French Books USA: Week in Review
Showcasing emerging talent and established names from the European literary scene in otherwise hard to find English translations, Trafika Europe is a little gem for Americans in search of new stories. Their winter issue, "Arabesque," hones in on Europe from the counterpoint of Arabic influence with excerpts from French-language writers Faïza Guène, Tahar Ben Jelloun, and Alima Hamel.
There Goes the Neighborhood
Spare a thought for the 15th arrondissement and its reputation as a drab, uninspiring slice of Paris that lacks the mythological status of so many of its neighbors. That reputation was fully undeserved, according to neighborhood Mythologizer-in-Chief Roger Caillois, whose A Little Guide to the 15th Arrondissement for the Use of Phantoms serves as a "concise résumé of Caillois’s diverse intellectual career and one of the most outlandish contributions to the overstuffed genre of Paris psychogeography ever written. Part memoir and part metafiction, part literary criticism and part architectural monograph, part sociological study and part ghost story, the Little Guide is all Caillois, Renaissance Man of the Recherché."
Author writes book. Independent editor publishes it. Book wins literary award. Major publisher swoops in and signs author. Rinse. Repeat. Are small publishing houses doing the legwork for major players whose profits depend on strong back catalogs? So it seems. "Mainstream publishing has become risk-averse and sold on the idea that committees of sales and marketing gurus, the most powerful people in publishing these days, know what will sell. Do they really? How many millions have been spent, and will be lost, this Christmas on orange-headed celebrity books whose pie charts and spreadsheets appeared to augur well but will be returned wholesale in January?"
For your reading pleasure this holiday season: Guy de Maupassant's "The First Snowfall," in its entirety, thanks to LitHub. Or maybe you've gone to too many parties in the company of people you dislike and the ennui is taking over your festive spirit. We're not judging. Here's a guide to navigating that boredom: Parties Without Tears.
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