Monday, June 30, 2008

Suzanne Jill Levine

An old edition of The International Literary Quarterly (though new to me) featuring two poems and a translation by the woman who is rapidly becoming my favorite translator:

Her work on Tres Tristes Tigres is amazing (though it was a second translation of sorts, and the author and her collaborated greatly on the project, which, really, is the best possible situation for rendering a book from language into another).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

G. Cabrera Infante

I’m a hundred pages shy of finishing G. (that’s short for Guillermo, yo) Cabrera Infante’s Tres Tristes Tigres or, if, like me, your Spanish isn’t good enough to facilitate a reading in the original language, Three Trapped Tigers (pub. Dalkey Archive, trans. Donald Gardner and Suzanne Jill Levine in collaboration with the author). It is quite an achievement. All the trappings (pardon the pun, but if you read enough Cabrera Infante you’ll find yourself making puns all the day long) of the modern novel are evident in this book: linguistic playfulness, illusions both high and low brow (more a postmodernist practice, really), and enough jokes, jabs, puns and provocations to satisfy your bitter, jaded tastes, you “post-literate” smarmy bastard.

Sorry, not sure where the anger is coming from at the moment. Maybe it is reading from a review of Three Trapped Tigers I stumbled across online that dismissed it as pranks and puns run amuck with no purpose (I paraphrase and wholeheartedly disagree). Sure, this is a book that will polarize. Some of the literary elite has ignored the point (to me, and I’m borrowing an idea from Suzanne Jill Levine, all the puns and deconstructions of language, not to mention the repetition of the Campbell’s story, are designed to communicate the fallibility of language) while others have sung the author’s praises, and I, of course, plant myself firmly in the second camp. Anyway, I rather like it when a work of art nets such divided reactions. Something interesting exists in that tension. It’s all about taste, right? Right. And mine is Mine and ought to be yours.

Back to reality:

There are those that would have you believe that this is the Cuban Ulysses, which makes sense in a sense. Clearly Cabrera Infante has read his Joyce, though I prefer the Cuban’s humor to the Irishman’s. If anything, Three Trapped Tigers makes me think I ought to go back and look at old James a little closer and see if perhaps I am in a better place to wade through his streams of conscious. Regardless of whether or not this is the Cuban Ulysses, it is certainly one of the best books I’ve read in a while. You might feel the same assuming you like fractured novels with a multiple narrators and no real linear plot, no real sense of traditional story telling (though, considering the now well-established practice of writing in this modernist and postmodernist style, the conventional novel has been broken enough times that there is no such thing as conventional story telling anymore, so please, let’s all stop referring to any goddamn book that doesn’t follow 19th century blueprints as “unconventional” as it is now officially a misnomer).

Thanks for listening.

Today's Funny

I love the blog Stuff White People Like, but this post, sent in as a contest entry,
is pretty great, especially this part:

“With few exceptions, white people are actually fond of almost any dictator not named Hitler, and your remark that 'this is just like something Mao Zedong would do' will be met with blank stares and possible social alienation. This is because, with the exception of Hitler, oppressive dictators share a passion for many of the things white people love- such as universal health care, conspiracy theories, caring about poor people while being filthy rich, and cool hats.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy to read this:

Is it wrong

for me to want to respond to all of the emails and phone calls I get from potential class members complaining about their faulty washing machines:

“Be grateful you live in a country with indoor plumbing, you fat bastard.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Anyone looked at the Melvins’ website lately?

It’s so much fun.

And there’s yet another record coming out:

And a tour:

Get excited, fuckers! They're the only rock band that matters anymore. Seriously. What was that? Radiohead? Fuck off. The White Stripes? Are you shitting me? Mars Volta? Jesus, if I wanted to listen to Pink Floyd I would.

Luckily the Melvins never broke up so they never had to reunite, thus side-stepping the embarrassment that the Pixies, Jane’s Addiction, and the Smashing Pumpkins displayed these last few ugly years. Fuck ‘em. The Melvins predate all those bands anyway and they’ve always done shit correctly. Since day one, goddammit.

Borges Documentary

Another thing clipped from the Three Percent site:

The cult and critics of Pevear & Volokhonsky

An interesting discussion on translation regarding my favorite book:

What I find interesting is the growing dissent regarding the work of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. They are being hailed as the masters of Russian translation, and while I can’t speak to the entirety of their output, I do think they have done a great job with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Bulgakov? That’s a different story.

Bulgakov is a very different writer and I wonder if their approach fits The Master and Margarita. I read some of their translation and I don’t find it as good as the one by Burgin and O’Connor. This could be due to many factors, the mostly likely being that I first read the Burgin and O’Connor translation and it remains my favorite since it introduced me to this incredible book.

Regardless, there are people who worship Pevear and Volokhonsky and others, like Chad Post ( ),
who fear P & V are becoming an unquestioned brand name. Me? I’m just glad that they are helping revive some interest in the Russians.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sour Grapes

The new Issue of Willow Springs is out

I did not win the Vachel Lindsay Poetry award, which is no big surprise. I must say, at the risk of seeming cocky and bitter, that I think my entry much better than the winner’s. Really, I read his poem and was pretty underwhelmed. We have different styles, and clearly his is more fitting to the editors. I don’t mind losing poetry contests but I kind of minded losing to that poem. I mean, my instructor/thesis advisor beat me, and the rest of her class, in the Bright Lights, Big City contest (funny seeing as she egged us into submitting) but I respect her work enough to not feel upset at losing. But I wonder if the wayward shit I write is really too contrary to what passes as poetry in this here modern world.

Oh well, they sent me a copy of the issue, which has nice cover art at least.
R.I.P. George Carlin

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


James Frey has a new book and an interview on Powell’s site:

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the guy without having read beyond the first few agonizing pages of his notorious book, A Million Little Pieces. And really the subject of that book and its authenticity has been talked about enough (if you believed it was all true you really need to get a better bullshit detector installed), though I reiterate my feelings that he is a manipulative jackass for addressing rehab patients and pretending he ever went through their struggle.

Moving on:

Frey says a few interesting things, such as:

“I've said before, if I'm the one who ends up bringing down the big, dumb American memoir, cool.”

And I like this sentiment, only I wish it didn’t come from Frey. But still, I do hope that the Frey incident did indeed topple the current obsession with all things allegedly factual posing as literary.

More annoying is this comment:

“There are books where cities are central characters — Paris or Rome or New York or Chicago — but no one ever made L. A. the central focus of a book, in all its glory and its horror.”
Reading this quote, I can’t help but think that Frey is terribly under-read and that the person who could be responsible for bringing down the big, dumb American memoir has done it accidentally and without the forethought a more well-read, well-spoken, talented individual would have employed, which is just perfect. What better end to the dubious trend then a ass-backwards implosion spearheaded by the mouth and pen of a two-bit hack?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reinaldo Arenas

An old, though just read by me, article on one of my heroes, the great Reinaldo Arenas:,manrique,20375,1.html

Fuck Waldo

The singer from Coldplay is on the cover of Rolling Stone. The magazine declares him a rock god. The bar for being a rock has certainly been lowered.

If that guy’s a rock god, so was Liberace.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Cult of Che

The title of this book makes me laugh:

I understand the anger of a Cuban refugee turned U.S. stomper. Really, the problem with people is that they insist on seeing things as black or white. Rarely, if ever, are things so easy.

Just because Castro is a corrupt dictator, that does not make Ernest “Che” Guevara guilty by association. Just because Che was a part of the Cuban revolution does not make him a brilliant or even competent guerrilla. Just because Che’s campaigns to stir shit up in Africa and Bolivia failed miserably does not make him a poor guerrilla. Just because Castro is a bastard does not mean he was a bad revolutionary (just a lair). Just because Che presided over trails and ordered executions does not make him… wait, yes, it does make him a murderer. And there are some who claim he personally pulled the trigger more than enough times. Regardless, the cult of Che is certainly a complex subject, one worthy of investigation. Where you fall on the spectrum surely says quite a lot about your politics, but no one can deny the importance of Che as a historical figure.

My favorite bit from the reviews on Amazon is where some woman says that the Castro regime is better than the Batista one, likening it to Stalin vs. Hitler, saying that Hitler was worse. Well, if we’re counting bodies, maybe not. Anyone living under Stalin would’ve run to Hitler. Anyway, it’s so relative and arguable that these blanket claims insult all of us. And no one (except the U.S. Government, maybe) can claim that Batista wasn’t a dictator, but that doesn’t mean that Castro isn’t one either. Both took over power aggressively and both held onto that power tightly. Both are/were murderous bastards. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I fall on Che Guevara. I do think that he and Castro are idolized way out of proportion by left-leaning academics, though the symbol of Che certainly means different things to different cultures, and I can, therefore, understand the malleability of Che as an icon. I do think having his face on T-shirts is a little silly, mostly because I tend to believe that most of the white kids I see wearing those shirts really have but an inkling of who the man was.

Anyway, I like the title of this book, though a quick read-through will probably suffice—like the way I approach Anne Coulter’s works (if you can call them that). I know the point already and I can’t get past the heavy bias.

Ojos de Brujo

Friday, June 06, 2008

A bit from what I’m reading:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Martín Espada

I like all of the poems featured on Martín Espada’s page, and in his collection, bought yesterday, Alabanza, but here’s one that seems to be sticking with me: