We’ve rounded up some of the best of what our authors have been doing, reading, and thinking this week.
Ishion Hutchinson’s poetry collection House of Lords and Commons was released to wide acclaim. All Things Considered said it was “ragged and fiercely beautiful;” The New Yorker praised Hutchinson’s “exquisite” sounds: “clusters of consonants . . . and the vowels so open you could fall into them, the magisterial cresting syntax.” Hutchinson sat down with […]
I first met Derek when I came to FSG in the mid-eighties, thirty years ago. He was in his vigorous fifties, teaching in Boston and writing the poems that would soon appear in The Arkansas Testament (1987), and, though I didn’t know it then, composing his magnum opus, Omeros, which we published in 1990.
On March 26, “Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture,” a traveling exhibition of the great architect’s papers, sketches, and models, arrives at one of his most celebrated buildings, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Wendy Lesser, author of the new Kahn biography, You Say to Brick, will participate in a public symposium on Kahn’s life and work at the Kimbell on March 25. To celebrate the exhibit, the symposium, and You Say to Brick’s publication, here is a virtual tour of the Kimbell Museum, excerpted from Lesser’s acclaimed new biography.
The pharaoh Necko was not content to rule the Upper and the Lower. He wanted knowledge of the whole. So he plopped a crew of Phoenicians down in the Red Sea and told them to go home the long way. Off they went south, pulling on oars and cursing with lemon breath their bad luck for being alive in the time of the Egyptians.
Hideo Yokoyama’s detective novel Six Four, about a cold case and the conflicts within a police department, was first released in Japan to wide acclaim. Yokoyama’s carefully plotted, high-tension novel seemed perfect for U.K. and U.S. readers that had been devouring books by writers like Jo Nesbø and Steig Larsson, so translator Jonathan Lloyd-Davies was tasked with bringing Yokoyama’s work to English-language readers. We talked to Lloyd-Davies about translating a Japanese bureaucracy, his translation process, and the appeal of a crime novel in a country with a low crime rate.
Jonathan Lloyd-Davies: I was still living in the U.K. when the novel was released, working on other translations, and on a strict diet of reading English to limit the influence of Japanese syntax in my work. Six Four first came my way via a translation summer school in Norwich, chaired by the translator and professor Michael Emmerich, who later brought the project to my attention. At the time I was finishing another translation and looking for something to take on. He was, of course, kind enough to warn me that it was a long book.
The circumstances of my own life have fueled my attraction to Leonardo Padura’s last two novels and led to my translation of them. When I first read The Man Who Loved Dogs—his sprawling novel about Trotsky’s years in exile, and the Soviet plot to recruit and train a Spanish Civil War combatant to kill him in Mexico City&emdash;I was a few years out from a period of having studied Russian intensely and a visit to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. I had been trying to understand the lives and experiences of a whole generation of Cubans who grew up in the Soviet satellite, as several friends and family members of mine did, as I might have myself had my parents not left Cuba in the mid-1960s. That I felt taxed and lonely by the effort of making my way through Moscow as a solo traveler who did not, in this instance, pick up any friends along the way, perhaps predisposed me to feel a certain sense of compassion for Ramón Mercader in the Moscow-based chapters toward the end of the novel. Or maybe it was just that Padura is so wily about making you care about characters that could otherwise be reviled.
Savage violence has erupted in recent years across a broad swathe of territory: wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, suicide bombings in Belgium, Xinjiang, Nigeria and Turkey, insurgencies from Yemen to Thailand, massacres in Paris, Tunisia, Florida, Dhaka and Nice. Conventional wars between states are dwarfed by those between terrorists and counter-terrorists, insurgents and counter-insurgents; and there are also economic, financial and cyber wars, wars over and through information, wars for the control of the drug trade and migration, and wars among urban militias and mafia groups. Future historians may well see such uncoordinated mayhem as commencing the third—and the longest and strangest—of all world wars: one that approximates, in its ubiquity, a global civil war.
It’s Emmanuel Carrère who stopped me from writing this article. Right at the moment when I’d planned to knuckle down and sort through the disparate ideas that had occurred to me during the four years I’d spent translating his works, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which had already published eight of his books in English, sent me the first typeset proofs of The Kingdom, and a month after that the second, asking me each time to read the whole thing over in a fresh light, in preparation for the book’s publication.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of John McPhee’s Coming Into the Country, a work of longform non-fiction charting the tensions between the perception of a wild Alaska and the reality of increasingly inaccessible wilderness. The book is a beloved classic in Alaska, and its anniversary has been met with a variety of articles in Alaskan media, and a reevaluation of where the state is, 40 years later. This year also marks the publication of McPhee’s latest book, Draft No. 4, which will come out later this year.
Paris has always had a ‘taste for tumult’, as Théophile Lavallée noted in 1845,with its ‘hurried, seething, tumultuous’ population, but today it presents a serene face to the world, in spite of all this revolting and murdering. To take a stroll through the lower levels of the Gare du Nord, or to watch the cop show Spiral, is to quickly locate the discord simmering in today’s city.
On the living room carpet in Crescent, Irene was trying to teach Lisa to play Parcheesi. Lisa couldn’t follow the action, but she loved the dice, the way they rattled in the little blue cup. Was three too young for board games? Her mother thought probably so, but Lisa’d arrived at every milestone early: weaned early, crawled early, and surprised everybody with her first word before she could walk (“bear!” while having The Little Engine That Could read aloud to her; the bear in question was scratching at a tree on the same hillside where the train stalled). As soon as she could say two simple sentences she began putting them together to tell stories about her dolls: “They stopped playing. They need a rest,” she explained to her mother once, sequestering a Raggedy Ann in one corner of the living room and a nameless blinking-eyed vinyl doll in the one opposite.
Rachel Cusk’s novel Outline, was published in 2015 to wide acclaim—it was listed as one of the New York Times‘s Best Books of the Year. It told the story of a woman, Faye, facing down a tremendous and terrible loss, through a series of monologues and conversations surrounding her. Transit, the next novel in the trilogy, uses a similar structure to delve even deeper into Faye’s psyche. Here, she sits down with writer Caille Millner at Green Apple Books in San Francisco to discuss the nature of fiction and creativity, sex in her writing, and childhood violence.
I met Bill Knott in late 1968, or in early 1969, at William Corbett’s house, a gathering place for poets in Boston’s South End. I’d read Knott’s highly acclaimed first book, The Naomi Poems, from Big Table, in the spring of 1968. It was published under the pen name Saint Geraud (1940–1966). I was immediately struck, poleaxed, by the emotional power of the poems. Mostly short, intense lyrics, they were unlike anything I’d ever read and moved me to the bone. I felt, before I’d read Emily Dickinson’s famous comment, as if the top of my head was taken off. Many were love poems. Most were written in his early and mid twenties. There was urgency, a longing, a wild and plaintive high-note sound that was maybe particularly attractive to a twenty-two-year-old man. Forty-seven years later, as I stand on the terrible threshold of senescence, Knott’s poems still lift the hairs on the back of my neck. His anguished poems about the war in Vietnam were among the first I’d read on that subject, and I still believe them to be among the strongest. It is the war that my generation either can’t forget or refuses to remember (sometimes both).
Emily Witt’s book, Future Sex was described as “Joan Didion meets fetish porn” (A.V. Club) when it was published this summer. In November, a few weeks after the election, Witt sat down with writer Anna Wiener at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, to discuss how the election changed her view of her own book, how writing the book changed her life, and how sexual mores have (or haven’t) changed.
Daphne Merkin, and her editor, Ileene Smith, discuss her new book, her childhood, family relationships, and lifelong battle with the illness.
I was planning a novel that involved a breakout from a Chinese labor camp and had just reread The Count of Monte Cristo, looking for ideas. At Hong Kong’s Central Library, I typed the word laogai, “labor reform,” into the computer catalog. Among the books listed, to my surprise and excitement, was the title Chongchu laogaiying, “Escape from the laogai.”
Win copies of some of FSG’s most anticipated titles of 2017! These books have been mentioned in Nylon, New York Observer, Bustle, The Huffington Post, and many more. Sign up for the FSG newsletter and you may receive advance copies of Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne, John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester, Zachary Mason’s Void Star, and Louise Glück’s American Originality, and hardcovers of Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra and Transit by Rachel Cusk.
A locked-room mystery taking place at a rest home for burned-out futurists, Warren Ellis’s Normal explores what happens when you spend all your time staring at the end of the world. A darkly funny book, Normal was initially published during the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election. In early December, as the general American populace was getting a true taste of #abyssgaze, Ellis sat down with Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, to discuss haunted rocks, if all writers are commercial writers, and how exciting the world is when it’s on fire.