The Spring 2011 issue of the Quarterly Conversation is up now. There are some interesting articles in this issue. I found the ones below of particular interest.
By Hilary Plum
There are writers who make you want to go back into writing. Karapanou makes you want to go back into living your life. She also belongs to this rare community of writers who work beyond influence; they are on their own. When I was in my twenties I tried to imitate my favorite writers, but with Karapanou it never worked. Her voice was so unique and what I wished for was just to listen to her voice. Her atmosphere influenced some of my stories but at that young age I always felt that I failed to create an atmosphere as extraordinary and magical as hers. As she doesn’t belong to a group of writers, her influence within Greek literature is difficult to be measured. I am afraid Greek literature looks always for ethnic characteristics, for more “Greekness” and Karapanou goes beyond Greekness. She is not at all interested in that stuff. Her Hydra is primarily a psychological landscape.
By E.J. Van Lanen
Bernhard’s novels move from the present to the past. There is an action, usually a suicide, that has happened before the novel begins. In The Loser it is the suicide of Wertheimer; in The Lime Works it is Konrad’s apparent brutal murder of his wife; in Woodcutters it is the suicide of the “movement-teacher” Joana; in Wittgenstein’s Nephew it is the death of Paul Wittgenstein; and in Concrete it is the continuing inability of Rudolf to write his treatise on Mendelssohn Bartholdy. By the time these novels have begun, all of these actions have already happened. What remains to Bernhard’s characters is to make some sort of sense of these actions, to provide a justification for the suicide, to explain their writers’ block, to seek out from all their relations with society, with history, with their own minds that have made this action somehow necessary or inevitable. They seek causes and try to discover in everything the logic that is dictating events.
By Andrea Rosenberg
Alfredo Iriarte’s Tropical Bestiary: Dictator Chronicles, a collection of biographies of nine Latin American dictators, is a text that refuses to be faithful to established institutions and ideologies. It resists and undermines mainstream historiography, and rebels against what Iriarte viewed as a whitewashing of barbarism and cruelty with glorious myths of national progress. Iriarte’s approach is both to emphasize horrific and grotesque moments in Latin American history, and to fictionalize history, abandoning strict historical accuracy and incorporating apocrypha and popular legends into the portraits, preferring literary qualities over stodgy factual precision.
Translated by Andrea Rosenberg
In Tropical Bestiary: Dictator Chronicles, Colombian author Alfredo Iriarte wrote hilarious, grotesque biographies of nine Latin American dictators. The following chapter narrates the heartwarming tale of Bolivian dictator Mariano Melgarejo and his equine sidekick Holofernes. A profile of Alfredo Iriarte can be found here in the current issue of The Quarterly Conversation.
Review by John Lingan
Writing with twenty-six years’ hindsight, Eisner reclassified his trilogy as a work of “literary comics,” and claimed among his forebears Lynd Ward, the illustrator, printing press impresario, and woodcutter whose own Depression-era work has been recently compiled in two volumes by the Library of America and deemed Six Novels in Woodcuts. The Library’s collection, described on its packaging as “The Collected Works of America’s First Graphic Novelist,” has been edited and introduced byMaus author Art Spiegelman, and accolades from other contemporary comics legends, including Eisner, adorn the books’ gorgeous Art-Deco dust jackets.
Review by Jordan Anderson
The novel takes the structure of what might be termed a “false” autobiography of the dictator, as imagined by Fuentes. (It is notable that the real Castro has written and published both the first volume of an autobiography covering his childhood and development as a revolutionary, as well as a “spoken autobiography” transcribed and organized by journalist Ignacio Ramonet.) Fuentes’s often violent descriptions of Castro’s mindset are beautifully composed, with a highly strung treatment of a life led under a seemingly unsustainable and unstable amount of pressure.
Review by Rone Shavers
Weighing in at slightly over 600 pages, author Karen Tei Yamashita’s National Book Award-nominated I Hotel is an encyclopedic compilation of facts, personages, and allusions both common and obscure that could very well represent a turning point in Asian-American literature. A novel that took its author 10 years to write, I Hotel actually consists of ten “hotels”: loosely-associated novellas that detail the variegated strands of activism within San Francisco’s Asian-American community, circa 1968-1977. Yet such a description only hints at the obvious, surface-level aspects of the novel, while just underneath much more is going on.
Review by Gregory McCormick
Born in 1958 in Tokyo, Kawakami is one of Japan’s most celebrated novelists. She burst onto the scene in 1994 with her first short story which won the Pascal Short Story Prize for New Writers. Her novel, Manazuru, was published in Japan in 2007. It tells the story of Kei, a middle-aged Tokyo mother trapped in the confines of a rhythmic, if slightly off-kilter, life.