The Beauty of the New Directions Pearls

Where have I been, you ask? Lots of hush-hush work at FSG. Also I went to Amsterdam. But I’m back now, so calm down.

The Pearls series is a fairly new set of books from the good people at New Directions, and I’ve more or less fallen in love with all of them. Literary fiction is of course among the hardest genres (using that term loosely here) to market – let alone works in translation.

These slim paperbacks provide a low barrier to entry for new authors. For example: I’ve had a copy of Javier Marías’ A Heart so White for a couple years on my to-read pile. I’ve even seen him read at the 92nd St Y (he was brilliant). Still I didn’t dive in. But I sailed through his novella Bad Nature because, well, it was 67 pages. Same with César Aira and The Literary Conference.

Note also the incredible cover design by Rodrigo Corral (of Oscar Wao fame), which creates an interesting paradox for the reader: they’re beautiful enough to be art objects, but portable enough to slip in your pocket while weekending around Brooklyn. You want them to be pristine, and you want to loan them to all of your friends. (Did I mention the price point? $9.99.)

All in all: this is the most impressive project I’ve seen in a while by a publisher endeavoring to introduce world literature to those pesky media-saturated twentysomethings.

And they didn’t even have to mention a certain dead Chilean novelist! (Borges is represented, but let’s not nitpick. Rising tide floats all boats and all that.)

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