See also "The Complete Angler" by Donavan Hall (@theangler)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stoner by Williams

Julian Barnes recommended Stoner in a piece in the Guardian as the "must read book of 2013."  This novel by John Williams (who?) was first published in 1965 and was a candidate for disappearance until it became a success in France in a translation by Anna Gavalda.  Barnes gives an account of the book's second life as an international phenomenon.

The day before yesterday, I started reading Stoner.  I'm only a hundred pages in (a third of the way into the book), and my impression is that William Stoner, the titular character, has led an isolated life.  The University which was his escape from farm life became another trap or asylum.  Up to this point in the book, I've seen very little of Stoner's life in the academy.  Perhaps English department politics will become the subject of the latter part of the book?  Stoner's marriage to Edith is tragic.  He's a modern man though, or before his time — he takes responsibility for the care and rearing of his daughter while Edith suffers from an illness which looks to me like depression.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Afternoon coffee break

We chat about the decline of academia, pressure from the neoliberal management model which metricizes intangibles like the quality of instruction.  Is this book better than that?  This book is just different from that book.  Which academic journal has the highest impact factor? I.F.  If...  Please don't ask me to put three or four stars.

We're almost done when K says he's just read Austerlitz by Sebald.  Excellent, I say.  It took me a while to get used to the sentences, says K.  Don't you think the style is a function of the translator?  I give the translator a lot of credit for the quality of the prose.  I don't know, I say.  Sebald's got a distinctive style.  Anthea Bell did Austerlitz.  Michael Hulse did the other three, I'm pretty sure.  I'll check later.  (Neither of us reach for an iPhone.)

Most of what I read is books in translation.  Some books that I want to read haven't been translated into English yet.  Enrique Vila-Matas' Doctor Pasavento is one that I'm reading now, but reading in French.

Do you read German? asks K.  No, just French, I say.  And English, of course.

I read a lot of translated books too, says K.  I wonder why we default to translated literature.  It's not like there's a shortage of English-language writers.  But who's writing the books like Sebald, Vila-Matas, Aira, Toussaint, Knausgaard in English?  That's not exactly what I mean.  These authors are all different.  What I mean is who are the English language writers that I would enjoy reading as much as these?  Paul Auster?  To a degree, yes.   Invention of Solitude is his best.  Teju Cole.  Ben Lerner.  Any others?