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Posts Tagged ‘Javier Marias

New Pearl Series

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Beginning in February, New Directions will release a new series by favorite ND authors in small format books, similar to the ND Bibelot series that ran from  1993–2004.  The Bibelot series served as short introductions to the great 20th century modernist authors such as Henry Miller and Ezra Pound, as well as reissuing short modern classics.  The new Pearl series will relaunch some of the Bibelots and introduce short works by new ND authors such as Javier Marías and César Aira.


The editions are pocket sized, with clean designs by Rodrigo Corral, New Directions’ Creative Director at Large, whose minimalist style gives the books a unique look—a rhombus expanding in shape and growing in color; an abstraction of a pearl shining on the spine.

These gorgeous-looking, affordably priced ($9.95!) miniature masterpieces are also quite pragmatic.  I really can’t leave my house without something to read, which can be problematic at times, like when I just have to walk down the street to meet a friend or something, does it really makes sense to carry a book with me?  But there’s always the chance that the person I’m meeting will be late and I’ll be stuck without a book, but then I end up having to carry a bag with just one book in it, or folding a paperback in half and stuffing it in my back pocket.  The Pearl series can solve a lot of these problems for me.

February will see the release of the first series of Pearls, including Patriotism by Yukio Mishima, Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, In Search of Duende by Federico García Lorca, and Tales of Desire by Tennessee Williams. The two I’ve read so far have been great.  Patriotism is one of the most intense reads I’ve experience in a while, and Bad Nature is a wry tale that takes a comic premise down a dark alley.  I used the descriptions from the back jacket of each book:



Patriotism by Yukio Mishima, Translated by Geoffrey W. Sargent

Shinji Takeyama, a lieutenant in the Japanese army, comes home to his wife and informs that his closest friends have become mutineers.  Torn between his allegiances to the Emperor and his rebellious friends, Shinji and his beautiful, loyal wife Reiko decide to end their lives together.  Incredible detail Mishima describes Shinji and Reiko making love for the last time and the ritual suicide by seppuku that follows.











Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías, Translated by Esther Allen

“It all happened because of Elvis Presley.”

A boiled-down gem of a Marías story about how Elvis (in Acapulco to film a movie) and his hard-drinking entrouage abandon their interpreter in a seedy cantina full of enraged criminals after insults start to fly.  When the local kingpin demands to be told what the Americans are saying, Elvis himself delivers an even more stinging parting shot–and who has to translate that?









In Search of Duende by Federico García Lorca, Translated by Christopher Mauer (Poems translated by Norman di Giovanni, Edwin Honig, Langston Hughes, Lysander Kemp, W. S. Merwin, Stephen Spender, J. L. Gili and Christopher Mauer)

The notion of “duende” became a conerstone of Federico García Lorca’s poetics over the course of his career.  In his lecture “Play and Theory of the Duende,” he says, “there are no maps nor disciplines to help us find the duende.  We only know that he burns the blood like a poultice of broken glass, that he exhausts, that he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned…”  The duende is portrayed by Lorca as a demonic earth spirit embodying irrationality, earthiness, and a heightened awareness of death.  In Search of Duende gathers Lorca’s writings about the duende and about three art forms most susceptible to it: dance, music, and the bullfight.  A full bilingual sampling of Lorca’s poetry is also included, with special attention to poems arising from traditional Spanish verse forms.  The result is an excellent introduction to Lorca’s poetry and prose for American readers.


Tales of Desire by Tennessee Williams

“I cannot write any sort of story,” said Tennessee Williams to Gore Vidal, “unless there is at least one character in it for whom I have physical desire.”  These five transgressive Tales of Desire—”The Mysteries of the Joy Rio,” “One Arm,” “Desire and the Black Masseur,” “Hard Candy,” and “The Killer Chicken and the Closet Queen”—show the iconic playwright at his outrageous best.

How to tell a ghost story

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1. Find a haunted ravine or mystical evil eye.. Investigate.

In Gustaw Herling’s collection, The Noonday Cemetery, the narrators stumble upon unexplainable phenomena. In “Don Ildebrando,” the iettatura–the evil charm or eye–haunts a retired surgeon determined to master its power and discover its history. The story is gothic and abandoned, and involves a painting come-to-life. In the title story, the narrator stumbles upon a neglected cemetery with a haunted ravine and boarded-up cemetery keeper’s home. He’s determined to discover the story behind this, as well as the events from years before, but the townspeople, afraid of retribution, refuse to discuss it.

“The Noonday Cemetery” is available to read in its entirety below.

2. Start hanging out with ghosts

In Ghosts by César Aira, a slim gray book, an immigrant worker’s family shares an unfinished apartment building with a group of ghosts. At first, the ghosts slip in and out of the narration as they slip in and out of their lives – barely noticeable, nearly transparent, hanging out in the background.

The ghosts are catalysts. They promise something more, an existence beyond and better than the one lived out on the roof of the building, at the edge of an unfilled pool.

The more daughter Patrí lingers around the ghosts, the less interest she feels in her family, their drinking, and their toasts.

3. Die at the hand of a friend or lover…

…and then “live” to tell the tale. The narrator of “When I was Mortal,” the title story in Javier Marias’ collection, returns as a ghost with a renewed consciousness: “I not only remember what I saw and heard and knew when I was mortal, but I remember it in its entirety, that is, including what I did not see or know or hear, even things that were beyond my grasp, but which affected me or those who were important to me, and which possibly had a hand in shaping me.” The life he thought he knew and understood is broken when he is able to see the details in full relief.

Another murdered ghost returns in Muriel Spark’s “The Portobello Road,” the final story in her collection, Ghost Stories.

“I did not altogether depart this world. There are those odd things still to be done which one’s executors can never do properly. Papers to be looked over, even after the executors have torn them up. Lots of business.”

Even in the afterlife, the ghost is just as spry and witty and noncommittal as she was alive. She doesn’t much care about the man who killed her…but she still enjoys bothering him.

“The Portobello Road” and “When I Was Mortal” are available to read in their entirety below.

The Noonday Cemetery by Gustaw Herling

The Portobello Road by Muriel Spark

When I Was Mortal by Javier Marias

–posted by Kelsey Ford

Written by New Directions

October 23, 2009 at 5:51 pm