Audiobooks, Translations, and Other Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

As a devoted audiobook listener of literary fiction, I am so disappointed that your audiobook reviews continue to be about nonfiction titles. Is there a reason for this? If you have had a fiction column that I missed, I apologize, but it would be a rarity. The most recent audiobook reviews (March 13) are more nonfiction.

A great performer can bring a great book to life more magnificently than reading on the page. To wit: Listening to Juliet Stevenson read “Middlemarch” is one of the aesthetic highs of my life. Recent terrific audios of new novels include “The Lincoln Highway” and “Cloud Cuckoo Land.”

I am always looking for good fiction audios and would appreciate your suggestions.

Anna Belle Kaufman
Sebastopol, Calif.

To the Editor:

Regarding Pankaj Mishra’s By the Book interview (March 6): As one exception to Mishra’s comment that hardly any reader of English knows of Mercè Rodoreda’s novel “In Diamond Square,” I prepared for my first trip to Barcelona in 2019 by seeking a book from Catalan, and happened upon her book “The Time of the Doves,” in which the protagonist is called “little dove.” Finding on the library shelf another volume of Rodoreda’s entitled “In Diamond Square,” I started that novel as well, and was surprised to find it was the same story in another translation, with the name of the birds she seeks to raise given as “ pigeon,” and the woman’s nickname changed to “Pidgey.” Having once lived in a neighborhood teeming with pigeons, this evoked a very different, less lovely, image in my mind. What a difference a translator can make! But in either case, this is a marvelous novel, especially pertinent in today’s international context. Diamond Square in Barcelona houses a life-size statue of the protagonist and her birds, as well as a wall plaque honoring the author. Both the book and the urban site are very much worthy of a visit.

Marilyn J Boxer
Kensington, Calif.

To the Editor:

In her By the Book interview (March 13), Karen Joy Fowler endorses a strategy of inviting to dinner “authors who were not recognized in their lifetimes,” in order to buoy their spirits by letting them know “how well regarded they are now. ” One of the writers she dreams of including is Franz Kafka. But Kafka famously requested that all of his work be burned; the widespread circulation and celebration of Kafka’s writing is the result of his friend expressly ignoring his wishes. It seems kind of cruel to resurrect Kafka in order to let him know that his nightmare came true. I say let him sleep.

Sarah Aintlope
Irvine, Calif.

To the Editor:

I’m delighted to see that Fowler is reading “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” to her grandson. I urge her to continue on to “Black Hearts in Battersea,” as she has not yet met the redoubtable Dido Twite.

Mary Harriman

To the Editor:

Walter Kirn, author of “Blood Will Out,” certainly seemed out for blood in his review of Heather Havrilesky’s “Foreverland” (March 6). The chauvinistic tone as he roots for the author’s husband is off-putting from the start (“a marriage between a neurotic perfectionist and a formidably patient man”). Kirn admits, “I know only my own marriage,” but he would rather keep it “a secret.” (This is interesting, as his memoir is about a failed marriage and being friends with a sociopathic murderer.) I say Havrilesky is brave to share struggles that reflect many marriages but that most of us are afraid to expose because we want the world to view our relationships as blissful. If a reviewer wants to discuss the writing, fine, but don’t stab the author just to gleefully watch her bleed.

Donna Marie Merritt
Watertown, Conn.

A review on May 10, 2020, about Cho Nam-Joo’s novel “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” incorrectly referred to the book’s protagonist, Jiyoung. She has a daughter, not a son. This correction was delayed because the error was brought to the attention of editors only recently.

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