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summer reading: joanna walsh

By Joanna Walsh, Fiction Editor

This summer I’ll be in Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Zagreb, Trieste, Paris, London, and Oxford. That’s a lot of train reading. Summer seems a good time to read thick books. A thick book, when you’re travelling, gives you a place to be. I’ve already started on the proof of Elena Ferrante’s third Neapolitan novel, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. You might like to read the first two, My Brilliant Friend and Story of a New Name, over the summer in preparation for the third, which will be published in September by Europa Editions. If you don’t already know about this brilliant Italian writer, here’s a short piece I wrote about her for The Guardian.

I’ve just been writing on contemporary art as a battle over place, and have started reading Chris Kraus’s Where Art Belongs. Seems appropriate to read about place while travelling too. Her short essay, “Kelly Lake Store,” nails some of the issues.

Agota Kristof’s The Notebook has been recommended to me so many times by so many people. Chista Wolf’s Cassandra also comes into this category. Too much misery? Denise Riley’s Time Lived Without its Flow should just about finish me off.

For something more playful I’d like to read Tristano by Nanni Balestrini. Each copy unique, and there are more than 109,027,350,432,000 possible editions. Winter Journeys seem appropriate for a summer journey, so I’ll be reading Atlas Press’s edition of The Oulipo’s works around a short story by Georges Perec. I wrote something for Narrative Magazine that links to the tradition.

I love Sylph Editions’ Cahiers series—collaborations in translation (sometimes part-posthumous) between writers. I’d like to read their latest, Clarice: The Visitor, by American poet Idra Novey.

I’d also like to read of French-Algerian writer, Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal, written in prison. Here’s Patti Smith, who wrote the introduction to Serpent’s Tail’s new edition, on why she loves the book.

Wish I could read it already: Nell Zink’s Mislaid (forthcoming from 4th Estate). I discovered her work at n+1 Magazine. She’s pretty amazing.

Landing back in the UK, this autumn I’m looking forward to Deborah Levy’s An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell.


First posted: Saturday, July 5th, 2014.

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