Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

Received my first book from Open Letter Books (I have a subscription to their catalog, which is a fantastic deal, by the way) yesterday – The Golden Calf, a Russian classic by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov. This book looks absolutely excellent and downright hilarious. The From the Authors bit at the very beginning of the book is already funny and I can’t wait to read this novel. Hooray for Open Letter Books and the fantastic translated fiction they are bringing to English-speaking readers.


Anyone else wondering whether the literary world is about to be flooded with unpublished JD Salinger fiction? Apparently, he never stopped writing…


I started reading Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American. First, I was completely shocked to learn on page 6 that the narrator is a man. I hate it when this happens. I think most readers can’t help but assume a 1st person narrator is female when the author is female unless specified to the contrary within the first paragraph. But I went back and diligently reread those first six pages and I still think the voice is feminine…but I put the book down and will pick it back up in a day or so with my expectations in line.


Have made two big reading resolutions for 2010…

#1 – read as much as possible from the small presses. I continue to be overwhelmingly impressed with what is coming from the independent houses and less and less impressed with anything coming from the big houses. Especially for new writers. I realize a lot of this is simply because the independent presses appear to be the only ones even taking new writers, and therefore new fiction. In the long run, I see the closed-up-ness of the big houses for the past year and a half as detrimental to their future in a big way.

#2 – read second novels from anyone I’ve read only once. I tried to do this in 2009 but failed rather spectacularly, except for John Banville, Graham Swift and Philip Roth. But really, I need to be getting further into André Brink, Arnost Lustig, Michèle Lesbre, Richard Powers, Shirley Hazzard, David Malouf and a bunch of others. Plus Iris Murdoch, I cannot forget Iris Murdoch.


11 Responses to “Friday reading notes”

  1. Mike

    Hi. Was compelled to comment since I had thoughts of most of today’s postings, etc. First, back to Roth/misogyny-I was glad to be part of the discussion. I refrained from weighing in further on Roth, as I (and it seems most of us involved here) have only really sampled his work. At any rate, I think we all have a certain “cringe” threshold as regards racial and gender stereotypes…..You’ve jarred my interest in small presses. I’ll keep an eye out for your discoveries and try to more actively seek them out…and, YES, as soon as I saw the news that Salinger has written non-publicly for many years, I figured we could count on some posthumous releases in time. Intriguing.

  2. Lisa Guidarini

    Thanks for the tip on Open Letter. Like you, I plan to read more world lit as well as small press books. Now I’d like to recommend a small publisher called Coffee House Press ( http://www.coffeehousepress.org/ ) in case you haven’t heard of them. That’s my thanks for your link. 🙂

  3. bookeywookey

    Like you, upon hearing of J. D. Salinger’s death (guilty as this makes me feel), I too wondered if he indeed had continued to write and if we would be the richer for more of his incredible stuff, or disappointed because either he hadn’t written a word or because what he wrote wasn’t the same.

  4. Stefanie

    Great reading goals. I’ve been wondering too if there will be a flood of Salinger writing. I suppose it all depends on his heirs.

  5. Biblibio

    Seeing as my one foray into Salinger’s mind was “Catcher in the Rye” and that didn’t turn out so well, I can’t say I’m too intrigued to find out if he continued writing. On the other hand, I’ve heard that his short stories are excellent so I may soon find myself reintroduced to the man.

    I’ve learned that setting long term goals or resolutions doesn’t do much for me other than to disappoint when I fail. Instead, I aim for short term – read book X before event Y. Stuff like that. Then when I fail, I blame my timetable.

  6. びっくり

    I have never read any Salinger. I often hear mixed response on his work. I got the feeling that he wrote something racy and that got him banned and that prompted teachers who wanted to challenge authority to make people read it. Eventually, I’ll have to delve in and form my own opinion. There are many interesting patterns to how things get released or held back. I’m sure you’ll have more information for us if something does pop up.

    Yay, for supporting the small press. And yay for them for putting out quality which makes it easier to support them.

  7. adevotedreader

    I’ll be interested to hear about The Golden Calf, as I haven’t read much Russian fiction from outside the 19th century and have faith in Open Letter’s editorial judgement. As a side note, I was reading on their Three percent blog about some publishing argy bargy over the fact two English translations of it have been published at the same time. The link is http://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/index.php?id=2473 if you’re interested.

    Reading second novels of authors you’ve enjoyed sounds like a good plan, especially when it includes Hazzard and Malouf. I haven’t read Murdoch yet, so might be inspired by your example!

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