June book notes

In an effort to resume more standard programming, there’s a couple bookish items on the horizon as we enter June.

First, Sunday marks the official start of Reading the World 2008. This is the fourth year of the program, which aims to introduce American readers to literature in translation. This year, it features 25 books from 15 different publishers, including five books/publishers that were selected by booksellers. Some are classics (Don Quixote or War and Peace); others are contemporary. A handy list of the books with brief summaries is available here.

I’ve actually read three of the books already, two in the last month or so. Those two were Serve the People!, Yan Lianke’s satire on life in Maoist China, and Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas, which I reviewed a couple weeks ago. My favorite, though, is Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses, which I read and reviewed in January. It remains one of my favorite books this year. Seven other titles have been featured at three percent. It’s certainly worth checking out one or more of these titles.

The second item is more local. Actor Mike Farrell will be in town Monday, June 2, at the local B&N to speak and take questions about his memoir, Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist. Farrell is best known for his role as B.J. in the television series M*A*S*H. The book, first published last year, was recently updated and released in trade paperback.

Farrell, who will be appearing at 7 p.m., promises to speak on whatever topics to which the audience leads, whether his acting career, his views as a human rights activist or even the presidential campaign, which might be particularly pertinent with the primary election the next day. He is appearing here part of a grassroots-like book tour in which he and his wife, actress Shelley Fabares, are driving from L.A. to New York and back again, making appearances throughout the continental U.S. along the way.

You hear all this whining going on, “Where are our great writers?” The thing I might feel doleful about is: Where are the readers?

Gore Vidal, Esquire

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