Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blizzards of Words as I Await a Blizzard of Snow

We have a blizzard warning here in Maine today, and the snow is just starting to fall as I get ready to post this entry: I always get excited for the first big snow of the year! I don’t have a book report for you this week because I’m only a third through Mathias √Čnard’s Zone, which Charlotte Mandell translated from the French… it’s quite a book, more about war, ancient and contemporary, than anything else, at least so far, and it’s (mostly) written as one big, long sentence. I’m enjoying it very, very much: it’s a tremendous piece of work with endless references to history and literature.

I probably wouldn’t have even posted today if the essay in today’s New York Times Book Review hadn’t been Ed Park’s “One Sentence Says It All,” about one-sentence books, those wordy storms that used to scare the hell out of me. Park includes Zone in his piece, but I was sorry he didn’t mention another one-sentence novel I read earlier this year, Alain Mabanckou’s very readable and funny Broken Glass, translated from the French by Helen Stevenson. It was perfect training for Zone! (previous post)

Since I’m here, I’ll also post the link to Robert Hanks’s rather negative opinion of Andrew Ervin’s Extraordinary Renditions, which I wrote about in November here. Though I had mixed feelings about the book and agree with some, perhaps even many, of Hanks’s criticisms – yes, “Ervin’s writing is often overwrought” and there were definitely “gratuitous cultural references” in the book – I thought he missed the whole point of Extraordinary Renditions. Freedom: I thought Ervin’s book presented variations on the theme of freedom. I’d also like to point out that Amy Henry of The Black Sheep Dances, who sent me her copy of Extraordinary Renditions this fall, wrote about the book, here, way, way back in late August!

Up Next: Favorites from 2010 and the afore-mentioned Zone

Disclosure: Thank you to Open Letter’s Chad Post, who is always a great source of information about translated fiction, for the review copy of Zone.

Photo credit: “Snow Texture” from penywise, via (I’m hoping we get nice, light snow like this…)

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