Megabus March Madness

Hello from a Megabus hurtling up I-35 from Austin to Dallas!

Yesterday I hopped on a Megabus with a rolling suitcase packed full of books for Jón Gnarr’s talk with Dr. Dominic Boyer (Rice University) at Austin’s Nerd Nite at the North Door. The talk was called: “The Comedy of Politics and the Politics of Comedy” and it was awesome. The crowd of 120ish nerdy souls learned about stiob as a form of satire from Dr. Boyer, setting up Gnarr’s talk on the creation and execution of the Best Party idea. It was so so so so so so fun. Thank you to everyone who came, you’re all an inspiration, and an extra special thanks to those who came and bought copies of The Indian even though it has nothing to do with Gnarr’s term as mayor or Björk or any of the other things people are obsessed about with Iceland. Good times!


Dominic Boyer & Jón Gnarr before hitting the stage at the North Door

Review copies of Anne Garréta’s much-anticipated, long-awaited English-language debut, Sphinx, are out in the world in Emma Ramadan’s ingenious translation! Subscriber copies will be mailed out tomorrow so that our beloved subscribers receive their copies roughly two weeks ahead of the book’s publication date (April 14th).

Sphinx is a novel of dancing — A*** is a dancer, the narrator becomes a DJ — and itself dances the way a boxer does. Garréta lands her smattering of punches, fiercely, precisely, covering the body of the reader: intellectual hooks in philosophy, aesthetic jabs in prose, emotional haymakers in the rises and falls of love. She moves carefully, quickly, tuned to the pace of the dance of the fight. In one of the most gorgeous, devastating scenes, the narrator utters an enigmatic sentence to herself, which many novelists would leave, simply content that it suggests meaning, but Garréta’s narrator admits that though it satisfies, it is utterly enigmatic. The next move, the type that makes Sphinx the tight masterpiece that it is, is when the events that follow blow away the mist that obscures clear sight of the utterance, so it becomes portent. Mysterious and obscure to physical and emotionally wrought is the shift that Sphinx makes again and again to the very end, until the difference is no longer definable, all in the growth and preservation of love, even when that love can only continue in memory.

Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight continues to profoundly impact any and all who read it, like Maud Newton, who “will savor it as a daily devotional” and Rosie Clarke’s in-depth review at the always-remarkable Music & Literature Magazine:

As Pitol weaves together memories, dreams, literary criticism, brief histories of twentieth-century Mexico, and odes to writers he regards as exemplary,The Art of Flight circumnavigates neat categorization. In trying to situate this book both culturally and historically, Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectivesmakes for an obvious if imperfect comparison, alongside Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-part quasi-fictional bildungsroman My Struggle, Ben Lerner’s mesh of fiction and autobiography in Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, and, with Pitol’s fixation on place, even Hemingway’s memoir-cum-love letter to Paris A Moveable Feast. But despite attempts to locate the book among these, it resists comparison; The Art of Flight has none of the obsessive, Proustian detail of Knausgaard, or the metafiction of Lerner. It resists the light-heartedness of Bolaño’s depictions of youth and escapades, and the moroseness of Hemingway. Instead, it resembles a cloudy gemstone: at once glimmering and opaque, layered and precise.

Our March madness is about to turn into April/May madness: in the next two months we’ll publish three books: Garréta’s Sphinx, Gnarr’s The Indian, and Shishkin’s Calligraphy Lesson. 2015: the year of Deep Vellum continues.

P.S. Among the Final Four college basketball teams left in the NCAA tournament, it just so happens that my graduate school alma mater, Duke, is facing off against Chad Post of Open Letter’s alma mater Michigan State. And Garréta has been a professor at Duke for some time now. That’s your literary sports fun fact for the day…Go Duke!

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