The Best Translated Book Award (I’m a judge!) jury is narrowing down the eligible books to the longlist, so that’s what most of my reading has been this week. HOWEVER, I did slip in an audiobook for bookclub. Let’s get to it:
Inbox (Books Acquired)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (March 22, Putnam)– A Victorian novel based loosely on Jane Eyre, with a heroine also named Jane who is obsessed with the Brontë work and who also happens to be a serial killer who murders abusive men, vigilante-style. There has never been a book more in my wheelhouse and I’ve already barreled through half of it. The concept is excellent, but the writing itself is also superb, full of sentences that have stopped me dead.
The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner (June 7, FSG Originals)— A longform essay based on the notion that the widespread hatred of poetry is indicative of how much we need the form now more than ever. I don’t really get behind the initial concept (I think more people think they “don’t get” poetry than actually hate it), but I’m here for a defense of poetry anytime.
Outbox (Books Finished)
Guano by Louis Carmain, translated by Rhonda Mullins — Simón is a ship recorder on a scientific (“scientific”) Spanish expedition to Peru. While there, Peru begins to insist on its independence and Simón finds himself enamored with a local woman. War takes him away from her and time passes as he fails to write her promised letters, and as Spanish military officials fail to make peace with Peru. It’s very “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” but with cannons and bird poop, and with much more musical sentences. I loved this.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — Finally got around to this one when my book club picked it. This was excellent on audio–I ended up sitting in my car in various and sundry parking lots (Starbucks, Target, my house) while I finished the section I was listening to. I also appreciated the feminist rage barely contained beneath the surface of the prose. But, I didn’t find it that impressive on a sentence level, which is a thing I value and need in order to truly love something. Regardless, I get why this became the phenomenon it did.
In the Queue (What I’m Reading Next)
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (March 22, Viking)— A novel about a small bomb going off in a Delhi marketplace– one of those small bombs that barely make the news here in the United States– and its long-reaching effects on both the victims and the terrorists.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes — My next audiobook, which I am picking up 100% because I have been obsessively binge-watching Scandal for a month and can’t seem to stop myself and Shonda, you are a beautiful genius. Also, please have Olivia kill Fitz at some point. I can’t with him.
My Documents by Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell — Next up on my BTBA reading list. I’ve read and loved Zambra’s novella Bonsai, so I have high hopes for this.