Poetry Madness
 
 

Review-a-Day

Wednesday, January 7th


 

Amerika -- The Missing Person: A New Translation, Based on the Restored Text by Franz Kafka

Less a Metaphor than a Reading of the Author's Self-Perception

A review by David L. Ulin

It's always tricky when an author's name becomes an adjective. Orwellian, Machiavellian, Faulknerian -- these designations make it hard to see a writer on his or her own terms. This is perhaps most true of Franz Kafka, whose sobriquet, Kafkaesque, has become a catchall for the weird and inexplicable.

Yet 84 years after his death of tuberculosis at age 40, Kafka continues to defy such simplifications, to force us to consider him anew. That's the effect of Mark Harman's new translation of his first novel, Amerika, restored to its original title, The Missing Person.

Amerika has long held an anomalous place among Kafka's writings; it's a comic anti-picaresque in which a young European named Karl Rossmann immigrates to the United States and undergoes a series of adventures, not so much finding as losing his way in the world. In this new version, Harman offers an unfiltered take on the novel, which was left unfinished when Kafka abandoned work on it in 1914.

This is important...



Goya by Robert Hughes

The Gruesome Beauty of Goya

A review by Adrienne Miller

In 1999, art critic Robert Hughes was in a near-fatal car crash. While in intensive care, he had a particularly odd hallucination: that the Spanish painter Goya attached a metal brace to his leg and forced him to crawl through a metal detector. Terrible for Hughes. Good for us. That's because Hughes's obsession with Goya has produced a fiery new biography, Goya. "It may be," Hughes says in his book, "that the writer who does not know fear, despair, and pain cannot fully know Goya."

Goya, arguably the father of modern art, painted remarkable portraits and war scenes, the latter of which...



Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff

This way for the Olympic tour

A review by Peter Stothard

Guidebooks, like so much else that comes in books, came early to Greece and stayed there without much change. Olympic visitors in the Roman empire had the benefit of Pausanias, the pioneer traveller and geographer who told Games goers what they needed to know about the classical sites, the temples of Apollo, the statues of Poseidon, all with a smattering of social life and athletic lore. Sporting visitors to the Athens 2004 Olympiad will find their own shelfloads of guidance, still Pausanian in intent, and all to places which, as Sofka Zinovieff puts it, have switched "from carved marble to ...



Amerika -- The Missing Person: A New Translation, Based on the Restored Text by Franz Kafka

Less a Metaphor than a Reading of the Author's Self-Perception

A review by David L. Ulin

It's always tricky when an author's name becomes an adjective. Orwellian, Machiavellian, Faulknerian -- these designations make it hard to see a writer on his or her own terms. This is perhaps most true of Franz Kafka, whose sobriquet, Kafkaesque, has become a catchall for the weird and inexplicable.

Yet 84 years after his death of tuberculosis at age 40, Kafka continues to defy such simplifications, to force us to consider him anew. That's the effect of Mark Harman's new translation of his first novel, Amerika, restored to its original title, The Missing Person.

Amerika has long held...



Creation by Katherine Govier

'I prey on them out of love'

A review by Ron Charles

Skeptical biologists looking at John James Audubon's bird paintings in the 1820s wondered if such strange creatures could really exist. Today, unfortunately, some no longer do, making his elephant-sized portraits all the more striking and valuable.

The artist who killed his subjects to immortalize them is as elusive as any of the birds he pursued. Born in Haiti to a seaman and a French chambermaid, Audubon was raised by his stepmother in France, and eventually sent to America to avoid conscription in Napoleon's Army. Perhaps this early life of flight encouraged his attraction to feathered...



A Widow's Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates Works Through Her Grief

A review by Anne Saker

Grief is an overpowering, devastating illness, and if it had evolved in the species as terminal, homo sapiens would have stubbed itself out long ago from the rapid-cycling sensations of drowning, burning, suffocating and going mad.

That righteous smackdown is grief's universal. But as with everything else, the drama rests in the particulars, and a rising tide of such stories appears destined for its own shelf at Powell's: Great Women Writers Contemplate Widowhood.

Joyce Carol Oates, long a pilgrim through the darkest, wildest corners of the soul, acknowledges early in A Widow's Story: A ...



The Portrait of MRS.charbuque by Jeffrey Ford

A review by Suzy Hansen

Mrs. Charbuque sits behind a screen at all times. No one has ever seen her. Occasionally, she reveals a hairy, monkey-like forearm, her thick black fingers adjusting the placement of her shield from the world. Yet she's rumored to be very beautiful, or so men dream.

Mrs. Charbuque also claims to be the daughter of a renowned crystalogogist, a man who studied snowflakes for wealthy businessmen in order to predict the future. Now she lives in luxury in turn-of-the-century New York, having made millions traveling around the world, posing as a Sybil and telling desperate souls their trumped...



spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.