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Author Archive: "Gin"

Hyperbole and a Half

Allie Brosh has won the Internet. Including new material along with some of her most popular blog postings, Hyperbole and a Half is extraordinary. Brosh's book is hilarious throughout and, with the most accurate description of depression that I have ever encountered, very moving. Could it be said that Hyperbole and a Half is borken? No, is not borken IS GREAT BOOK.

Alan M. Turing: Centenary Edition

This year marked the centenary of the birth of Alan Mathison Turing; among the many, many commemorative events that occurred during the Alan Turing Year were the reissues of two biographies of AMT. One was Andrew Hodges's extraordinary work Alan Turing: The Enigma. The other was Sara Turing's long-unavailable book about her son, simply titled Alan M. Turing, which was originally published a few years after AMT's suicide in 1954. New material by Martin Davis and a contemporaneous (and disturbingly homophobic) memoir by AMT's brother John included here further illuminate our understanding of a brilliant man horribly mistreated on account of his homosexuality and to whom we all owe a great debt.

The Bloody Chamber

Though rated by the Sunday Times (London) as the 10th greatest British writer since 1945, Angela Carter (1940-1992) is not nearly as well-known on this side of the pond. The Bloody Chamber is an excellent introduction to her work. A collection of short stories based on various fairy and folk tales, this book is a heady, demanding, and lively read that can sometimes shock. Every sentence can be compared to some perfectly ripe — if at times dark — fruit... like, say, an apple. Pick this one up as a first course in the feast that is Carter's work.

Per Petterson: The Interview

Though already well known in his native Norway and throughout Scandinavia, Per Petterson didn't gain a wide readership in the English-speaking world until the 2005 publication of his award-winning novel Out Stealing Horses. The story of a 67-year-old man contending with the memories of his father and of his youth during the Nazi occupation, Out Stealing Horses is an exquisite, sparely written masterwork.

Petterson's new novel, I Curse the River of Time, is equally astonishing. Once again he lays bare the power of memory in a riven individual . The year is 1989 and Arvid Jansen finds himself navigating the difficult relationship with his dying mother and the crumbling of his marriage, all of it in synchronous collapse with that of the Berlin Wall. As in his other work, Petterson has created a narrative of grief, wonder, and regret unspooling in a single thread of memory irregularly (and rarely) knotted with joy.

Publishers Weekly raved in a starred review:

Like an emotional sucker punch, the latest novel from the much-acclaimed Petterson...examines lives half-lived, ending, and perhaps beginning anew....Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work.

[Editor's Note: We're pleased to have chosen I Curse the River of Time for Volume 20 of our Indiespensable subscription program. Subscribers receive a signed, exclusive slipcased edition, along with special surprises.]

÷ ÷ ÷

Gin Enguehard: I've been consistently moved by your work. I love it. Are there plans for any more of your stories to be translated into English?

Per Petterson: Yes, I think so. Harvill Press in England has bought the rights to some: one short story collection, a small novel, a little bigger novel, and then some essays.

Gin: Do you ever write in English?

Petterson: No, I don't. But I participate in the translation. I say a little jokingly that the translator should translate the book and then I'll write it in English, which is rather coquettish to say. But I need a translation; I need something to use my hatchet on. I always work through the editor, because the translator may not be so happy with me, so I need the guy in between. [Laughter]

Crime and Punishment

One of the great classics of world literature, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is the story of Raskolnikov, a young man who — unable to complete his studies — commits what he calls "justifiable murder." What ensues is as demanding and illuminating for the reader as it is for the main character. If you're familiar with Dante's Divine Comedy then reading this book is an even more enriching experience.


The Algerian city of Oran is set upon by plague and sealed off from the rest of the world, its citizens imprisoned not only with the disease but also with each other. Or are they? By the novel's end, every character is profoundly changed by the necessities of survival... and the reader may be as well.


Like much of his other work, Thomas Bernhard's The Loser has suicide at its core. Three men met and became friends while attending the Mozarteum in Vienna, and only one — the narrator — is still alive. The other two characters are a heavily fictionalized Glenn Gould (one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century) and the "loser" of the title, Wertheimer. Both the narrator and Wertheimer abandoned their art upon encountering Gould; Wertheimer ultimately commits suicide, and the narrator lives because he can't give up his obsession (unlike his piano) with Gould. Written as an unbroken interior monologue, The Loser is arguably as stunning as Gould's music.

The Piano Teacher

Though long a respected (and controversial) figure on the international literary stage, it was not until she won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature that Elfriede Jelinek became well known on this side of the Atlantic. The Piano Teacher is her most famous work. Erika Kohut is a repressed music instructor at a Viennese conservatory who, though she is approaching middle age, still lives with her mother in an apartment where they enjoy a relationship of suffocating mutual contempt. Enter Walter Klemmer, one of Erika's young students, who begins to pursue his teacher obsessively. He ultimately succeeds, and, in doing so, removes the last obstacle to the destruction of something that had been breaking for a long time... and no one is the better for it.

A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years (The Wicked Years #03)

A worthy next chapter in the Wicked saga, A Lion among Men is a reflective, enlightening look at Maguire's Oz from an Animal's perspective.

A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years (The Wicked Years #03)

With this latest installment, it has become clear that Gregory Maguire's already politically subversive Wicked Years series is growing ever darker. A Lion among Men is devoted to (as you may have guessed) the story of the Cowardly Lion, known here as Brrr. His start in life was not a good one, and since then, he's met with abuse and indignity at the hands of humans, who are supposed to consider him an equal because he is an Animal (with a capital A), which means that he has all of the intellectual faculties, including literacy, that people do. In order to survive a government-sponsored purge of Animals, he takes Hobson's choice and "agrees" to service in this corrupt government, which is headed by the born-again Apostle Emperor. Hmm... that sounds like a familiar country, doesn't it? Maguire has once again produced a novel filled with fantasy, intrigue, and shadowy introspection with his singular combination of rich and piquant language.

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