I get a lot of free books through NetGalley. I need to figure out a way to request fewer because my stats are sort of bad. But I really want all the books! And I always think I have more time than I do!
So that’s bad. But I do actually start almost all of the books, and I get a feel for them. Some are amazing – I got introduced to Rebecca Solnit and Yiyun Li and Ruth Ozeki on there, and I would not have read them otherwise. In other cases, I try out some of the book and then scrap it – it doesn’t hold my interest, or I find something better. Or I run out of time and then it expires. Etc.
The more I read book blogs, though, the more I think that it is possible – probable? – that people are writing about and judging and discussing books they haven’t fully read. That is actually fine, sometimes. I think it’s particularly fine if you are honest.
So I started two books from NetGalley and actually really thought they were quality – really adding something to the world of literature, so I am going to write about them here. Both, weirdly enough, have the word “corpse” in them, but they’re really different.
- The Corpse Exhibition by Hassan Blasim. This book is as dark as its black-on-black cover. It is also the first book translated from Arabic from Iraq since the US invasion (I think? it seems to be what is written in some marketing material), and so that darkness suits. There are pointless, “artistic” killings and kidnappings and people hiding in safe houses waiting to die in suicide bombings. It’s very good. (It’s been written about on The Rumpus recently, so you know it’s quality.)
- Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. This is not as dark as the other, but it is not really light-hearted. It is a new translation of a Russian writer who wrote during the Soviet Union but wasn’t really published. It’s not hard to see why that is. The stories read in translation a lot like a sort of combination of Kafka and Pessoa and Gogol. Beautiful and heart-twisting and very sad. And beautiful.
There are other books that I glanced and did not pick up, and now I regret it, so I have added them to my Goodreads. So I hope that counts for something as well…