Kate Zambreno

  • Western

    Would it be far-fetched to imagine that Christine Montalbetti was musing on the interior monologue of a certain cowboy president while writing her novel Western, a deconstruction of the classic American myth? In this postmodern pastiche—published in France in 2005, now ably translated by Betsy Wing—the narrator, named Christine Montalbetti, writes a novel titled Western, starring a generic cowboy hero, unnamed until the end. Given the associative spirit and self-referential nature of the text, perhaps such speculation is appropriate.

    By imagining multiple scenarios and using a teasing

  • culture July 27, 2009

    The Illustrated Version of Things by Affinity Konar

    The plucky unnamed street urchin who narrates Affinity Konar’s vivid and disturbing first novel, The Illustrated Version of Things, is seemingly sprung from a Carson McCullers novel. A high school version of Jodie Foster’s knock-kneed nymph in Taxi Driver, she possesses an almost beatific naïveté that is decidedly Dargeresque, despite being a survivor of the streets and the foster-care system and recently released from a mental hospital.

    Konar’s novel is set in the realms of the wacky if not the unreal; it’s a weirdo adventure story in which the narrator is ostensibly searching for her mother,

  • culture May 24, 2009

    Wetlands by Charlotte Roche, Translated by Tim Mohr

    Charlotte Roche’s controversial novel, Wetlands, is an uneven yet adventurous catalogue of filth, a feminist critique of what cultural theorist Lauren Berlant calls “hygienic governmentality.” In the case of Wetlands, this means a politics housed in the anarchic, messy body of German teenager Helen Memel. Narrating from her hospital bed after hemorrhoid surgery, eighteen-year-old Helen sees herself as a sanitary terrorist, rallying against the deceitfully liberational promises of tampon ads and shaving commercials and of a fascist regime of douching and wiping from front to back.

    One can’t