*Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue: In Larry Rohter’s glowing New York Times review, he calls it a “farcical duel with topspin.” Caravaggio and Quevado play tennis with a ball made from the hair of Anne Boleyn, and on the other side of the globe, Cortés and La Malinche duke it out in the game of colonial domination and resistance.
To be honest, I was initially drawn to the book because Enrigue is married to a favorite contemporary writer of mine, Valeria Luiselli, whose books Faces in the Crowd, Sidewalks, and The Story of My Teeth have been recently translated from the Spanish and published by Coffee House Press. Though Sudden Death is Enrigue’s fifth novel, it’s only his first to be translated into English (by Natasha Wimmer, Roberto Bolaño’s masterful translator, no less).
We miss so much when we only read part of the world. Rohter leaves us with this thought: “Sudden Death is a splendid introduction to Mr. Enrigue’s varied body of work, but it also raises a question related to the themes of the novel: Why are English-language readers only now getting a glimpse of what this gifted writer has produced in a career that is already two decades old?” Yes, please, to more work in translation on our shelves!
*Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte is being called “Middlemarch for Millenials,” and follows four Stanford graduates around San Francisco in the year 2008, just before the financial crisis. Publisher’s Weekly has a great review here. Gentrification, rapidly rising and falling personal fortunes, and the emergence of tech-billionaire messiahs were already well-underway in that city in 2008, and eight years later we’re still looking at that Western bubble, not burst, but goitered and grown.
*The Life of Elves by Muriel Barberry. We loved that elegant Hedgehog, and come, on, who’s not curious about elves? The book is described as a tale “of two children whose extraordinary talents will bring them into contact with magical worlds and malevolent forces,” but written for adults. Fantastic. In an interview with Gallic Books, Barberry writes of her parable for adults: “The language came naturally as I was writing the original fairytale, and it carried the story along. It immediately took on a timeless quality, but with an intentionally archaic ring, with the result that it is difficult to situate it in a particular time or literary style. The same goes for the story the novel tells.”
*Next we have Every Anxious Wave, by Michigan MFA graduate Mo Daviau. We hosted her reading last night, and the crowd was packed to hear what NPR called “a wise, witty romp through time and indie rock” read aloud.