Friday, November 20, 2009

Discoveries Abound!

The last time I wrote for the Green Apple Core, Dan Brown had just renewed his heroic quest to save publishing (I guess the fact that I'm still employed means he succeeded?), the Phillies still had a chance to win the World Series (sure, so did the Giants), Glenn Beck hadn't yet "immortalized" his Nazi fetish on a book cover, and we were all assured Oprah's talk show would go on forever... Ah, the halcyon days of mid-September. Or "harvest time" as they call it here in the heartland.

I return today in my role as shill for Dalkey Archive Press to tout, proclaim, trumpet, and ballyhoo the first installment of an annual anthology, the Best European Fiction 2010.*

Most readers are familiar with the long-running Best American series (Best American Short Stories, Mysteries, etc.) but remarkably, the European fiction anthology is the first of its kind - being, as the title implies, a collection of stories offering a "window onto the cultural and intellectual landscape of Europe today." If grandiose rhetoric about culture isn't your thing, you can take the book as being simply an entertaining collection of stories by authors you've likely not yet had the pleasure to read.

Edited by novelist Aleksandar Hemon and prefaced by Zadie Smith, the anthology includes thirty-five stories arranged alphabetically by country, opening with the supremely crush-worthy Ornela Vorpsi (Albania), and then crisscrossing the continent in a variety of styles, genres, and voices. From the deliriously perplexing Austrian Antonio Fian ("I was looking for a present for our seven-year-old daughter in the toy store when I happened to notice a Barbie playset called Barbie Kneels Naked in Front of Her Altar and Reads from the Bible...") to Green Apple favorite Jean-Philippe Toussaint (whose story, "Zidane's Melancholy" is anthologized for the first time), to the great and sadly underappreciated Alasdair Gray (Scotland), Best European Fiction 2010 is as varied and diverse as Europe itself.

While most of these names are unfamiliar (Kafka wasn't always a household name, after all) and all those vowels (Giedra Radviaciviute, from Lithuania) may twist your tongue into knots, there is no better place to cover this much literary ground... Plus, for $15.95, it's like a Grand Tour on a really, really affordable budget.

* Of course, any reader of this blog knows that I would be touting, proclaiming, ballyhooing, etc. Dalkey's books even without an affiliation with the publisher.