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Posts Tagged ‘Akhil Sharma’

What We’re Loving: Gremlin Jokes, Spiritual Paths, Sundae Ire

January 17, 2014 | by

Backgammon (1982) by Jane Freilicher

Jane Frelicher, Backgammon, 1982.

It’s been almost fifteen years since Akhil Sharma published his first novel, An Obedient Father. This terrible, improbably funny book—about a single mother forced to share an apartment with the father who raped her as a child—won Sharma a PEN/Hemingway prize, a Whiting Award, and praise from the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Joyce Carol Oates. (I remember because it was the first novel I had the honor of editing.) Now Sharma is back with Family Life, the tale of an Indian American boy coming of age in the shadow of a family disaster. It too is terrible and improbably funny, and is excerpted in this week’s New Yorker. With acid, deceptively artless prose and a faultless ear for dialogue, Sharma strips his characters bare from page one and dares us to love them in their nakedness. I cannot think of a more honest or unsparing novelist in our generation. —Lorin Stein

Michael Hofmann is the only translator whose work I would read no matter what he decided to English—if only I could keep up with him! In the excellent new issue of Asymptote, he tells a story about interviewing Wolfgang Koeppen in 1992, four years before the German novelist’s death. (“With my English reticence and youth, I met Koeppen halfway: in other words, we were both barely out of our shells.”) He also writes of the Joseph Mitchell–like silence that Koeppen fell into after the publication of Death in Rome (1954) and lauds the still-untranslated last book, Youth (1976)—giving us reason to hope he might be at work on an English version. The final remarks on Koeppen’s sentences—continually “sidestepping into freedom,” “scrupulously managed, supple, cadenced, sumptuously lexical, expressive prose”—double as a description of Hofmann’s own writing. —Robyn Creswell

Poetry’s January issue contains a thirty-page feature on Jane Freilicher: her artwork and her close friendships with a number of poets, among them Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. The section is adapted from Tibor de Nagy Gallery’s wonderful exhibition, last summer, “Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets” (it’s currently on view at the Poetry Foundation, in Chicago). I remembered having glimpsed the show’s catalogue in Lorin’s office. I liberated it, and I’m not sure I’ll give it back. It’s like having a scrapbook made by the people whose work you most admire, and it shows that they had as good a time in one another’s company as you’d imagined. “Some little gremlins seemed to have popped loose in my idea factory and I think they may have been sent over from Koch’s brassiere factory,” writes Freilicher to O’Hara. And in what may be my favorite letter in the whole book, from Jane to Frank on a poem of his: “it just don’t seem to have that real low-down smelly sexy everyday Olympian quality your admirers depend upon.” —Nicole Rudick Read More »

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Suicide Notes, Mick Jagger, and Other News

June 3, 2013 | by

libraryloungelarge

  • “The suicide note—and I’m being deadly earnest—is moving, strange, harrowing and peculiar literature … People’s interest in them is almost pornographic.” Hence, a class on the art of the missive.
  • “After you have spent five or six years on a novel, you can’t abandon the project without risking a nervous breakdown.” After twelve years since publishing a story, Akhil Sharma talks to Page Turner. 
  • Mick Jagger says his autobiography would be boring, and besides, everyone knows everything.
  • Take this spelling bee test, and tremble.
  • (The winning word, by the way, was predictably controversial.)
  • Can there be too many pictures of nifty book rooms? There cannot. Above, the Library Lounge in Zurich.
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    Staff Picks: Trollope, Švankmajer, and Trevor

    January 7, 2011 | by

    Over the break I read what is now my very favorite Trollope novel, and the one I was saddest to finish: Framley Parsonage. I’m coming down off it with DeLillo’s Running Dog, Henry Petroski’s history of the bookshelf, and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. —Lorin Stein

    I watched Jan Švankmajer’s Little Otik and Alice in one night; both films are hilarious and nightmarish. Švankmajer is best known for his use of stop-motion and his exaggerated and bizarre sound editing, which reminds me a bit of David Lynch. I love the dialogue of his characters, especially that of the young girl in Little Otik, Alžbětka, who is perfectly vulgar. —Natalie Jacoby

    I have been enjoying William Trevor’s Selected Stories for that moment of calm at the end of each day. I’m about a quarter way through the enormous book, but my favorite story is still the first, “The Piano Tuner’s Wives.” It begins: “Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old. There was a little more to it than that, because in choosing Violet to be his wife the piano tuner had rejected Belle, which was something everyone remembered when the second wedding was announced.” —Thessaly La Force

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