Final Thoughts on Frankfurt

October 23rd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

From this recent NYT article:

Anne-Solange Noble, the foreign-rights director at Gallimard in France, said American publishers did not support translated books with marketing budgets and then complained when sales failed to dazzle.

Ms. Noble said she was amused — but also appeared irritated — when she recounted running into an American publisher who, on the first night of the fair, described Mr. Le Clézio as “an unknown writer.”

“American publishers are depriving the American readership of the cultural diversity through translation to which they are entitled,” Ms. Noble said. “It is what I call the poverty of the rich.”

American publishers devoted to translating say there is no shortage of gems. On Thursday Mr. Post of Open Letter eagerly plunged into one of the international halls, plucking brochures of translated English excerpts from stands hosted by cultural agencies from Croatia, Latvia, Poland, China and Korea.

Frankfurt, he said, is about renewing contacts with people whose judgment he trusts and who can help him winnow the hundreds of titles he hears about here and elsewhere.

Chad Post, who continues to cut a swashbuckling youthful figure (“eagerly plunged”) on the international literature circuit, has weighed in amply about the Gallimard rights rep’s legendary hauteur both at Threep and on the Ffurt Book Fair Blog. Still, well-deserved hauteur or no, Mme. Noble has indeed identified a recurring problem with American publishers. Bad or no publicity can sink a book—no, make that utterly torpedo. » Read the rest of this entry «

Separated at Birth

October 23rd, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

It is inevitable that I acknowledge, if only in a single post, the fact of a presidential election in the country where I happen to reside, so let’s get it over with:

“It was not immediately clear if McCain, overnighting in Ohio, watched the show, but earlier in the day he told a crowd in Woodbridge, Va., that he thought Fey and Palin were ‘separated at birth.’”

Now that would be interesting. I would read that novel. You could chart a lot of America between the covers of that plot, especially if you were careful not to make the revelation of biological sorority too soapy.

Appendix II and Postscript

October 17th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

(from Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies)

“My own idea is that when He comes again it will be to continue his ministry as an old man. I am an old man and my life has been spent as a soldier of Christ, and I tell you that the older I grow, the less Christ’s teaching says to me. I am sometimes very conscious that I am following the path of a leader who died when He was less than half as old as I am now. I see and feel things He never saw or felt. I know things He seems never to have known. Everybody wants a Christ for himself and those who think like him. Very well, am I at fault for wanting a Christ who will show me how to be an old man? All Christ’s teaching is put forward witht he dogmatism, the certainty, and the strength of youth: I need something that takes account of the accretion of experience, the sense of paradox and ambiguity that comes with years!”


Thèse: c’est une vanité de la jeunesse de se sentir vieux. Anti-thèse: et l’envers aussi. Synthèse: jusqu’à ce que ce ne soit plus une vanité, mais la vérité.

Appendix I (to the preceding post)

October 17th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

An Encouraging Table

(adapted from David Galenson’s creativity study as cited in Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article)

Age 23: T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”

Age 41: Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour”

Age 48: Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Age 40: William Carlos Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow”

Age 29: Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”

Age 30: Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife”

Age 30: Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”

Age 28: Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”

Age 42: Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man”

The Mathematics of Greatness: A Numbers Game; or, Feeling the Pinch of Age, Are We?

October 17th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Great anticipator that I am, I was readying this quip shortly before my 30th birthday: 33 is important to Christians, of course, as a time of stock-taking and reckoning, but as an Asian, I’ll soon only have 2 years left to kick ass, take names, and leave my mark on the world, since Bruce Lee died at 32. Of course, given the pace of preceding life, I didn’t really think I’d get anything fantastic done by then, short of winning money in a lottery whose tickets I never believed in enough to buy. I have since delivered variations on the theme thereof, at variously inopportune occasions, to variously unenthusiastic receptions. It’s reminiscent of the paragraph in Snow Crash when the narrator reflects, as Hiro Protagonist speeds northward on a motorcycle, that up until the age of 25 we can all still hold onto the illusion that, given the necessary bleak conditions, like the sudden murder of our entire family, we can still plunge ourselves into ninja training and emerge the baddest badass in the known universe (Neal Stephenson, forgive the paraphrase).

I did my dutiful research for turning thirty. I delved into novels, naturally. Turning thirty, wouldn’t you know, is a pastime in American literature. » Read the rest of this entry «

Mickey Cat: A Bathroom Ode

October 14th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

On his mom's bed

On his mom's bed

Do we enter public restrooms with such unconscious mincing poise, as if in prim denial of the reason for our visit? When after a few tentative paw-steps he vanishes with silent hop into the litterbox—each time with the curiosity and caution of discovering a dark and private spot as if anew—all the expressiveness of his fluid body is funneled into the only part left visible: his tail. Wavering vane, supple exclamation point, pliant and quizzical plume, aloof it remains from distasteful necessity. That tail has a mind of its own: soft frond one moment, proud cobra the next. The litterbox could be the vessel of some creature sending out a hesitant, feathery probe. What’s going on inside there? The tail won’t tell. It’s a Schrödinger dilemma. Has he or hasn’t he yet? You’d sooner catch a chicken at the act of laying eggs. You won’t know till the cover’s off—then it’s too late, possibility collapses to a familiar smelly cake.

Weird Tales at the KGB tomorrow night, 10/15

October 14th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, I will be going Wednesday night to the Weird Tales event. It will be the first time I have set foot in the KGB Bar, a thing I have till now successfully, often scrupulously avoided. What can I say? I like Jeffrey Ford. And maybe I just feel good enough about myself to show my face.

Come one and all: support author Jeff Ford and Weird Tales. The Interstitial Arts Foundation will, I hear, also be making a showing in force.

Andrea Is Changing Her Name

October 13th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

by Kevin Brockmeier is hands down the most moving short story I’ve read in recent memory. Not that others haven’t been more delightful, terrifying, artful, demanding–but none of them had me leaping from my warm sheets and cozy glow of my headboard lamp to make similar announcement before starting the day.

In the coming weeks I’ll surely come back to other stories more often, that speak more to where I happen to be at the moment, offer ways out of dead ends in my own fiction, provide clever structures or other pleasures practical, technical, or of the moment… but this story, I am confident, will abide.  For me. I may even become, briefly, afraid to read it (though it’s far from being a foreboding modernist mountain). I have a bad habit of letting long stretches of time slip by between sneaking so much as a peek at what most deeply moves me (related, I realize, to another one of Brockmeier’s stories in the same collection) be it book or movie. Then suddenly, I remember they exist, my venerated favorites; reading or seeing them again reconnects me to the river underrunning my life (how fresh the water’s scent, how like a forgotten song its gurgle, how strong and reassuring the dark braid of its current) and I wonder why I ever let so much time go by. But time’s passing, I find, is always unconscionable–life’s callous basis.

Hats off to Kevin Brockmeier! Hats, hats, hats off…


October 10th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

From the NYT:

Asked at the news conference if he had any message to convey, Mr. Le Clézio said: “My message will be very clear; it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he’s not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He’s someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.”

Wow, that sounds translated. How about

“My message will be very clear: I think we have [?] to continue reading novels, because I think the novel is a very good means of questioning the current world without answers that are too schematic, too automatic. The novelist is not a philosopher, not a technician of spoken language. He is, first and foremost, someone who writes, and through the novel asks questions.”

I wanna see the original.

Final Thoughts on Engdahl

October 10th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

This too shall pass, if it hasn’t already, given the coronation of Le Clezio, but recently I happened to be revising, with an eye to publication, an excerpt from the memoirs of Michel Mohrt, the Gallimard editor who brought, among others, Styron, Roth, and Kerouac to France. Short on intimacy, long on courtliness, Mohrt’s is a memoir in whose lightness of style and fond tone can be seen the author’s genuine desire to revisit only that in which he has taken joy.

He has these curious and wistful reflections, which make American writers sound jes’ about like lonesome cowhands drifting restlessly across the salons of the Continent. Ah, that national dissatisfaction, that dogged pursuit of happiness, that chip on the shoulder.

“It isn’t easy to make friends with American writers. It seems to me (I make this observation cautiously) they have a slight complex about the Parisian literary milieu, uncertain of being appreciated as they’d like to be (and because they aren’t in their own country—all this despite sizeable print runs). Surprised at their own success, and afraid of being misunderstood…

Well-off (though that isn’t saying much), backed by rich foundations both private and public, showered with honors in Paris and all over Europe, they constantly roam about, and it’s hard to sustain a true friendship with them—especially as their publisher. But does the literary life lend itself to friendship?”

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