Sunday, 5 September 2010

Stocking up on Fall "Textbooks". . .

Okay, so I'm not going back to school, but I do always get that nostalgic ache in September for a pile of shiny new books. A trip to my favourite independent bookstores was a must this weekend. Here's what caught my eye:

I've been reading a lot in the media and on blogs about the re-issue of two novels exploring Nazi Germany by Hans Keilson - Death of the Adversary , translated by Ivo Jarosy, and Comedy In a Minor Key, translated by Damion Searls. Love the covers and I have been fascinated by this literary period since reading Hans Fallada and Irmgard Keun. I bought them both.

In my fantasy shop, there would definitely be a section devoted to bookstores, both real and imaginary. So A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, translated by Alison Anderson. was a no-brainer. This sounds like a wonderful read about a Paris bookstore that only offers literary masterpieces as chosen by a top-secret committee, who subsequently are mysteriously targeted and threatened. This is published by the wonderful Europa Editions, one of a handful of presses whose publishing choices I trust implicitly. So I also picked up The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leïla Marouane. It doesn't take much for me to pick up a book with Paris in the title, but this story of an Algerian man looking for an apartment and sexual encounters, narrated by an unsympathetic female, really intrigued me.

Two American writers I've been wanting to read for a while now have books on the pile. Many people have recommended the short stories of Lydia Davis to me and I definitely will get around to buying her collection soon. But in the meantime, I was drawn to her novel The End of the Story, about a woman trying to write a novel about a love affair. I'm normally quite skeptical about the review blurbs that get plastered onto the first pages of paperbacks, but this one from the Village Voice sold me: "The palettte of Davis's novel reminded me of green tea, bone, quartz light, and dried apricots, and its French room tone buzzes with the obsessiveness of Michel Leiris, the saltwater air of Jane Bowles and the grouchy who-cares-a-damn silence of Jean Rhys."

I also bought Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women, a novel tracing the twentieth century through five generations, starting with a suffragette who starves herself in 1914.

I can never resist a beautifully designed book, and Prose, a collection of short stories by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Martin Chambers, is a really gorgeous, inexpensive hardcover with lovely textured red endpapers. Bernhard is a writer I keep meaning to get around to reading. I have most of his novels on my shelf, and hopefully these stories will kickstart my exploration of his work.

And finally, this one is a bit of an oddity for me - Tom McCarthy's Tintin and the Secret of Literature. I've never read a Tintin cartoon before, but I have read and loved all three of McCarthy's novels - Remainder, Men in Space and his latest C. When I read a review that suggested C was inspired by McCarthy's interest in Tintin, well mine was also piqued. Since these cartoons first appeared in 1929, they are clearly a part of the cultural history of the time and I'm curious to read all about them.
This should keep me occupied for at least a semester.

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