani, Trans. by Omid Tofighian
PositiveBooklist...an imaginative and provocative mix of genres as narration, poems, reports, theory, and meditations create a remarkable assemblage that the translator deserves credit for helping shape. This is a chronicle of a government’s systematic, pointless humiliation of stateless persons. Perhaps most powerfully, and in this way reminiscent of Gustav Herling’s A World Apart(1951), Boochani also presents a self-portrait of a sensitive man confined in a place where suffering is pointless and endless.
Patrick Modiano, trans. by Mark Polizzotti
PositiveBooklist\"...dream-like ... This darkly evocative novel of one man’s troubling past brings a line from poet John Ashbery to mind, \'One whiffs an era’s bad breath.\'\
Dag Solstad, Trans. by Tiina Nunnally
PositiveBooklistHe is a case study of a kind of terrible emptiness that Solstad anatomizes with an extraordinarily light, sure touch. The novel...proceeds like a jaunty, unforgettable tune played in a minor key. Solstad, who has received the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature three times, in nimble, occasionally sardonic prose, limns a pitiful man \'who, not for a single moment, harbored any conviction that his life could have been any different.\'
Dag Solstad, Trans. by Steven T. Murray
PositiveBooklistHere Solstad engages in a daring, quixotic conceit as he offers a narrative composed of footnotes to an unwritten novel ... In less able hands, this might seem precious or disingenuous. Somehow, the opposite happens, and the novel unfolds against every expectation into something memorable and moving. Questions of cause and effect in life, art, and the art of diplomacy become inextricably linked: \'The cause may lie in the very speed with which the journey proceeds, erasing all hope that the questions that should have been asked, are asked.\' Or answered.
PositiveBooklist\"There are 12 \'Self-Portraits\' and 5 \'Still Lives.\' Although conventional ekphrasis is confined to the consideration of works of art, Seuss expands it, subjecting her own body, various possessions, and even the double helix to a kind of ekphrastic attention. The tone of these poems is reminiscent of Amy Gerstler, and she name checks Kenneth Patchen. A group of poems with a darker, occasionally ominous tone might be characterized as trailer-park gothic ... The situation of the body, and situating the body in a degraded landscape that is nonetheless a home, might be the book’s principal theme, assuming that a book so various could be said to have one.\
PositiveBooklistImages trigger memories; the narrator recalls and expounds on images from an image world. If this sounds odd, it is ... While reading this extraordinary work, some may envision the border the narrator has moved near to as the divide between life and death and interpret this report as a scrupulous accounting of what remains of what came before.