Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blaise Cendrars

The best thing about working on the anthology is learning about all the writers I have missed. I mean, school can only teach you so much.

I just got the collected poems of this individual, all of which looks damn good:

That’s all for today, kids. Drink your punch.

BBQ Nabokov

Reading this I have to think back to Borges who said, when speculating on Kafka’s famous request to his friend and editor, Max Brod, that he burn all his unpublished works, that if Kafka truly wanted the work burned, why didn’t he start the barbeque himself? A dying writer leaves it to a loved one to destroy her or his work after they are gone . . . a common story, or so it seems. Here’s the Nabokov version:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Open Letter

Open Letter’s site is essentially launched:

I’ve been excited for their press to get rolling since I first learned of them and have, of course, been making a visit to Three Percent a part of my daily routine. Six titles have been snagged by the press, the first by Dubravka Ugresic. Rubem Fonseca shall also find a home there and, most exciting of all for yours truly, Quim Monzo!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vallejo Translation Debate

A killer article on Vallejo’s Complete Poems (edited and translated by Clayton Eshleman):

The author of this review, John Kotter, makes some great points and takes the translation debate on full steam, offering what seems to us non-translators as a salient point:

“Most readers of any translation won’t know what connotations Vallejo’s Spanish words may have had in Peru in the twenties, or Paris in the thirties, so a translator who aims for exactitude must establish a bond of trust with the reader. When Eshleman translates the Spanish word ‘grave’ as ‘low,’ we follow him up to a point. In the poem ‘El Momento Más Grave De Le Vida,’ several men describe the most grave moment in their lives. One says, in Eshleman’s version, ‘The low point in my life occurred during a tsunami in Yokohama, from which I was miraculously saved, sheltered under the eaves of a lacquer shop.’ Another says, ‘The low point in my life has been during my greatest loneliness.’ ‘Low’ plays well against ‘loneliness’, and we’re reassured by the choice. But when it’s brought to our attention that Gianuzzi and Smith translated ‘grave’ as ‘serious,’ we’re led to wonder what sort of insider information convinced Eshleman to run with ‘low.’ ‘Serious’ encompasses but doesn’t emphasize ‘low,’ and seems to be appropriately compatible with ‘grave.’ Consider how the poem ends in Gianuzzi and Smith’s version:

And another said:
—The most serious moment of my life is having surprised my father in
And the last man said:
—The most serious moment of my life has yet to come.

‘Serious,’ the Gianuzzi and Smith choice seems to me more accurate. Perhaps it’s a question of taste. ‘Serious’ also avoids running three stresses together at the beginning of a repetitive line. Other of Eshleman’s choices seem more eccentric. Personally, I wonder why neither went with the English ‘grave,’ which, to my amateur eye would do the job pretty well.”

I agree with Kotter, though the reasons for Eshleman’s and Gianuzzi and Smith’s choices ache to be considered. The translation debate is never going to end, which is fine by me. It never should. I own the complete Vallejo, and I will grab as many of the other translations as I can. I have the posthumous poems as well and have done some light comparisons, but it’s Trilce that seems to be the most puzzling, and most intriguing of Vallejo’s works. Published the same year as Ulysses and The Waste Land, this collection, every bit as challenging and inventive as the European modernist’s works, has enjoyed something of a rebirth. All the new translations are certainly helping. This is why we always need new translations, to keep the reexamination of literature active.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, April 14, 2008

God Bless UPNE

The good people at the University Press of New England have called me three times since last week to make sure that what appeared to be a double charge on my credit card was corrected. It was.

Maybe there are not a lot of people ordering books from them directly, because this is customer service unlike any other I have encountered. Maybe not— god knows anyone working at a small university press has a lot of others things to do than make sure some guy in Chicago is pleased with his purchase.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nadia Anjoman

Consider this:

Makes me feel somewhat ridiculous. I mean, going to school to study poetry in such a casual manner, aimlessly opting for a degree in the subject as if that validated anything . . . Consider the struggle of not only this woman but many of the poets on the UniVerse site. Consider Arenas, Bulgakov, or anyone who ever wrote under such oppressive conditions. Art, to them, was not a luxury.

Good god, I’m depressed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Apparently, I’m a good catch because I read:

This is pretty silly. The biggest problem with dating a person who considers themselves well reads is that they will always think they have better taste than you, as pointed out here: which is where I got the article in the first place. And I’m not ashamed to admit it, or to admit to liking a middlebrow book. I despise the whole attitude behind this article and the entire scene of people who feel as though they can truly judge a person by their tastes in art. I mean, sure, I do it all the time, but I at least admit it is a deficiency.

Anyway, women may read more than men, but, based on the high number of chick-lit books published and devoured every year, I don't think they can claim better (or worse) reading tastes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Bolaño mania continues:

I’m counting the days until November 11, 2008. I’m buying both the 912-page hardback and the three-volume paperback box set.

Mas Bolaño

I get a lot of literature in translation news from Three Percent, and since they provided all the links so neatly I’m just posting a link to their site and this post about, that’s right, Roberto Bolaño. For anyone sick of reading/hearing me blather on about this writer, too bad. (As if anyone comes here.) The article on his untranslated book Entre paréntesis is especially interesting, especially if you are me. If you are not me, too bad for you.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad, who looks like this:

and writes like this:

has compiled a book using what I consider to be the best title I’ve heard in some time: Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, which contains works from 150 poets who have committed suicide. I think I need this book, though, seeing how Ms. Haddad is Lebanese, I might not be able to read it. Damn.

Starsky’s Poems

How I spent Spring Break

Book reports in brief:

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño

I’ve been eager to read this one for a while. Of course anyone who strolls by this cyber-joint knows that I’ve been all about Bolaño for the last few months, really since reading Amulet and definitely since reading the increasingly misunderstood Savage Detectives. So I wanted to go back and read the "novellas", as this and Distant Star are referred. I knew so much about this book before picking it up that it felt like hearing the longer version of a familiar story. Nevertheless, there were a lot of elements I was joyously surprised to encounter. Yes, the novel is a deathbed confession from a conservative priest, minor poet and literary critic who gets ushered, all too easily, into Opus Dei and then into the Pinochet dictatorship. Aside from teaching the General and his men a thing or two about Marxism (so they could know their enemy better) the priest/narrator finds that he was closer than he thought to the torturous activities of the regime. But what really grabbed me was a bit about how European churches were ridding themselves of pigeons. It becomes a beautiful metaphor for the elements to come in this small, but quite packed, book.

Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq

A wild and disgusting ride that truly is, as the book claims, a novel of transformation and lust. Reminiscent of Kafka or Ovid only in the sense that the narrator finds herself inexplicably turning into a pig, the book combines dark humor and biting commentary to showcase a morally declining universe where human beings can be sex objects, meat, base entertainment or avenues to the so-called better life. Good, nasty times not for the squeamish.

Poems of Mina Loy

As mentioned earlier on this here page, I’ve recently discovered Loy and her modernist poetry. I’ve been dipping in and out of a collection of hers, savoring the treats. And there are treats. I already posted a link to some of her work, so I won’t again, but all I can say is that reading her poem about Poe, or the one about the Mexican desert, I was struck with the feeling that this is what poetry ought to goddamn look like.

The Night Buffalo by Guillermo Arriaga

I knew Arriaga as the screenwriter for Amores Perros and 21 Grams. I liked the first film and was absolutely depressed beyond belief after seeing the second. When I saw this book at the store, I knew it had to be worth investigating. It stands along with his other accomplishments as being a story about decisions and the ways those decisions alter your life, which sounds pretty logical (and somewhat trite, I know) but is oddly an idea running antithetical to most of the talk I hear coming from people who believe in some sort of predestination or divine law. But I digress and run on. This is the book for you if you enjoy a somewhat masculine, lean prose style, schizophrenic supporting characters, duplicitous women, bad cops and a mystery that is never really solved in the end. (My favorite kind.) Have at it. Really, it is a well crafted, stylized book about friendships, love, and betrayal that was quite enjoyable, a few clunky moments (probably due to the translation) and Fight Club style staccato sentences notwithstanding. Anyway that seems to be the trend, quick, "edgy," stand-alone sentences. Damn that fucking Chuck Palahniuk.

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

I just read this one last Sunday while lazing in bed. At just over a hundred pages, it fits in with my recent focus on smaller books (school starts today and I wanted to squeeze in as many books as I could) that contain significant metaphorical weight. Like Bolaño’s novella, this one seems fairly straightforward but builds nicely toward a satisfying conclusion conjuring a myriad of ideas. It's pretty amazing when a book can achieve this is such a short space. Winterson once mentioned that she thinks it bad manners to write big books, which is funny and all, though clearly not completely defendable. Nevertheless, here's one arguement for that side of thinking. The ideas of love and immortality struck me the most, and while I might not jump to agree with Borges and Octavio Paz, who both said this was a perfect novel, I will say that this furthered my interest in Casares. Borges is Borges and always will be, but a few other nicely crafted stories like this will go far toward making me hail another pre-Boom writer from Argentina besides ol’ Jorge Luis.

That’s about it, give or take a poem or two or some other shorts, like Mark Vonnegut’s introduction to his father’s new book, may Kurt rest in peace. Tonight I return to class. I read Alice Munro’s story “Prue” last night in preparation. I found it slight, dull, and ineffective. I just didn’t care. This does not bode well.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Funny

I do love this website, and this post is especially spot on.