Backchat: Brother in Ice and American Histories

Splice publishes new content on Mondays and Wednesdays, but throughout the week we bulk it out with bonus material on Facebook and Twitter. On Fridays, “Backchat” looks at the week that was and gathers up all the bonus material in one place.

Alica Kopf, Brother in Ice (trans. Mara Faye Lethem)

Alicia Kopf, Brother in Ice.
Translated by Mara Faye Lethem.
And Other Stories. £10.
Buy direct from the publisher.

This week on Splice, we looked at two new novels, both of which are structured in fragments and focus on historical events in order to explore the identity of a present-day narrator. On Monday, Thea Hawlin reviewed Alicia Kopf’s Brother in Ice, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, calling it a “kind of new writing that extends the possibilities of the novel”. On Wednesday, Daniel Davis Wood reviewed John Edgar Wideman’s American Histories, an experimental novel “that wants to undercut itself — or at least its conventional manoeuvres — even in the course of its unfolding”.

If you’re interested in Brother in Ice, you’ll find an excerpt from the novel online at the Granta website. You can also find Alicia Kopf answering questions about Brother in Ice for PEN America, and Words Without Borders has a rundown of her recent appearance at the PEN World Voices Festival alongside other writers from Spanish-speaking countries. Also, last week, BBC Radio 3 featured Kopf talking about autism: her brother is autistic, and the title of her novel is a reference to his condition. And if you’re in or near the Midlands and you’d like to hear more from Kopf, you can catch her at the Hay Festival on June 1, in conversation with Daniel Hahn, and then at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham on June 4.

John Edgar Wideman, American Histories

John Edgar Wideman,
American Histories.
Canongate. £15.99.
Buy direct from the publisher.

There’s an excerpt from Wideman’s American Histories, too, published earlier this year in the New Yorker. If you’re not familiar with Wideman, there’s a great analysis of his work and his techniques available at The Nation; there, Jesse McCarthy concedes that Wideman “has never achieved the kind of name recognition of writers like Toni Morrison and Amiri Baraka” but deserves fully as much acclaim as they have received. Wideman’s wide-ranging interview with the Paris Review is a bit dated now — it’s sixteen years old — but it still yields many insights into his passions, his biography, and his craft. And at Esquire you can find an example of his incendiary non-fiction, in this case an investigation into the murder of Emmett Till and the execution of his father.

That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll be back with more reviews and a couple of exciting announcements. Follow Splice on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with everything as it unfolds…