Monday, August 31, 2009

Jeff Parker

Jeff Parker is the author of the novel Ovenman and the collection The Back of the Line, and the coeditor of Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States. He served as the program director of Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is currently the acting director of the Master’s Program in the Field of Creative Writing at the University of Toronto.

He and Mikhail Iossel co-edited the newly released Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia.

Last week I asked Parker what he was reading. His reply:
The last great book I read in English was Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives. He is really, I think, the true heir to Borges and Marquez. I turned a friend on to him who preceded to read everything he has in translation. He kicked me the story collection Last Evenings on Earth, which I devoured in just a couple sittings. The thing is, formally speaking, they're not such great stories. And Bolano is not a stylist at all. In fact, if the translation is on, then his style is rather crude. But he has that kind of inexplicable magic that some writers have: he creates alternate realities that manage, despite their formal experimentation--and I know this sounds cheesy as hell--to transport you completely. I have 2666 sitting on my shelf but do not have the time quite yet to make the commitment, but I will. I will. I should say my typical habit, upon discovering a book I like a lot by a writer I've never read before, is to stop there. I am easily disappointed and a disappointment in subsequent work reflects back on the previous and so I like to keep my idea of one thing my idea of that thing. So far Bolano is an exception.

I also recently read Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang to see what the fuss was about. The marketers claim it is the book that started the environmental "terrorism" movement a la Earth First and Animal Liberation Front. It is a really fun book with a questionable, and, I believe, cautionary ending. But it is not great.

Because I spent the past year reading short stories in Russian for a new anthology I just co-edited, I got hooked on several of the authors and have been reading their stuff in Russian. Natalya Klyuchareva's novel Rossiya: Obshchi Vagon (I don't know of a satisfactory translation for this; it refers to the "Common Wagon" class on Russian trains and some people have suggested translating it as Russia On Wheels, which I don't really like) and Zakhar Prilepin's story collection Boots Full With Hot Vodka both of which really, urgently need to be translated into English. They are too good not to be.
Read more about Ovenman and Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia.

--Marshal Zeringue