Category Archives: Literature

Still Life: on Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s La Femme De Gilles

By Amina Cain

I had a difficult time, while reading Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s La Femme de Gilles, separating it from the recent events in U.S. politics. A man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women has won the presidency over the woman who would have been our first female president. Originally published in 1937 by Éditions Gallimard in Paris, and reissued this fall through Melville House as part of their Neversink Library series, it is not fair to Bourdouxhe to bring today’s politics into my reading of La Femme de Gilles. And yet, she might have understood. Friends with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, Bourdouxhe was a member of the Resistance in France and Belgium, and is known to have worked with surrealist artist Paul Éluard to sneak political leaflets from Paris into Brussels. In the 1940s, when the Nazis took over Gallimard, Bourdouxhe cut ties, never publishing with them again. Continue reading

“Translating Little Black Boxes,” an Excerpt From the November 2016 Issue of World Literature Today

An Excerpt from World Literature Today

In November 2016 — for the first time in the magazine’s 90-year history — the entire issue of World Literature Today is devoted to women writers, translators, and reviewers. Encompassing essays, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and interviews spanning the globe, the assemblage of writers glimpses how an international, contemporary literary canon populated solely by women might look. The magazine’s review section also presents 34 books written and reviewed by women. In addition, the issue includes city profiles, reading lists, and global-culture features from female contributors. All told, the issue presents a “utopia of literary parity” from cover to cover. The following piece, titled “Translating Little Black Boxes,” is an excerpt from the issue. It is Kerri Pierce’s translator’s note for “Dreamwriter” by Gunnhild Øyehaug, which she translated from the Norwegian.

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It’s Okay to Be Scared, But Don’t Play Scared: An Interview with Helen Ellis, author of American Housewife

By Teddy Minford

“My bite is much worse than my bark,” says Helen Ellis, whose sweet voice, bubbly personality, and gracious manners, make her seem like your typical book club-hosting Upper East Side housewife. But once you read Ellis’s short story collection American Housewife, you learn that Ellis has a sharp tongue and a dark side. Speaking with her, I learned that she also has a penchant for gambling and a soft spot for reality TV, and that most of her villians (and heroes) are inspired by her own personality. Continue reading

Flung Into Orbit With April Ayers Lawson

By Luke B. Goebel

April Ayers Lawson’s first collection of stories, Virgin and Other Stories (out November 1st from Farar, Straus and Giroux), embodies anew the Southern Gothic, with its twisted, oft-hackneyed Christian traditions, sexual hunger, and isolated yearning. In today’s secular literary climate, transgressive and unnerving fiction from a Christian Southern author is a rare find — and rarer still is the quality of subjects and craft in these stories. Virgin and Other Stories emerges from a brilliant young mind, living open-eyed through transgression.  Continue reading

A Blank Page as Big as the World: An Interview with Vanessa Hua

By Olga Kreimer

Like the apocryphal frogs splashing in their warming water until the inevitable end, the characters in Vanessa Hua’s debut, Deceit and Other Possibilities, get into their predicaments first slowly, then very fast. Driven into impossible circumstances by hubris or ambition, desperation pushes them to try any exit. Though their troubles are specific, the unsettling sense of scaling walls too smooth for traction as the water starts to bubble is painfully familiar. That futility — the gaps between what Hua’s characters want and what they get to have — makes the reader root for the break-ins, gunshots, and fires that are their last resorts. It’s easy to recognize the desires that drive them, so even extreme measures feel like reasonable escalation when nothing else works. Continue reading

Text is Text: An Interview with Mauro Javier Cardenas

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein

Mauro Javier Cardenas’ formally experimental debut novel Revolutionaries Try Again, out September 6th from Coffee House House Press, probes the question of whether or not a novel should even be concerned with narrative. It suggests that, instead, it is the depiction of our internal minds that matters. An Ecuadorian expat who lives in San Francisco returns to Ecuador to attempt a run at the presidency with his friends from high school. But what follows is not a tale of political hijinx, it is an exploration into the interiors of the characters as they navigate their dark, cold worlds. Continue reading

Rock and Literature: On Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

By Kevin Dettmar

I’ve just returned from a wonderful small conference at the National Humanities Center called “Novel Sounds.” At its most specific, conversation focused on the role played by rock ‘n’ roll in contemporary American fiction; more broadly, presentations engaged with the fruitful — if sometimes stealthy, but in any event mutual — give-and-take between writing and contemporary popular music. Continue reading

Lost Literature: An Excerpt from The Missing Books

By Scott Esposito

On October 10th, Scott Esposito released The Missing Books, a curated list of nearly 100 books that don’t exist. Esposito writes, for each entry, a short description of the book’s history — was it lost, abandoned, buried within another text? The list is divided into four categories: books that do not yet exist, books that come from other books, books that have been lost, and books that have been rediscovered. It is a living document which will be updated as needed. The following are excerpts from The Missing Books, the entirety of which is only available on Esposito’s website. Continue reading

More Daring than Didion: An Interview with Emily Witt

By Stef Hayes

What would Didion do? Emily Witt wonders in her 2015 essay “Are You ‘Internet Sexual?’” while deciding whether or not to broadcast herself to a sea of strangers on the sex cam site Chaturbate. Witt wants to understand what it is to be a woman online, but she’s hesitant, afraid her mostly middle-aged male editors might not take her seriously when they find out — and anyway, she’s dating someone. “Joan Didion would never have sex cammed,” Witt concludes, “she went to San Francisco in 1968 and didn’t even do acid.”

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