Our annual winter support keeps the Rail independent, relevant, and free
If the physical storage device for a work of art is destroyedbe it an Atari cartridge, VHS cassette, or 3.5˝ floppy diskettewhat happens to the artwork itself? These days, probably not a damn thing. In this age of digital reproduction, there are likely to be more copies available a few clicks away on eBay. The aura is all but gone. Walter Benjamin is spinning vinyl in his grave.
Twenty Years After restores a chapter that Dumas once serialized in his native French but which has never before appeared in English. It also, as with the previous and future volumes, moves past the Victorian-era translations that were, per Ellsworths introduction, for an audience that was uncomfortable with frank depictions of violence and sexuality. Those old translations, he reminds us, employed a style of elevated diction that was deemed appropriate for historical novels of the 19th century, but seems stiff, long-winded, and passive to todays readers. In Ellsworths hands, these stories of swashbuckling and all-for-one-and-one-for-all friendship feel new again. The Three Musketeers is an enormously entertaining tale for the ages.
Im in awe of Hobsons vision, his ability to guide his readers beyond the constraints of realism with grace and authority. And thats perhaps what I love most about The Removed: the necessary reminder that the real and the extra-real are in fact the same thing; the distinctions we tend to make say more about ourselves than the world(s) in which we dwell.
In these magnificent, conjoined novels, The Passenger and Stella Maris, McCarthy has taken the oldest story in the worldhumankinds search for meaning in a world seemingly devoid of Godand makes it feel fresh and personal to each and every one of us.
In Sarah Rose Etters weird and wonderful new novel The Book of X, our protagonist Cassie is afflicted by a medical anomaly. I was born a knot like my mother and her mother before her, it begins. Each of the women in her family have their stomachs twisted into bulbous masses of flesh and muscle.
The questions of what constitutes art and who gets to decide have gnawed at me for years. Mark Habers second novel, Saint Sebastians Abyss, addresses these same concerns in ways I wish I had thought to do myself.
What makes Klara and the Sun in particular so remarkable, I think, is that instead of only looking backward at our origin stories, Ishiguro here is looking forward in time as if to warn us that the myths we insist upon believing today will shape how we will live in the future. He reminds us that even our most enduring stories can be rewritten.
For all our reminiscing, Murakami seems to say, its the things we dont remember that might haunt us the most. After all, memory is itself another liminal space, one where we experience both now and then at the same time. Likewise, finishing First Person Singluar requires thinking back to everything weve just read about these characters lives, and to everything we didnt.