I have a soft spot for underdogs of every type, and there’s no bigger collection of them in the bookish realm than authors who write in languages other than English. Why we American readers are so terrible about paying attention to works in translation frustrates me, even though I understand that we’re not necessarily shunning international lit–we just haven’t caught up on our own.
However, just as I come to that conclusion, something like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes fire, and I find myself frustrated anew by all of the much more interesting books from Sweden and Europe and China and India and Africa and so on that everyone should read.
Then I stick my head in a bucket of cold water and remind myself that one person’s “much more interesting” is another person’s “WTF?”
It’s best to retain a sense of proportion and economy when foisting healthy fare on anyone, and that includes healthy reading fare. That’s why I adore Writers No One Reads, which I discovered via The Millions. The contributors aren’t here to tell us which books to read or prove to us that these authors are of consequence. They also serve, who simply comment and curate. On what other site will you learn about snare-pictures, “the Polish Poe,” or “the only great Italian fiction about the massive Sicilian immigration to America written while it was happening?”
There are plenty of writers in English featured on this quirky site, too. The thing that fascinates me is although the concept is extremely simple–pick obscure authors and show why they’re still relevant, or not–there are so many lessons about bookselling and publishing woven tightly into the tumblr: Trends and failures in jacket design, serendipity found in the used-and-rare realm, and best, voices whispering from the backlist like so many snatches of melody from history’s practice rooms.