The Journey Toward The Man Booker International Prize Begins Again for The Shadow Jury

Just as the drab chill of winter seems it will drag endlessly on, along with the flu it has brought me just before Valentine’s Day, a bright spot appears on my reading horizon: the formation of the Man Booker International Prize Shadow Jury.

There are some changes this year, as a few former members have stepped down, but new members have stepped up, and I’m so pleased to introduce the 2018 panel to you here:

Tony Malone is an Anglo-Australian reviewer with a particular focus on German-language, Japanese and Korean fiction. He blogs at Tony’s Reading List, and his reviews have also appeared at Words Without Borders, Necessary Fiction, Shiny New Books and Asymptote. Based in Melbourne, he teaches ESL to prospective university students when he’s not reading and reviewing. He can also be found on Twitter @tony_malone

Lori Feathers lives in Dallas, Texas and is co-owner and book buyer for Interabang Books, an independent bookstore in Dallas. She is a freelance book critic and board member of the National Book Critics Circle. For the last two years she has served as a fiction judge for the Best Translated Book Award. Her recent reviews can be found @LoriFeathers

Bellezza (Meredith Smith) is a teacher from Chicago, Illinois, who has been writing Dolce Bellezza for twelve years and has hosted the Japanese Literature Challenge for 11 years. Reading literature in translation has become a great passion, especially since the five years she has been a shadow juror for the IFFP and now the MBIP. Her Twitter name is @bellezzamjs

David Hebblethwaite is a book blogger and reviewer from the north of England, now based in the south. He has written about translated fiction for Words Without Borders, Shiny New Books, Strange Horizons, and We Love This Book. He blogs at David’s Book Worldand tweets as @David_Heb

Vivek Tejuja is a book blogger and reviewer from India and based in Mumbai. He loves to read books in Indian languages and translated editions of languages around the world (well, essentially world fiction, if that’s a thing). He also writes for Scroll.In and The Quint. He blogs at The Hungry Reader and tweets as @vivekisms. His first book, “So Now You Know”, a memoir of growing up gay in Mumbai in the 90s, is out in April 2018 by Penguin Random House.

Paul Fulcher is a Wimbledon, UK based fan of translated fiction, who contributes to the Mookse and Gripes blog and is active on Goodreads, where he moderates a MBI readers’ group. He is on the jury of the Republic of Consciousness Prize (@prizeRofC), which rewards innovative fiction, including in translation, from small independent presses. His reviews can be found at @fulcherpaul and via his Goodreads page.

María José Navia lives in Santiago, Chile. She has an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought (NYU) and a PhD in Literature and Cultural Studies (Georgetown University). She is currently an Assistant Professor at Chile’s Catholic University. She is also a published author (one novel, two collections of short stories) and is in the process of translating Battleborn (by Claire Vaye Watkins) into Spanish. You can read one of her stories, in English, in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of World Literature Today. She blogs at Ticket de Cambio and her twitter name is @mjnavia

Naomi Morauf is a voracious readerand avid tweeter with a particular interest in translated and speculative fiction. She moved to London for her philosophy degree and fell predictably into its clutches, working in media analysis as a broadcast editor before moving into book publishing. A Creative Access alumna and active member of the Society of Young Publishers and BAME in Publishing, she is a regular at Post Apocalyptic Book Club and the Dark Societies series of events. She is currently reviewing submissions at Unsung Stories.

Oisin Harris lives in Canterbury, UK and is an editor-in-the-making with a Publishing MA from Kingston University and an English degree from Sussex University. He is an academic librarian, and a freelance editor and proofreader. He has written about Women in Translation, Book Histories and how they can affect Book Futures, as well as on Islam and Literature in the West. When not reading or writing he can be found on Twitter @literaryty

Frances Evangelista is an educator from the Washington DC area who has been blogging about books for over ten years at Nonsuch Book and chatting on Twitter about the same @nonsuchbook. She has participated in a variety of projects including a Man Booker Shadow Panel for the last three years, and is eager to spread her wings with this MBIP panel.

We eagerly await the arrival of the long list on March 12, hoping to read and review every single book before the short list appears on April 12. Certainly the job will be done by the announcement of the winner on May 22. Be sure to check out our blogs, and Twitter-ings, as we read and discuss what consistently proves to be the most exciting reading I do all year.

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Snow Day, a day to catch up

How lovely it is to sit by my window, leisurely, with my tea and time. There is a Snow Day today in Illinois, the first my third graders have ever had in their young school days. We have prepared our Valentine bags for next week, and folded origami hearts, so I am not worried about being behind. (Wink, wink.)

Nor am I worried about being behind in my reading. I am listening to The Dry by Jane Harper on the days that I do drive to work. It is a wonderful mystery recommended by Lesley, set in a farming community in Australia, read in by a native Australian, and I am caught up in the shootings of Luke, his wife and son, while the baby Charlotte lives. More interesting is the story of Luke’s friend, Aaron Falk, a policeman with a past. The narrator keeps saying, “Luke lied. You lied,” throughout the chapters…

And The Portrait of a Lady read-along is faring well. Arti of Ripple Effects has ready finished both The Portrait of a Lady and Mrs Osmond, a goal I’m trying to reach this month myself. JoAnn and Audrey are listening to the audio of Portrait, which I believe is also synced to their kindles, and Helen and I are steadfastly plugging along. Right now, I am aware that no one in Isabel’s family wants her to marry Osmand, but I don’t yet know why. Please feel free to read with us this month.

Finally, the shadow jury for the Man Booker International Prize is forming, and we are eagerly anticipating the release of the long list on March 12. The short list comes out April 12, and the winner will be announced May 22. Updates on our progress, and my reviews of the books, will soon appear here.

I hope your days are filled with snow, or at least the beauty and freshness it brings, and that you have plenty of time to enjoy whatever it is you are reading.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James; some favorite quotes so far, which pertain to Isabel. But also, in some respects, to me.

“It is not absolutely necessary to suffer; we were not made for that.”

“Like the majority of American girls, Isabel had been encouraged to express herself; her remarks had been attended to; she had been expected to have emotions and opinions. Many of her opinions had doubtless but a slender value…”

“But for me there are only two classes: the people I trust, and the people I don’t.”

“Her desire to think well of herself always needed to be supported by proof; though it is possible that this fact is not the sign of a milder egotism.”

“I don’t want to begin life by marrying. There are other things a woman can do.”

“She had moreover a great fondness for intervals of solitude, and since her arrival in England it had been but scantily gratified. It was a luxury she could always comand at home, and she had missed it.”

“I don’t need the aid of a clever man to teach me how to live,” said Isabel. “I can find it out for myself.”

“…she had tasted of the delight, if not of battle, at least of victory; she had done what she preferred.”

“The love of knowledge coexisted in her mind with a still tenderer love of ignorance.”

I am only on page 205 of 584, but these little gleanings are giving me a picture of Isabel, and a foretaste of what might come with her naive and youthful perspective. Remember you are welcome to join several of us as we read The Portrait of A Lady this February.

Books Read in 2017

Books Read in 2017

~January~

~February~

~March~

  • Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
  • The Golden Key by George MacDonald (short story)
  • The Years That Followed by Catherine Dunne (unfinished)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (translated from Swedish by Henning Koch)
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell, MBIP 2017 short list)
  • War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (translated from Dutch by David Mckay, MBIP 2017 long list)
  • The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, MBIP 2017 short list)
  • Fish Have No Feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson (translated from Icelandic by Philip Roughton, MBIP 2017 long list)
  • Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak, MBIP 2017 long list)

~April~

  • Mirror, Shoulders, Signal by Dorthe Nors (translated from Danish by Misha Hoekstra, MBIP 2017 short list)
  • Judas by Amos Oz (translated from Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange, MBIP 2017 short list)
  • Letters and Papers From Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (translated from German by Christian Kaiser Verlag)
  • Compass by Mathias Enard ( translated from French by Charlotte Mandell, MBIP 2017 short list)
  • Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer (translated from German by Katy Derbyshire, MBIP 2017 long list)
  • Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

~May~

~June~

  • A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  • Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare (translated from Albanian by David Bellos)
  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (for the JLC11)
  • The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

~July~

~August~ 

  • Penance by Kanae Minato (translated from Japanese by Phillip Gabriel for JLC11 and Women In Translation Month)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Man Booker Prize long list 2017)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Man Booker Prize long list 2017)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (Man Booker Prize long list 2017)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (Man Booker Prize long list 2017)
  • Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders (Man Booker Prize long list 2017)

~September~

  • The Red-Haired Girl by Orhan Pamuk (translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap)
  • Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl
  • Billy and the Minpins by Roald Dahl
  • If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxes

~October~

~November~

~December~

The Woman In The Window by A. J. Finn

The Woman in the Window was one of the choices offered by the Book of The Month club, but I didn’t make it my selection because I was reluctant to go with anything titled The Woman…or Girl…(fill in the blank). But, as it kept popping up on every feed I happened to see, be it Instagram or the NYTimes book review, I wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about it.

It’s surprisingly good. The writing isn’t stellar, but the plot was interesting, and the pacing was rapid, and the conclusion was satisfactory in tying together all the complicated bits we’d been given previously. There were surprises throughout, and it was the one in the middle that pleased me the most.

How can I write about a thriller without revealing anything crucial? That’s impossible. But, I will tell you that the woman in the window could be our narrator, telling what she saw out of her four-storey home’s window (where she is “trapped” due to her agoraphobia). Or, it could be the woman in the home across the street looking back at her, as her hands slide down the glass in agony.

It is an interesting story told by a woman with emotional complications in her life, not in the slightest helped by her drinking or abuse of medications. So we wonder, as we read carefully on, is she reliable? Is she telling the truth? More specifically, is her story only her truth and no one else’s?

It was interesting to find out. It was a most satisfactory psychological thriller.

Suggestion for a read along this February, please join in!

When I posted this picture on Instagram, one or two friends said they wanted to read it. But, as it is a sequel to The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James, there was discussion of reading that first.

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And so I propose a read-along of  The Portrait of A Lady in February. We could take as long as necessary, just read it sometime during the month and discuss it at the end. Of course, feel free to post about it as you go, or offer any other suggestions to the read-along in the comments below, but I am excited about it. Because Mrs Osmand is so good, and I want to remind myself of what came before.

Are you in?

The Open Window, a short story by Saki (It’s so good!)

I find this the best kind of short story: a first rate mind game, which is brief, and startling, and gratifying all at the same time.

Our narrator has gone to visit strangers, people recommended to him by his sister, as he is trying to overcome a nervous disorder. While he waits for the woman he has come to see, her fifteen year old niece entertains him.

“I hope you don’t mind the open window,” she says, and then proceeds to tell him that her aunt has suffered terribly since her husband and two brothers drowned in a bog when they went out hunting three years ago.

“Poor aunt always thinks they will come back someday, they and the little brown Spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at the window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening until it is quite dusk.”

You can imagine his surprise when the aunt comes downstairs, and quite soon in their conversation looks toward the window and says, “Ah, here they come now.”

I cannot spoil the surprise, but I am quite delighted by the unreliable narrator(s)  and thrilled to have read this piece.

It was Jess of Book Ideas who told me about “The Open Window”, a story of only four pages which you can read online here.

Origin by Dan Brown “Where do we come from? Where are we going?”

Where did we come from? Where are we going?

These are the essential questions posed in this thriller set in Barcelona where all the art and architecture is real, even if the questions are elusive. 

Edmond Kirsch, former student of Harvard professor Robert Langdon, has staged a dramatic presentation in which he plans to reveal his findings on the origin of man. Were we created? Did we crawl out of a primordial ooze? Or, is there a third possibility no one has yet understood? But, before he can reveal what he wants to share he is shot, setting forth a series of dramatic events such as only Dan Brown can write.

Two of the central characters are led by a computer with a British voice named Winston, in an often charming parody of Churchhill with his insight and witticisms. But, brilliant as the computer may be, it is still only a machine, and technology can be as fallible as the man who created it.

Brown closes each chapter with us hanging suspensefully on an unfinished idea, or unresolved event, so that we are compelled to go on to the next chapter. (You might be familiar with his techniques if you read The DaVinci Code.) He does a brilliant job of creating a scene, posing fascinating theories, and revealing the meaning behind symbols. Best of all, to me, is the way that he gave equal weight to science and religion, making a case for neither as he leaves it up to the reader to establish his own conclusion. 

Even though I tired, somewhat, toward the end, there is an implication about technology which is so stunning, and so unnerving, I think Origin is well worth the read. It makes me think of the famous quote by Mark Twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

Paris For One by JoJo Moyes, a short story to start the year

Jay at Bibliophilopolis has sponsored a short story event called Deal Me In for several years. I have haphazardly dipped in and out of this challenge because I do not normally read many short stories. Yet, their power is not to be underestimated; in fact, it seems a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon: reading something brief but powerful before the work week starts.

I have begun with a short story from JoJo Moyes’ collection, Paris for One. There are nine stories in this book with the following titles:

  1. Paris For One
  2. Between The Tweets
  3. Love in the Afternoon
  4. A Bird in the Hand
  5. Crocodile Shoes
  6. Holdups
  7. Last Year’s Coat
  8. Thirteen Days with John C
  9. The Christmas List

“Paris for One”, the first story, is about Nell, who unexpectedly ends up in Paris alone after her boyfriend has essentially abandoned her. She is a person who likes to be in control of her life, planning each detail to the smallest minutiae, and so this unexpected event could have thrown her into a panic. But, when she finds two tickets to a sold out performance, she decides to go and abruptly changes the course of her weekend and her life.

This was a simple story, but a charming one, written in JoJo’s inimitable, comfortable style. I will enjoy reading the others in this collection for Jay’s challenge.

And you? Do you have any favorite short stories?

Illustrated Faith #Goals kit is Here!

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I have been waiting for this kit for what seems a long time, and now it is available here. Inside each kit are devotional cards, journaling cards, stamps, stickers and a thick roll of washi tape to use for illustrating one’s faith in January. In particular, this month’s theme is goals.

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The kit ships for free in the United States, using the code: IFSHIPSFREE. Also, there is a free set of tabbies included. As soon as it arrives, and I have assembled my booklet (for that is the way I like best to use each kit), I will show you the finished product.

But, it’s so exciting to have a place to document my faith, to document the goals I have for the year. One of which, rather than to take off a few pounds, is to be brave. You can find your word for 2018 here.