The Ecstatic Writing of Qiu Miaojin

Ari Larissa Heinrich, in conversation with Scott Esposito, discussed the work of Qui Miaojin, author of Last Words from Montmarter, published by NYRP Classics and translated from the Chinese with an afterward by Ari Larissa Heinrich at City Lights Bookstore.

Qiu_MiaojinWhen the pioneering Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin committed suicide in 1995 at age twenty-six, she left behind her unpublished masterpiece, Last Words from Montmartre. Unfolding through a series of letters written by an unnamed narrator, Last Words tells the story of a passionate relationship between two young women—their sexual awakening, their gradual breakup, and the devastating aftermath of their broken love. In a style that veers between extremes, from self-deprecation to pathos, compulsive repetition to rhapsodic musings, reticence to vulnerability, Qiu’s genre-bending novel is at once a psychological thriller, a sublime romance, and the author’s own suicide note.

The letters (which, Qiu tells us, can be read in any order) leap between Paris, Taipei, and Tokyo. They display wrenching insights into what it means to live between cultures, languages, and genders—until the genderless character Zoë appears, and the narrator’s spiritual and physical identity is transformed. As powerfully raw and transcendent as Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Theresa Cha’s Dictée, to name but a few, Last Words from Montmartre proves Qiu Miaojin to be one of the finest experimentalists and modernist Chinese-language writers of our generation.

James Laughlin Double Feature

On December 4th, 2014, City Lights Bookstore and Publishers celebrated the release of two new books: The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, (FSG) and from New Directions, “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin. Special guests Peggy Fox and Ian MacNiven spoke in discussion with Scott Esposito.

LaughlinAbout The Collected Poems Of James Laughlin:

Published in Laughlin’s centenary year The Collected Poems Of James Laughlin encompasses in one majestic volume all of the poetry (with the exception of his verse memoirs Byways) written by the publisher-poet. Witty, technically brilliant, slyly satiric, and heartbreakingly poignant, Laughlin charted his own poetic course for over six decades, prompting astonishment and joy in fellow poets. The Collected Poems includes over 1250 poems – from the early lyrics written in Laughlin’s signature “typewriter metric” to the “long-line poems of his later years, to the playful antics of his doppelganger Hiram Handspring, to the trenchant commentary of the five-line pentastichs that occupied his last days.

About Literchoor Is My Beat:

A biography — thoughtful and playful — of the man who founded New Directions and transformed American publishing. James Laughlin — a poet, publisher, world-class skier — was the man behind some of the most daring, revolutionary works in verse and prose of the twentieth century. As the founder of New Directions, he published Ezra Pound’s The Cantos and William Carlos Williams’s Paterson; he brought Herman Hesse and Jorge Luis Borges to an American audience. Throughout his life, this tall, charismatic intellectual, athlete, and entrepreneur preferred to stay hidden. But no longer — in “Literchoor is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions, Ian S. MacNiven has given us a sensitive and revealing portrait of this visionary and the understory of the last century of American letters.

Peggy Fox retired as President and Publisher of New Directions in 2011 after 36 years of working primarily with ND “bedrock authors” such as William Carlos Williams and Tennessee Williams. She is James Laughlin’s literary co-executor and a Trustee of the several trusts set up under Laughlin’s will to support New Directions and literary endeavors. She is also a Trustee of the Thomas Merton Legacy Trust and the E. E. Cummings Trust. She considers working with Lawrence Ferlinghetti one of the highlights of her editorial career. Several years after James Laughlin’s death in 1997, following Laughlin’s wishes, Fox contacted long-time friend and colleague Peter Glassgold and asked him to edit a complete edition of Laughlin’s poems, The Collected Poems of James Laughlin. She has continued to be the in-house editor of the book since her retirement.

Carmen Boullosa

Carmen Boullosa in conversation with Scott Esposito, discussing her new book, Texas: the Great Theft, at City Lights Bookstore on February 12, 2015. Boullosa

Loosely based on the little-known 1859 Mexican invasion of the United States, Carmen Boullosa’s newest novel Texas: The Great Theft is a richly imagined evocation of the volatile Tex-Mex borderland, wrested from Mexico in 1848. Described by Roberto Bolaño as “Mexico’s greatest woman writer,” Boullosa views the border history through distinctly Mexican eyes, and her sympathetic portrayal each of her wildly diverse characters—Mexican ranchers and Texas Rangers, Comanches and cowboys, German socialists and runaway slaves, Southern belles and dance hall girls—makes her storytelling tremendously powerful and absorbing. With today’s Mexican-American frontier such a front-burner concern, this novel that brilliantly illuminates its historical landscape is especially welcome. Texas is Boullosa’s fourth novel to appear in English, her previous novels were published by Grove Press.

Carmen Boullosa is one of Mexico’s leading novelists, poets and playwrights. The prolific author, who has had literally scores of books, essays and dissertations written about her work, has been lauded by critics on several continents. “As playful as a mischievous Puck,” says Elena Poniatowska; she has “a heart-stopping command of language,” says Alma Guillermoprieto; “one of the most dazzling of Latin America’s new generation,” according to Publishers Weekly; “Mexico’s best woman writer,” wrote Roberto Bolaño.

The End of Love, by Marcos Giralt Torrente read by Katherine Silver and Scott Esposito

 

Katherine Silver and Scott Esposito

read and discuss the work of Marcos Giralt Torrente

on the occasion of the release of

The End Of Love

by Marcos Giralt Torrente

translated by Katherine Silver

published by McSweeney’s Books

In this quartet of mesmerizing stories, Marcos Giralt Torrente explores the confounding, double-edged promise of love. Each finds a man carefully churning over his past, trying to fathom how the distance between people can become suddenly unbridgeable.

Two tourists visit a remote island off the coast of Africa and are undone by a disconcerting encounter with another couple. A young man, enchanted by his bohemian cousin and her husband, watches them fall into a state of resentful dependence over the course of decades. A chaste but all-consuming love affair between a troubled boy and a wealthy but equally troubled girl leaves a scar that never heals. The son of divorced parents tries in vain to reunite them before realizing why he is wrong to do so. In The End of Love, Giralt Torrente forges discomfiting and gripping dramas from the small but consequential misunderstandings that shape our lives.

Marcos Giralt Torrente was born in Madrid in 1968 and is the author of three novels, a novella, and a book of short stories. He was writer-in-residence at the Spanish Academy in Rome, the Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf, and the University of Aberdeen, and was part of the Berlin Artists-in-Residence Programme in 2002-2003. He is the recipient of several distinguished awards, most importantly the Spanish National Book Award in 2011. His works have been translated into French, German, Greek, Italian, Korean and Portuguese. The End of Love is his first book to appear in English.

Katherine Silver’s most recent translations of contemporary literature in Spanish include works by Daniel Sada, César Aira, and Horacio Castellanos Moya. She is also the codirector of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.

Scott Esposito’s criticism has appeared in Bookforum, the Los Angeles Times, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The National, The Point, Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, and numerous others. He has also written introductions to novels for the Dalkey Archive Press and Melville House Publishing. He is the editor of online publications for San Francisco’s Center for the Art of Translation and has been a consultant on translated literature for presses including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McSweeney’s, Graywolf, and Open Letter. He is also the editor in chief for The Quarterly Conversation, an online periodical of book reviews and essays. He is the co-author with Lauren Elkin of The End Of Oulipo? from Zero Books.