Le joli mois de mai

May 24th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

L’Hotel de l’Avenir At lunch I would walk along the rue de Fleurus, past the Hotel de l’Avenir, and cross the Jardins de Luxembourg on gravel paths striped unevenly with puddles reflecting a sky, only just scrubbed of clouds, whose watery light made the paths pale as a northern beach. Ahead of me would open the gardens, with the Pantheon dome rising to the right of the straight path between, on one side, the tennis courts, and on the other, saplings each in their neat wooden pickets. Beyond, the uniform benches multiplying into the distance, beneath the shaggy fringe of small plane trees bent low and shaking slightly, as though in murmur over their own shadows, seemed to extend the park infinitely into some verdant gloom.

Saplings in their pickets

4b18.jpg At night, coming home, I would emerge from the metro to the sight of the line, always three or four deep, at the brightly lit corner crêperie, turn away, and in the darkness finally fallen at eleven, walk the long block back along the boulevard encircling Paris whose segments were named for the marshals of France, past the broad storefronts of a motorcycle dealership, a carpet and parquet shop, two auto showrooms, each with its grating drawn behind the ad-splashed windows, while along expanses of white wall black-stenciled letters forbade posters as per the law of July 29, 1881. That spring a tramway was being built and the cold light from the globes of streetlamps made the interim sidewalks a pitted white whose lunar desertion at that hour was always broken by small dogs trotting at a distance from their owners. They nosed around the gray and green corrugated sections of fence, anchored by numbered blocks, whose configuration changed daily, directing pedestrians up and down side streets to cross intersections, often almost doubling the distance walked. Only my passing seemed to stir dog owners from the trance in which, it seemed, they contemplated, at the barrier’s edge, the sudden wasteland of pulverized cobblestones, ashen gravel, and exposed wiring into which their habitual promenade had been suddenly transformed, and from which saplings in their allotted squares rose incongruously undisturbed. On the other side, the fencing had reduced the Boulevard Jourdan to two lanes, strangling traffic. Rain from balconies above had, along the awningless block, pocked the concrete at some formative stage, and as I neared the corner toward my room, a few muddled bootprints were to be seen until they were shoddily topped off with asphalt that, with the copious settling of dust, soon became indistinguishable in color from the cement.

Holiday Wishes

December 21st, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Merry Christmas!


Happy Hanukkah!


Happy Holidays to All!


All Blogged Down

December 23rd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

1) ‘ “Apohele” is Hawaiian for “orbit”.’

2) Boxers or briefs? Why not ask a utilitarian? “[Jeremy] Bentham appreciated his creature comforts: according to Negley Harte, the University of London’s historian, his embalmed body wears a pair of knitted underpants, unlike most of his contemporaries, who simply tucked their shirt-tails between their legs.”

3) Noel Murray on Venus: “When he tells Whittaker that the naked female form is the most beautiful thing most men will ever see, while for women it’s the face of their first child, the sigh he lets out hints that he wishes, for the sake of his legacy, it had been the other way around.”

Une Question C-M

December 16th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Pourquoi Pierre Menard est-il le traducteur parfait?

a) Parce qu’il respecte les mots de l’auteur au point du plagiat

b) Parce que son travail demeure inachevé—car une traduction n’est jamais finie

c) Parce qu’il fait un travail de recherche minutieux

d) Parce qu’il se soucie de ce que l’auteur veut dire tout en tenant compte du nouveau contexte auquel il livre son ouvrage

Invisible Cities

January 10th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

“Isn’t it this building over here?” GB caught my sleeve as I headed for the awning that said National Arts Club. He pointed to the building two doors down, on the corner.

“No, that says SVA. And it’s number 17.”

I turned back for the brownstone with the awning as GB checked the post-it note in his hand. A boy in a white watched us from behind the many tiny panes of a mahogany door, a double row of buttons on his jacket gleaming gold.

“But this building doesn’t look like it has eight floors.” » Read the rest of this entry «

Funny-queer as a Five Dollar Bill

April 29th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

It was during this time, when low waistlines and oblong spectacles became ubiquitous—when the housing market was referred to as a “bubble”—as if a soap-water whimsy enclosing the house and groomed lawn known as the “American Dream”—and fifty years of headlong spending were coming to a fateful end (for whom else did the rest of the world rely on to buy the fruits of their labors but eager Americans), that the currency itself became progressively, even surreptitiously, more cartoonish, as if money, no longer able to assume the almighty powers attributed to it, were caving in to irony and lampoon. A few years after imaginary super-heroes made their first appearances on stamps as symbols of a national heritage, famous newspaper caricaturists were invited to submit their interpretations of past presidents for banknotes on which denominations appeared, grotesquely enlarged for unambiguous legibility, in such garish inks as orange and purple, as if to admit, if not legitimize, the irresponsibility, the essential impunity, with which we had waved them hamfistedly around.

Recent Work

September 10th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

This last is referenced in a nicely detailed account of a manga fest in Germany.

Mercy Kill

September 21st, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Sharp Teeth:

I had to put it down. (No dog jokes.)

Let me be plain. I speak out

of ignorance. The only book-length poem

I’d read wasn’t The Odyssey,

or even The Divine Comedy,

but George Keithley’s The Donner Party,

which unlike Sharp Teeth

at least seemed to earn

its form by breaking sentences

into lines less obvious

than syntactical units, » Read the rest of this entry «

Panel Talk

September 21st, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

My friend M@ alerted me to a WSJ article on eurocomics and la glorieuse B.D. Sardine gets a mention, and First Second quite a few. What an odd roundup of authors, at least among the Francophones… wonder who author Brigid Grauman’s sources were. Not strictly American publishers, apparently–and thank God–but the selection gives a glimpse into the randomness of how reputations are furthered. I’m surprised she unearthed Schuiten and Peeters. The few English volumes of their monumental Cites Obscures have been available forever, but putting everyone in the same article makes them sound recent as Guibert. I’m glad David B. got mentioned, and sad I will likely never get to translate more of him than the excerpt in WWB, sewn up as he is by NBM and Fanta.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Panel Talk II

October 8th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

No but seriously, this time for real. The triumvirate known as Open Letter—Chad Post, E.J. Van Lanen, and Nate Furl—had me up in Rochester for a translation panel at the university. These are tireless and stellar editors; put it this way, I was a lame D’Artagnan tagging along, tugging at their capes as they dashed about the cause of international lit. It was great.

I have fallen completely in trust with Marian Schwartz and would believe her about anything Russian. Fellow panelist Michael Emmerich delivered this sound bite: “Translation, they often say, is about loss, but actually you’re handing someone a book they could never otherwise have read. It’s 100% gain.” Martha Tennent is bringing Catalunya to the world! I told a puke joke.

In Rochester the yellow leaves were dropping by the curb, and the restaurant by the river where we dinnered, chatting lit and the vote, had cleared its patio. A few stacked chairs hid under canvas, flanked by heat lamps that tottered slightly, tall mushrooms.

The trip also included a former professor, an ex-girlfriend, Rochester’s 2nd best burger, an unexpected book sale, a bonus Tolstoy seminar, and breakfasts among business travelers in a chilly lobby. Does that count as a junket?

I wish the press every success. Also, I want to pick up Vilnius Poker.

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