On Our Shelves: Open Letter

It’s no secret we love receiving shipments of spiffy new books—and last week we were extra happy to be (carefully) tearing open a box containing titles from the wonderful Open Letter, the University of Rochester’s literary translation press.

Open Letter publishes ten books each year and runs a fascinating website called Three Percent, a must-read for anyone interested in international literature. (The website takes its name from the rather shameful fact that only 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation.) Open Letter do a brilliant job of promoting literature from around the world, and we’re thrilled to be stocking their beautiful books for the first time—in fact, we might have gone a little nuts and ordered their entire catalog. Oops…

By way of introduction, here are eight extraordinary Open Letter titles that are well worth a read… come on down to Malvern Books and check ’em out!

Open Letter 1Navidad & Matanza—a novel by Carlos Labbé
Chilean Carlos Labbé was named one of Granta’s “Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists.” Navidad & Matanza is a metafictional, mind-twisting Choose Your Own Adventure account of several mysterious disappearances.

The Discoverer—a novel by Jan Kjaerstad
Jan Kjaerstad received the Nordic Prize for Literature in 2001 and is considered one of the most influential writers of his generation. The Discoverer is the third novel in a trilogy about a Norwegian broadcaster called Jonas Wergeland—but it stands alone as a powerful and riveting novel in its own right.

The Elusive Moth—a novel by Ingrid Winterbach
South African artist and novelist Ingrid Winterbach has won numerous awards, including the prestigious M-Net Book Prize. The Elusive Moth is a smart and funny account of a visiting entomologist’s adventures in a sleepy rural community.

The Sailor from Gibraltar—a novel by Marguerite Duras
The Sailor from Gibraltar has everything you could possibly want from a Duras novel: love and passion, charm, insight, and, above all, hauntingly poetic language.

Open Letter 2

Why I Killed My Best Friend—a novel by Amanda Michalopoulou
Amanda Michalopoulou is one of Greece’s leading contemporary writers and the author of six novels. Why I Killed My Best Friend explores the self-destructive bonds that can turn friends into ‘frienemies.’

This is the Garden—stories by Giulio Mozzi
Mozzi’s debut story collection astounded the Italian literary world with its stunning prose and heartfelt exploration of the notion that the world around us is a fallen Eden.

The Planets—a novel by Sergio Chejfec
Award-winning Argentinian writer Chejfec recounts the story of a childhood friendship in Buenos Aires through a moving and mournful series of interconnected vignettes.

La Grande—a novel by Juan José Saer
The last novel of Argentinian writer Saer (1937–2005), La Grande ends with what many consider to be one of the greatest lines in all of literature: “With the rain came the fall, and with the fall, the time of the wine.” (You can read an excerpt from La Grande here.)

The Lion & Pirate Concur…

Our lion and pirate can be a cantankerous pair and they seldom see eye to eye—but they both agree that our monthly Lion & Pirate Open Mic events are marvelous! On Friday we were thrilled to once again partner with VSA Texas and the Pen2Paper Creative Writing Contest to host a well-attended evening of mic magnificence.

We kicked things off with a stellar performance from Camille Euritt, who shared a new R&B song she’d written. First-timer Grant Hicks gave us a tune or two and took us on a trip in his magical ship. And Shaniqua Esparza returned to the stage with some compelling comedic insights…

Following Shaniqua, Michael Tidmore (also new to our stage… welcome!) performed a couple of his brilliant country songs (accompanied by Meredith Gaines) and received a big round of applause from our large and lively crowd. The multitalented KK Marshall has previously shared excerpts from a play, but this time around she showed us some illustrations from the novel she’s working on. And familiar face George Moreno read his moving short story, “Mercy.”

George is a tough act to follow, but Milton Sullivan managed it with some shirtless guitar playing! If you like what you’ve seen, start working on your act for next month

Wednesday Wonders

Lucky ol’ Malvern enjoyed a rather splendid hump-day treat this week: we hosted a reading from the immensely talented Samuel Snoek-Brown and Zoë Miller. 

Samuel was visiting us from Portland, Oregon, to read from Hagridden, the hot-off-the-press novel that earned him an Oregon Literary Fellowship. And Zoe read an excerpt from a short story that appears in the latest issue of Fields Magazine (so if you want to hear the rest of her story… yep, come on down to Malvern Books and pick up a copy of Fields! It’s a very beautiful journal that showcases emerging writers, musicians, painters, poets, and illustrators.)

Samuel and Zoe

Hearty thanks to Zoë, Samuel, and everyone who came out on a sweltering night to enjoy a spot of literature-out-loud—and an extra cheers, mate to Samuel for giving us a Malvern first, the selfie-with-crowd! (For more Samuel selfies, check out the blog post he wrote about his time in Austin, aka “hot Portland.”) As always, we had our video camera at the ready to capture the action, and we hope you’ll enjoy checking out our footage from a wonderful night of prose.

Words and Music

What better way to chill out on a sweltering summer night than with some super cool tunes and verse? Malvern Books had y’all covered last Friday, when we played host to local musicians and poets Harold Whit Williams and David Longoria.

They’re a mighty talented pair: Harold (below left) is guitarist for the rock band Cotton Mather and his latest poetry collection, Backmasking, won the 2013 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. And as for David (below right), when he’s not writing poetry, he’s playing guitar and harmonica, and performing or touring with bands like Yo La Tengo, Fiery Furnaces, and Voxtrot.

Harold and David

They treated our foot-tappin’ audience to some fantastic music (Harold was ably accompanied by Jon Bookout), and then—but wait, there’s more!—the night got even better with a double dose of awesome poetry! Thanks to Harold, Jon, David, and everyone who came out to enjoy an evening of engaging words and music. Do check out our footage from the event below. And if you feel inspired to fill your summer nights with a few more literary escapades, well, you’re in luck—we have heaps of splendid stuff coming up!

On Nox

Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson began writing and compiling Nox following the unexpected death of her brother Michael in 2000. A scrapbook epitaph, the book is Carson’s attempt to make sense of the loss of her brother, an elusive figure who had disappeared from her life long before he disappeared from the world.


A “book-in-a-box,” Nox is also a stunning and unwieldy physical object, a finger in the eye to the readers of e-readers. It exists as one long sheet, a concertinaed facsimile of Carson’s handmade book, which includes poem fragments as well as a collection of collages, family photos, and old letters. A frank and generous eulogy, Nox is a work that feels somehow hauntingly archaic and yet entirely new. It is a deeply affecting meditation on grief, and on our paradoxical desire to both seek out and turn away from the forsaken.

Here’s an elegy for Carson’s elegy, written by Malvernite Taylor Jacob Pate

NOX: an elegy/ in a box/ for a brother/ like a scroll/ in a coffin/ mirror box/ take it out/ touch it/ damage it/ hold it in your eyes/ mirror box/ for a brother/ a sister/ melancholic/ concerned with history/ his story/ her story/ sorry/ sorry/ sad/ pictures & pages copied onto the scroll/ unroll it/ for fun/ for depth/ being dead takes a long time/ flip through it to keep your distance/ late in the night/ late in the night/ late in the night/ a starry lad/ an aperture/ a vent/ angrily/ violently/ from one place to another/ define/ explain/ as far as X is concerned/ enigma/ dark fact/ ask/ survive/ cry/ mirror box/ the phoenix mourns by shaping/ amazed at the strange things humans do/ leave behind a memory/ part of the sea/ in small white sleep mits your hands protrude/ vanish by night into nothing/ scraps/ fragments/ run away/ that dead girl/ was the love of his life/ I HAVE NEVER KNOWN A CLOSENESS LIKE THAT/ mirror box/ places in our bones, strange brother/ a tomb/ a wall in her/ this ash was a scholarly gift/ what is a voice?/ to subtract/ to take up time/ the sad one/ full of shadow/ a brother never ends/ blush/ nox/ a man is not a night/ etching/ pressure/ impression/ eraser/ for lack of a better term a windswept spirit/ he refuses/ he is in the stairwell/ he disappears/ just like him/ negotiator with the night

The Well-Read Weekend

It’s TGIF time, and we have a few first-rate recommendations for those of you in need of a little literary relaxation…

  • YouTube awaits! We’ve posted a couple of videos from Wednesday night’s wonderful reading with Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Zachary Schomburg, and Mathias Svalina, and you should most definitely hit play. Trust me, you need to hear “Building of Unseen Cats” and “Tennessee.”
  • Cup of coffee + sofa + Octopus = GOOD TIME. Founded by the aforementioned Zachary in 2003, Octopus is a brilliant and beautiful online literary magazine that’s well worth a read. I particularly like their Recovery Projects, brief essays that draw attention to overlooked books.
  • If podcasts are your bag, check out the episodes on literary history over at Stuff You Missed in History Class. Topics discussed range from the disappearance of Agatha Christie to the assorted misfortunes of the Brontës—and our store’s dangling swashbuckler was happy to learn that historic pirates also make a regular appearance on the show.
  • Last but certainly not least: no weekend of literary relaxation would be complete without a trip to Malvern! Stop by on Sunday afternoon to peruse our new titles and Staff Picks and catch a 2pm reading from local writers Ron Jaeger and Jan Marquart. We’ll look forward to seeing you there!