Distracted by Other Books

Posted September 11, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 14 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in August 2018

August is Women in Translations month, which means there is a big influx of people reading translations, even the publishers and big bookish media seem to promote the event. This feels like a double edge sword for me, while I love that more people are reading from my corner of the bookish world, there are plenty of cringe worthy moments to be had as well. There are people who like to make themselves the authority of the topic despite showing no interest previously in the male/female balance in the world of translations. Admittedly this reaction I have is just my grumpiness coming to play and in reality I should be thankful to see so many people participate in a month dedicated to reading women in translations. For those that did not want to dedicate a whole month, some BookTubers even put together a Women in Translations readathon, but I will not be discussing my problem with readathons here.

I had planned my reading month, thinking that while vacationing around Tasmania I would have more reading time than expected. I packed four books to read during the trip, plus a kindle but I only managed to complete one novel during that entire trip, and it was not even a book I was enjoying. Prior to my vacation, I had read Convenience Store Woman, a book that I still think about to this day. The hype surrounding this book is justified. I also read The Door with my wife, which was discussed on the latest episode of Lost in Translations. Before my trip, I scheduled six reviews for my blog, all being women in translations. I am pleased to say, that I am pretty much up to date with reviewing, as I have made the choice not to review every book I read. I want to spend more time writing essays and improving my writing abilities so while reviews seem to be an important aspect of my blog, I hope this means that I will write more.

Tasmania was an amazing experience, I have not been there before and I really enjoyed the cold weather. I got to experience snow falling for the first time, most non-Australians might think this is not as special as I make it out to be. The book I read while away was Oneiron; it was not for me, and I really struggled to get through it. I understand what Laura Lindstedt was trying to do by putting these women in this situation and have them reflect on their lives but I was disappointed. I did however start Aracoeli and I am having a much better experience. Elsa Morante is a wonderful writer and for those who do not know her, she is one of the authors that influenced the writing of Elene Ferrante.

During my trip I visited bookstores every chance I got, which did leave me with a much heavier bag by the end of the trip. I wanted to limit my purchasing by focusing on expanding my women in translation collection but I failed at that. So many stores seemed to have a very limited selection for translations, which is fast becoming the biggest downside of my reading niche. The feeling of leaving a bookstore empty handed is heart breaking for a book lover. However, if I started to complain about the amount of books I did end up purchasing, I would be lying to myself. I have so many amazing books to read, I just need to find the time.

After Tasmania we stopped in Melbourne for the weekend and attended the Melbourne Writers Festival. This year had an amazing line up and I think I want to write about what I saw in a different post. The festival has inspired me to be more active in my blogging and to write more pieces, so let’s see if it pays off. The final book I read before going back to work was Sofi Oksanen’s novel Purge. Previously I read When the Doves Disappeared which I liked but did not love, honestly, I think Purge is a far superior novel. Because it was Women in Translations month, I think it is necessary to check my reading stats to see if I have a balanced reading life this year. I am pleased to say that 75% of my reading have been translations, which is indicative of my passion. With 52% being books written by women. I hope to maintain this balance, but I know how easy it is to have the statistics change.

Happy reading everyone.

  • People in the Room by Norah Lange (translated by Charlotte Whittle)
  • Rereadings by Anne Fadiman
  • The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrère (translated by John Lambert)
  • Bogotá 39 by Various (translated by Various)
  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan
  • A Life by Italo Svevo (translated by Archibald Colquhoun)
  • Rohypnol by Andrew Hutchinson
  • A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
  • The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (translated by Janet Hong)
  • Wait, Blink by Gunnhild Øyehaug (translated by Kari Dickson)
  • Books by Charlie Hill
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (translated by Thomas Teal)
  • The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz (translated by Adrian Nathan West)
  • Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras (translated by Richard Seaver)
  • Claudine in Paris by Colette (translated by Antonia White)
  • Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin
  • Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)
  • Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World by Catalina de Erauso (translated by Gabriel & Michele Stepto)
  • Comemadre by Roque Larraquy (translated by Heather Cleary)
  • The Last Day by Jaroslavas Melnikas (translated by Marija Marcinkute)
  • Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf (translated by Mara Faye Lethem)
  • Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah (translated by Sora Kim-Russell)
  • The Geography of Rebels Trilogy: The Book of Communities, The Remaining Life, and In the House of July & August by Maria Gabriela Llansol (translated by Audrey Young)
  • In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein (translated by John Cullen)
  • The Endless Summer by Madame Nielsen (translated by Gaye Kynoch)
  • Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  • The Door by Magda Szabó (translated by Len Rix)
  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (translated by Owen Witesman)
  • Purge by Sofi Oksanen (translated by Lola Rogers)
  • Aracoeli by Elsa Morante (translated by William Weaver)
  • When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (translated by Lola Rogers)

14 responses to “Distracted by Other Books

  1. Your first paragraph made me smile, as I love sarcasm, and some day I’d love to get you started on your thoughts about readathons. Of which I’m sure I’d probably concur.

    As for me, I’m somewhat troubled about all this hullaboo over “read women authors.” We should read anyone who is worthy, period.

    I have a copy of Convenience Store Woman which I can’t wait to read. I have a special place in my heart for Japanese literature. And, I too, am waiting for Drive Your Plow Over The Bones. We never get anything here (in the US) until it’s final hour.

    • The sort answer to my opinion of readathons is “quality over quantity”. I get your opinion about reading women authors, I just feel like my stats were ridiculous. I started reading more translations because I have 80% American literature…found out I loved it. My male/female percentage was similar so I thought I should read more women because it is the man that get the most attention. Just my take, but I do think people should read whatever they want…I might judge them but that shouldn’t matter.

      • Please don’t feel I was being critical of you in my comment regarding women in translation; I was really speaking of the readers (feminists) who extol women above all others regardless of the quality of the writing.

        I so agree with you about quality over quantity…on every front.

        I, too, have been so enriched by translated literature. It opens up worlds and worlds to me, expands my understanding far more than reading works by only Americans could do.

        • Don’t worry I don’t feel like you are being critical. I am just giving my reasoning and I know what you mean. I want equality and I understand why people push so hard but if you are dismissing other writing because of it, then I feel like you are missing the point.

          The more I read translations the less I care about the American/UK (and Australian lit here) that is getting pushed so hard. I have fallen deep into this niche and maybe it’s isolating but I’m reading for my pleasure

          • Yes, yes to your last sentence especially! I have fallen away from many people with whom I began blogging in 2006 because they are into current best sellers, and I am enraptured with translated lit.

  2. Agnese

    You should write an essay about readathons. That would be very interesting and fun to read.

    Purge was such an amazing book, I’m still thinking about it. Will you be writing a full review of it?
    I’m happy to see that you’ve added Comemadre, The Last Day and The Endless Summer to your wishlist. I hope you enjoy them!

  3. Violet

    So, you’ve fallen down the translated lit rabbit hole? 🙂 I don’t read much of that any more, mostly because it’s too hard to get hold of the books I want to read. The WA library system has instituted a new rule that you can’t request an inter-library loan unless the book has been in circulation for 12 months, so that narrows my options down a lot. I’m still amassing “all” the translated classic novels so I’ll be ready for the mythical day when I can slam my front door shut and hibernate and just read and read and read. I know I should be reading them now, just in case, because of the “so many books and so little time” factor.

    Do you find that some (most?) of the more “popular” translated lit is kind of heavy and depressing? I find I have to stop reading books quite often, because they’re just too much for me at the time. Maybe it’s just me. 🙂

    • I am deep in that rabbit hole, ready to bury the exit so I can never escape. I have been pretty lucky here in Townsville to have some access to some translations, but not as many as I would like. The inter-library loan system is very complicated and not worth the effort some times.

      I do wish I could just read an ereader, that would solve all my problems but I can’t do it. It doesn’t feel right. I still have some classics to read but I’m loving the exploration of the world, my bookshelves are beginning to look more interesting. Although this little niche of the bookish world is great it can feel isolating as well

      • I’m glad you found your reading niche. I guess you needed to try a lot of stuff in order to settle on what you really like.

        I’ve read a couple of ebooks lately. I don’t remember much about them though. The library has gone digital in a big way and most translated fic is in digital form. I just don’t take it in the same way I do with words on a page.

        I wish I had access to a decent bookstore that stocked translated lit. We have a Dymocks and a QBD, and both are pitiful. I don’t like buying fiction without knowing if I’ll actually want to read the book.

        • It’s a shame, it feels like you are living in a cultural wasteland. I would hate my library to go digital, they use a digital service called BorrowBox which is by Bolinda and it is pitiful, it has hardly anything. I hate the QBD stores, I never find anything good there. Dymocks can be ok, but it depends on the size of the store.

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