Goodbye to 2012 and Hello! to 2013

To state the blatantly obvious:  December has been a slow month at BookSexy Review.  I’m not a huge fan of end of year lists, so have been embracing the downtime to recharge and re-examine.  2012 was the best of times and the worst of times… at least in my reading/blogging life.   Here are some of the highs and the lows:

The BEST – The 2012 Goodreads Reading Challenge. The Challenge is reminiscent of the Summer Reading Contests at the public library when I was a kid.  I don’t know if they still have them, but every summer you’d sign up and the librarian would track your reading for three months.  At the end your name would be entered into a drawing for a prize – I remember one year it was a plush raven.  Even without the possibility of winning a stuffed animal, there’s something eminently satisfying about marking a book “finished” and watching the bar increase as you draw closer to your goal.  Or measuring your progress against your friends.   Or just comparing your list of read books to the previous years.  Biblio-geekiness combined with competition…  I’ve already entered my goal for 2013.

The WORST – Epic failure to reach my goal for the 2012 Goodreads Reading Challenge.  I read more books than last year, but still failed to reach my (unknowingly) over-ambitious quota.  Even more tragic was losing a side bet with Lori at TNBBC’s Blog.  She buried me and later this month I expect to face the consequences…  Brace yourselves, readers, because it won’t be pretty.

The BEST – Book Bloggers.  2012 was a stellar year when it came to connecting with other book bloggers.  Between Book Expo and the bookish community I’ve met through Twitter – there are some talented bloggers out there doing incredible work for the love of reading.  This is by no means a complete list, but TNBBC, PickyGirl, Kimbofo/Reading Matters, Levi Asher, Gav & Simon from The Readers, MookseandtheGripes, Stu/Winstonsdad, RobAroundBooks, AmyReads, the InsatiableBooksluts, Alix, Biblibio, Lisa/ANZLitLover – you all made my year richer and I can’t wait to see what everyone will be up to in 2013.

The BEST – Small Presses, Those Bloggers Again & Translations.  The majority of the books I read this year – at least 90% – have been either translations or International authors.  Despite the infamous 3% Problem, I had a suprisingly easy time of it.  The credit goes to many of the bloggers listed above (particularly to the bloggers in Australia, Scotland & England who tipped me off to books that were still finding their way into America) and to small & university presses willing to take a chance on authors who don’t write in English.

The WORST – Actually, I’ve got nothing.  Thankfully, there’s been more BEST than WORST to remember.  Well, maybe that Philippe Claudel book.  The more I think about it the more it irks me.  Walter Moers’ had a great quote about Waiting for Godot (disguised as an Ugglian play in The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books) which could just as easily be applied to The Investigation“The theme of the play may be despair at the futility of existence, but wouldn’t it be possible to handle the subject in a somewhat more entertaining and less redundant way?  And, to be honest, hasn’t this outlook on the world become a bit long in tooth these days – if a world outlook can be said to have teeth?… It’s possible that at the time of its premier…the play possessed a certain philosophical potency, but isn’t it also possible that this has dissipated over the years?…”

The BEST – I was all over the internet this year!  Well, all over my small, modest, bookish niche of the internet.  I contributed my first review to the legendary blog LitKicks, took part in an episode The Readers Summer Book Club (my first podcast!), hosted a Walter Moers Blog Tour, was mentioned on Harriet: the Poetry Foundation’s blog and was invited to take part in Triple Choice Tuesday at Reading Matters.  It was fun escaping from my little blog fiefdom and I’m looking forward to doing more of it in 2013.

The BEST –  BookSexy Review readers.  Thank you for all your comments and support in 2012.  I was able to read and review so many incredible books this year (and some not so incredible, let’s be honest).  Hopefully I did them all justice and you found something here to add to your own bookshelves.  Happy New Year, everyone!   May your 2013 be filled with peace, happiness and lots of reading!

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The Brooklyn Book Festival Cometh

BrooklynBookFestivalThe Brooklyn Book Festival is happening Sunday, September 23rd.  This year’s schedule is very exciting!  There are several panels – more than I can remember seeing in past years’ schedules – dealing specifically with International authors & translated lit.  England (see The London Review of Books), Central & North Africa, India, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago are all represented.  Almost all of them conveniently located in the Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room.  Below is a quick list (copied & pasted right from the schedule) of the panels which caught my eye.

  • 10:00 A.M. The London Review of Books presents The Novel and the City, a conversation about literature and the urban imagination with Mexican author Alvaro Enrigue, and cultural writer Christine Smallwood. Moderated by Adam Shatz, London Review of Books. – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
  • 10:00 A.M. Home Is Not A Place. Four authors read and discuss their books whose protagonists are challenged to create and negotiate their identity in a new homeland–a journey fraught with confusion, rebellion and uncertain outcomes. Graphic novelist Leela Corman (Unterzakhn), and authors Patricia Engel (Vida), Luis Alberto Urrea (Into the Beautiful North)and Jose Manuel Prieto (Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire).Moderated by Tiphanie Yanique (How to Escape from a Leper Colony) – Saint Francis Screening Room (180 Remsen Street)
  • 12:00 P.M. Through the Eyes of a Child. Join Somali-English author Nadifa Mohamed (Black Mamba Boy), Maaza Mengiste (Beneath the Lion’s Gaze) and Congo’s Emmanuel Dongala (Johnny Mad Dog and Little Boys Come from the Stars) for a conversation on contemporary African novels which explore themes of identity, memory and violence through child narrators. Moderated by Bhakti Shringarpure, Warscapes – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
  • 1:00 P.M. From the Ruins of Empire. Leading Indian writers Pankaj Mishra (From the Ruins of Empire: the Intellectuals Who Remade Asia) and Siddhartha Deb (The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India) read from their books and discuss the modern world and the East, and the movements and personalities that helped shape both – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
  • 1:00 P.M. Humanity in the Age of the Cyborg and Higgs Boson. The ancient question “What is the Self?” gets a new twist with the rise of nanotechnology, biotechnology and “smart” robots that increasingly assume functions previously handled by human muscle and mind. How do we define consciousness and existence in the age of cyborg bodies and artificial intelligence? Siri Hustvedt (Living, Thinking, Looking), Jim Holt (Why Does the World Exist) and Andrew Blum (Tubes) discuss mutating selfhood and what still makes us human. Moderated by Greg Milner – Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)
  • 2:00 P.M. Calabash Presents. Jamaica’s legendary Calabash International Literary Festival celebrates 50 years of Jamaican independence with readings by premier Jamaican-born novelists and poets Chris John Farley (Kingston Noir), Jacqueline Bishop (Snapshots from Istanbul),and Ishion Hutchinson (Far District).Moderated by Calabash co-founder Kwame Dawes – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
  • 3:00 P.M. BOCAS Presents. Trinidad’s groundbreaking annual NGC Bocas Literary Festival comes to Brooklyn to celebrate 50 years of Trinidad & Tobago independence with readings by Earl Lovelace (Is Just a Movie), Victoria Brown (Minding Ben) and Anton Nimblett (Sections of an Orange). Moderated by Nicholas Laughlin, BOCAS organizer and editor of the Caribbean Review of Books – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
  • 3:00 P.M. Power to the People: Grassroots Revolution in the Post Hope Era  What’s the connection between social change and electoral politics? Does the hope we can truly believe in come from the ground up? And what can we learn from the peoples’ revolutions from around the globe? Tariq Ali (The Obama Syndrome), Todd Gitlin (Occupy Nation), and Marina Sitrin (Everyday Revolutions) will discuss the necessity and effectiveness of individual action in the political sphere. Moderated by Laura Flanders (The Nation) – Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)
  • 4:00 P.M. Reality Denied. Science Fiction authors Carla Speed McNeil (Finder: Voice), Lev Grossman (The Magician King), Hillary Jordan (When She Woke) and Terry Bisson (Fire on the Mountain) read and discuss their books, which are part-medieval, part-magical, part-historical, part-apocalyptic and all reality bending! Moderated by literary agent Seth Fishman – Saint Francis Screening Room (180 Remsen Street)
  • 5:00 P.M. The PEN Translation Committee Presents North African Writing in the Wake of the Arab Spring. Noted translators, editors and poets Pierre Joris (Exile Is My Trade: a Habib Tengour Reader), Deborah Kapchan (Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition) and Peter Thompson (A Passenger from the West by Nabile Farès) explore the effects of the Arab uprisings in North Africa on poetry and narratives and discuss their recent works in translation. Moderated by Nathalie Handal (Language of a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond) – Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
  • 5:00 P.M. The Center for Fiction Presents Beyond Earth. From alternate histories to entire universes these writers create intricate worlds for their readers to explore. Naomi Novik (Temeraire series), N.K. Jemisin (the Inheritance trilogy), Rick Bowes (From the Files of the Time Rangers) and Catherynne M. Valente (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) will read brief selections from their work and discuss the art of world-building in fantasy writing and beyond. Moderated by Noreen Tomassi (The Center for Fiction) – Brooklyn Historical Society Library (128 Pierrepont Street)

The events highlighted in that pretty shade of lavender?  You probably noticed they’re all science fiction related.  They (and the promise of food trucks) were just the leverage I needed to get my husband to agree to spending the day in the city.  Book festivals aren’t really his thing, but he’s a bit of a foodie and a definite sci-fi geek, so what you’re witnessing is a compromise in action.

If you’re in NYC that weekend it’s (in theory) only a quick subway ride from Manhattan – and worth every delayed train, local stop and transfer.  So, do any of these panels look good to you?  Or did you see something on the official schedule that I missed?  Leave a comment below.

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2012 BEA Yearbook Awards

The 2012 Book Expo of America (BEA) took place last week at the Javitz Center in NYC.  This was my third year attending.   I plan to intersperse BEA stories in posts about specific books in the months to come, but for now here are some highlights you might be interested in checking out on your own:

  • Best Blogger Best-ie – No surprises here.  Lori @TNBBC was my designated driver for BEA 2012, showing up at promptly 5:30 AM every morning with an extra DD Mocha Latte in the cup holder.  She was wonderful.  No.  Really.  SHE WAS WONDERFUL!  She kept us focused, made me attend events I totally would have missed out on otherwise, and was my touchstone throughout the entire conference.  At one point another blogger said to me – Every time I see you you’re together.  Which made me feel incredibly lucky.  Because even though we did in fact split up quite a bit – I’m fortunate to have a friend who is never boring, with whom I always have tons to discuss, and doesn’t take offense when I get cranky and give a low growl of warning.   Best of all:  she did an incredible re-cap of a bunch of stuff we did together which means I don’t have to!

Of course, she had some tough competition this year.  We spent a goodly amount of time with The Picky Girl, Amy Reads, Alex who reviews at Romance Books Forum and Sally from The Insatiable BookSluts.   These ladies (and their knowledge of Brooklyn ice cream parlors) took my BEA to the next level. *waves*

  • Favorite Small Presses – There’s no one winner in this category!  Being new to the translation/international lit market, I still get a thrill from quizzing publishers on their new releases.  Sadly a lot of the Indie publishers – who in my opinion lead the industry in making international authors and translations available to the rest of us – were not in attendance this year.  Europa, New Directions, Two Dollar Radio and PEN (obviously not a publisher, but too important to the category not to mention) didn’t have booths. Fortunately, the University presses were still there in full force, as were perennial favorites Soho, Soft Skull, Tin House, Red Hen and Other Presses.  Coach House, a Canadian Publisher I first encountered a few years ago at the Brooklyn Book Festival made their BEA debut this year as well.
  • Prettiest Book – University of Minnesota is distributing these stunning Univocal paperback letterpress editions of various philosophers.  The books displayed featured translations into English, amongst them philosophers who I believe are fairly contemporary (but don’t quote me on that).  Philosophy, I’m embarrassed to say, is a category I neglect.  But these beautiful books make me not care whether or not I understand what’s inside them.  And you can see the craftmanship that is put into each one in the video below.

Actually, University of Minnesota was a winner overall for me.  They’re also publishing an intriguing Japanese author – Kawamati Chiaki – who I’ll have more to say about in the weeks to come.

  • Most Likely To Win A Literary Award (Actually, I think it already has…) – Tin House has a French translation coming out in October – Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi – which I’ll be moving to the front of my TBR queue.  At 119 pages I should have no problem fitting it in.  Here’s the publisher’s haunting description:

A single mother takes her two sons on a trip to the seaside.  They stay in a hotel, drink hot chocolate, and go to the carnival.  She wants to protect them from an uncaring and uncomprehending world.  She knows that it will be the last trip for her boys.

With language as captivating as the story that unfolds, Véronique Olmi creates an intimate portrait of madness and despair…

  • Person I’d Most Like to Have Coffee With – Che Guevara’s widow Aleida March has written a memoir with her daughter entitled Remembering Che:  My Life with Che Guevara.  It has taken over 10 years to convince her to tell her version of events.  The book marks the first time she is speaking publicly about her life with Che.  Aleida March is a fascinating person in her own right – she and her husband met as fellow guerrillas in the Cuban revolution.  Better yet, the book came out in April so there’s no need to wait for my review.
  • Book I Camped Out For – That would be Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Prisoner of Heaven.  By fangirl standards, it was in no way as hectic as I thought it would be. I was there 1-1/2 hours ahead of time, but the line didn’t start forming until a 1/2 hour before.  I love the cover… and while I know that each of these books can be read as a stand alone, I think I’ll need to go back and read the other two again to refresh my memory.  Poor me.
  • Most Likely to Be Overlooked –  Russia was the featured nation – which in typical BEA fashion wasn’t really ‘featured’.  There were panels to attend, but the actual booth was allllllll the way off to the side of the main floor, next to the e-readers.  (I passed by on my way to the McSweeney’s and Red Hen booths). Which is a shame, as Overlook Press put together a wonderful Anthology entitled READ RUSSIA! specifically, I think, for BEA (If anyone knows if there are  plans to sell it in stores please leave a comment).  There were stacks for the taking all around the Russia booths, but how many people knew about them?

The final verdict: BEA 2012 was a blast!  It’s always nice to be in the midst of bookish folk.

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Let’s Discuss “Content”

This year, at the start of BEA, an interesting experiment will be happening.  Bloggers will be getting together at the first Book Blog UNCON.  This meeting will take place on Monday, June 4th, at The Center of Fiction in Midtown.

What does this mean for my readers?  Well, for most of you, probably not much.  But I have high hopes for UNCON.  Rather than the traditional conference format of panelists and audiences, UNCON will consist of group sessions and (what I, for one, consider) workshops where bloggers will discuss different ideas and topics relevant to the field of book blogging.

The organizers have asked attendees to propose sessions and topics they’d be interested in.  Here are some ideas I have.

I’d like to see a session about content. It’s an on-going conversation between Lori @TNBBC (Hollah!) and myself that I’d like to open up to a larger and more diverse group.   A big question I have is about finding and developing new content.  More specifically, I’d like to hear everyone’s opinions on –

  1. The Blogger / Publisher Relationship – Who determines what is Buzz-Worthy?
  2. What Do You Review? – Is it helpful to have a specific criteria for determining which books you request/review – or is it better to go by your gut?  Do you/should you look for diversity?  Do you browse publisher catalogs?  or wait for them to contact you?  What other sources are helpful?
  3. New Releases vs. Back Catalog – What % of each?
  4. Beyond the “Review” – That’s a pretty broad area that can include Blog Series, Memes, Blog Tours, Interviews, Vidcasts, Podcasts, Twitter, etc., etc… the possibilities are nigh endless.

That’s it… my two cents have officially been added.

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The 2012 Best Translation Book Award Fiction Longlist

The Fiction Longlist for the 2012 Best Translated Book Award (BTBA) has finally arrived! The BTBA is sponsored by Three Percent and the University of Rochester.  As of 2011, winners receive a cash prize underwritten by Amazon.com.  The winner will be announced at the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival.

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Based on my limited knowledge, this year’s longlist is interesting – one that I’m looking forward to exploring.  Not surprisingly it contains several French and Spanish authors.  I spotted only one book from Sweden (thank GOD! – no offense to the Swedish people but I’m Stieg Larsson-ed out).  I’ve only read two of the books:  My Two Worlds (hooray!) and Funeral for a Dog and can state with sincerity that I loved them both.  As for the rest… I know of three others by reputation: Albahari’s Leeches, Saer’s Scars and Scliar’s Kafka’s Leopards.  I’m embarrassed to admit that the rest are a mystery.  Obviously I need to start playing catch up.

  • Leeches by David Albahari (Ellen Elias-Bursać, translator – Serbian)
  • My Two Worlds by Sergio Chejfec (Margaret B. Carson, translator – Spanish)
  • Demolishing Nisard by Eric Chevillard(Jordan Stump, translator – French)
  • Private Property by Paule Constant(Margot Miller and France Grenaudier-Klijn, translators – French)
  • Lightning by Jean Echenoz(Linda Coverdale, translator – French)
  • Zone by Mathias Énard (Charlotte Mandell, translator – French)
  • Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad (Deborah Dawkin, translator – Norwegian)
  • Upstaged by Jacques Jouet (Leland de la Durantaye, translator – French)
  • Fiasco by Imre Kertész(Tim Wilkinson, translator – Hungarian)
  • Montecore by Jonas Hassen Khemiri(Rachel Willson-Broyles, translator – Swedish)
  • Kornél Esti by Dezső Kosztolányi(Bernard Adams, translator – Hungarian)
  • I Am a Japanese Writer by Dany Laferrière (David Homel, translator – French)
  • Suicide by Edouard Levé (Jan Steyn, translator – French)
  • New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (Judith Landry, translator – Italian)
  • Purgatory by Tomás Eloy Martínez(Frank Wynne, translator – Spanish)
  • Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski (Bill Johnston, translator – Polish)
  • Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz(Nicholas de Lange, translator – Hebrew)
  • The Shadow-Boxing Woman by Inka Parei(Katy Derbyshire, translator – German)
  • Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger(Ross Benjamin, translator – German)
  • Scars by Juan José Saer(Steve Dolph, translator – Spanish)
  • Kafka’s Leopards by Moacyr Scliar (Thomas O. Beebee, translator – Portuguese)
  • Seven Years by Peter Stamm(Michael Hofmann, translator – German)
  • The Truth about Marie by Jean-Philippe Toussaint(Matthew B. Smith, translator – French)
  • In Red by Magdalena Tulli(Bill Johnston, translator – Polish)
  • Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas (Anne McLean, translator – Spanish)

As we all know, there can’t be a long list without a discussion of who isn’t on it.  Personally I would have liked to see Umberto Eco’s latest, as well as Sjon’s From the Mouth of the WhaleBut that’s just because I read and enjoyed them, obviously not based on how they match up against the others on the list.  What about you, my favorite readers?  Any thoughts on the long list?  Anyone you were disappointed not to see?  Leave your comments below.

And for more information on the longlist or The Best Translated Book Award follow the link.

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