January 31st, 2007 § § permalink
It’s wonderful, as I fly into a new translation for First Second Books, to know I’ll once more have the intrepid and dependable Alexis Siegel on wing, ready to blast any tricky French from the sky before it blindsides me. I call him my mentor, though never to his face; he’d surely decline the title.
The target, this time, is yet another collection from the mind of the ever-zany and hyperprolific Lewis Trondheim. I’ve never seen the Nicktoons import version, though the books are predictably uproarious. Trondheim is one of the great French humorists, right up there with Francis Veber in my book, though my favorite thing he’s done would still be Farniente, a slim book from L’Asso with art by Dominique Hérody: a quiet series of witty, wistful conversations between a husband and wife on vacation, he the pessimist, she, well, une française. » Read the rest of this entry «
January 24th, 2007 § § permalink
The first Dunkin’ Donuts in all Taiwan opened here, a week ago, in Taipei, not far from one of the arthouses, giving Nippon’s Mister Donut, hitherto the market giant, a run for its year-old monopoly. I await some titanic battle of the corporate mascots that will lay waste to the metropolis with cheesy effects; blows will be traded and sprinkles rained on streets thronged with screaming Asians. Two versions, with alternate endings, will be shot and released in the appropriate countries. The Taipei Times, organ of finely edited English prose that it is, featured a picture of six comely and miniskirted hostesses in company colors showing off trays of the famous treats glazed, powdered, and otherwise pampered. “Product localization”, the result as ever of discerning “market research”, has, so say rumors, resulted in sweets not quite as cloying as the American originals. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s only Krispy Kreme, a sleek art deco mart of brushed silvers and grays in the heart of ritzy Causeway, continues to pack them in with its HOT! light, a beacon to all lonely wayfarers whom only a life ring of fried and sugared dough will save from drowning. I stumbled on it once, in a light fog, dazed from hours of pointless browsing; its spruce logo and mirrored lettering came to me from that twilight zone of collective cultural memory where still reigns, with all its sweetheart hopes, a peculiarly American sham Shangri-La: the fifties of checkered floors and busboys in paper caps. Inside, I was sure, the help would say “please” and “thank you” and Buddy Holly would be singing of a fool’s paradise. There Father hunkers lovingly over cream fillings that murmur futures, just around the corner past the Joneses’, full of flying station wagons, and breathe not a word to him of impending coronaries. » Read the rest of this entry «
January 9th, 2007 § § permalink
Le Hong Kong qui m’a ébloui, dès que je suis descendu de l’avion pour me retrouver dans l’humidité étouffante de 99%, a disparu, cédant sa place à une ville désormais familière, connue de tous ces films que me poussait à voir cette fascination initiale, née de ma visite en été ‘97, lors de sa remise à la Chine. J’ai beau le chercher, il n’existe plus. De temps en temps me viennent des tours de la ville présente, en vision fugitive, les contours de cette autre, alors terriblement exotique, dont l’étrangeté m’avait englouti, et je me rappelle que dans cette ville des gratte-ciels, ne resplendissant que d’argent boursier, se mire quelque chose comme le monde de l’avenir tel que le concevrait un garçon de cinq ans, où se lancent, des grands boulevards, les escaliers évidemment mécaniques dans une course aux passerelles élancées, tapissées de transporteurs, qui sillonnent la métropole des tours étincelants. Une légèreté presque utopienne, comme la bénédiction du soleil, surgirait de cette ville dont les résidents, pour la traverser, n’avait nullement besoin de mettre pied sur terre.
January 7th, 2007 § § permalink
A chilly day in Taipei, though more perhaps indoors than out, in heaterless apartments whose tile and concrete hoard the cold and return it with sullen stony glower, pervading house and dweller with icy damp. Outside: mid-fifties and several shades darker than overcast, though mercifully dry. Today, the good people of Taipei hug themselves and hide their hands while hurrying home to shed their coats and, with grateful sigh, unwind scarves loop after woolen loop onto the wooden backs of chairs. I should be drinking tea somewhere, wearing a cable knit sweater several sizes large, replete with belly rumple—smug, behind my table with spread paper, as a landlord, and lifting my gaze only rarely to peer over my glasses, through the steam from my mug, at passersby.
January 4th, 2007 § § permalink
The most excellent Dave Baxter of Broken Frontier has this to say about my work on Archaia’s Okko series by Hub, launched last month (Aie! Last year already!):
“It should also be noted that the translation of dialogue and caption box by Edward Gauvin is one of the best European genre fiction has yet received in the American comic market, and the infamously stilted dialogue and prose of past imported series is happily, conspicuously missing.” » Read the rest of this entry «
January 2nd, 2007 § § permalink
The garbage truck pipes its pied tune up and down the streets of town, quarter by quarter, all nights except Sunday and Wednesday. Nine at night is when I’m likeliest to see my neighbors, few of whom I recognize, all lined up in the fluorescence of the corner Family Mart’s sign, their blue municipal trash bags in hand, neatly knotted or blithely bulging and taped over at the top. We’re all in sandals for the five minutes we’ll have to stand and wait, a community of purpose, watching the yellow truck get caught in its sidewalk crawl by the nearest red light. Meanwhile, the recycling vanguard has arrived and set out its barrels for paper, plastic, and pig slop. That’s spoiled leftovers, but nothing too peel, rind, or compost-like for swine to down. For this, many Taiwanese families have dedicated buckets they dump, rush home, and rinse, but with my fruit fly issues I’m loathe to keep rotting food around, even covered. » Read the rest of this entry «
January 1st, 2007 § § permalink
Weekends in Taiwan are happening, in an old car, upon small towns where your uncle remembers some regional delicacy, sold by a man in an apron from a cart the only other time he’s ever passed through. He was probably in college then, but still favored the same Hawaiian shirts. The cart is now a storefront packed with people, on whom the man your uncle met looks down, from a framed photo on the wall, beside the copy of some certificate, recognition, or signed newspaper from the day the president passed through and had lunch—handshakes and beaming faces all around. This is at the one crossroads around which the town clusters, a graph of rooflines in all directions quickly nearing the zero of neatly furrowed fields or, below field level, concrete-bordered paddies in which float the somber distant mountains over clouds. Still, the center bustles; girls cross against the only light, between mopeds, in full view of the miniature precinct; kids bounce for fifty cents on snub-nosed planes or plastic motorcycle rides with scratched paint, while siblings try their luck at bubble toy vending and a lone eighth grader sinks hoop after sideshow hoop. His grandmother tends three trays of steamer buns from a pushcart; his cousin wraps betel nuts in a glass booth. Up and down the street, buildings thrust forth their signs of a shameless carnival air, here adorned with a trio of revolving lights, there fanning a neon rainbow. Your uncle passes by, remarking the crowds but not recognizing the place which only a farmer on the edge of town, straightened from his toil, tells him is the one he seeks: he hangs a U across the empty two-lane and in minutes the concrete houses shack up again, crowding out the fields between; there’s the fairground where fresh garlic, chives, dyed pussywillow boughs are being sold. Cars begin to clot the shoulder before storefronts where hang fruits, roast meats, and through a gap, by the brook behind town, the brilliant temple can be glimpsed. At that store, once a cart, now an institution, the large round tables are still full at a quarter to four downstairs and above, a level not immediately obvious and reached only by squeezing past the entrance to the kitchen. You watch a party of five file after a waitress there while the air buzzes with the hostess broadcasting names and orders. The canteen’s renown seems disguised in the total lack of décor, from the red plastic stools exactly like its emptier neighbors’ to the open storefront through which its cement floor flows indistinguishably into the sidewalk. People are still milling there, in and out of that range within which nearby vendors loose cries to buy or sample that hang in the air, invisible ripples around them. Five girlish secretaries hand a local man their tiny cameras and huddle in front of the famed eatery. The wait for take-out is forty minutes.