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Podthoughts: The Three Percent Podcast

Vital stats:
Format: two publishers talking books, and much else in the cultural space besides
Episode duration: 40m-1h20m
Frequency: 1-2 per month

Checking out any new bookstore, I head immediately to its world literature shelves. That is, I see if it has them at all. It usually doesn’t. Though small, the world literature shelf at Skylight Books here in Los Angeles so impresses me that, often, I don’t leave it for the entire visit. Not that I visit much anymore; shortly after moving to town, a broadcaster friend of mine — probably the best-known non-writing figure in the Los Angeles book world — called up Skylight and recommended they hire me, using some of the most gleamingly superlatively terms with which I will ever hear myself described. When I turned up to talk to the managers, they asked if I had a car, suggesting that maybe I could drive stuff around for events. I didn’t have a car. My applications to a few other such businesses met with the indifference of the universe. I did land an interview with one noted Pasadena bookstore, which proceeded to surround me with at least a dozen other, clammier applicants — supplicants, really — each more desperate than the last, and all more desperate than me, to convince the interviewers of their single-minded dedication to customer service.

That about sums up my contact with that side of the book business, though I do spend much of my time reading about books, writing about books, and interviewing the writers of books, especially books of the international variety. Hence my interest in The Three Percent Podcast [iTunes], the audio branch of Three Percent, a site from the University of Rochester meant to provide “a destination for readers, editors, and translators interested in finding out about modern and contemporary international literature” (which constitutes three percent of the business). Podcast co-host Chad W. Post teaches at the University, runs Three Percent, and also direct’s Open Letter, the University’s own literary publishing house. They’ve put out a few cool-looking titles from the likes of Alejandro Zambra, Mathias Énard, and Marguerite Duras. Tom Roberge, the podcast’s other co-host, works as the Publicity and Marketing Director at the long-respected press New Directions, whose spine logo — a “colophon,” I think they call it — my eyes zip right toward when I scan those world-lit shelves. I trust that little stylized man and wolf. Having introduced before to writers like César Aira, Yoko Tawada, and Enrique Vila-Matas, they probably won’t steer me wrong now.

Read the whole thing at Maximum Fun.

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