Friday, February 26, 2010

Lebowski ala Shakespeare

Today’s Minor Epiphany

Years of working in law firms have made me distrustful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Two Reasons Why The Secret Chiefs 3 Are the Shit

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Art That Changed My Life: J.L. Borges

Years back, I saw a photo collection that I should’ve bought. It was full of pictures like the ones displayed here. At the time I was just beginning to examine the work of Jorge Luis Borges and, while impressed, was still not sure which side of the fence was for me. Did I wish to side with the Gombrowicz side and dismiss the hype as ill-founded or did I wish to jump over to the majority and hail the short (and I mean short) stories, essays and poems of J.L.B. as being among the most important work of the 20th century? As I said, I was still not sure.

My relationship with Borges has always been strange. I admire his erudition; I am in awe of the vastness of his interests and the laser sharpness of his imagery. His (to borrow some phrases) micro approach to some goddamn macro material (mysticism, history, labyrinths, the magic of the book, just to trot out the usual terms) is pretty incredible. Still, at the time I first came to Uncle Jorge, I was looking for something else. I wanted some digestible material perhaps populated by more “Latin” characteristics. Sure, there are gauchos galore in Borges, but—being the typical North American gringo dumbass—I was hoping for something more in line with One Hundred Years of Solitude than “The Garden of Forking Paths.” (Not to dis Marquez’s great book, but, while it remains an undeniable classic, it has done some amount of damage to the rest of the Latin American literature, as us here in Gringolandia now think all South American books are rife with magic realism. Indeed, there are realists, magic and mundane, tragic and ethereal, to be found all over the pages from down under the border, but there’s a whole lot more to be read. Anyway, we’re talking about Borges here, who was not afraid of a little magic, though his does not take the typical forms. His magic is slight of hand, not Criss Angel: Mindfreak.)

Maybe a decade has gone by since I picked up all three volumes of the Penguin editions. I started, naturally, with the fiction. Then I peaked at the poems. The selected essays and reviews struck me most, I must say, as it seemed possible to flip through the book at any place and find a musing on damn near ANYTHING. Of course, this is not possible, right? Well… the breadth of Borges’s scope is astonishing, even if his books only come close to the impossible task of cramming all thought into printed and bound material. As expressed by others, the man’s work anticipated the world wide fucking web. And yet, he got screwed out of the Nobel.

So I have been slowly coming back to Borges as of late. I needed time to let the work slip in and be as wondrous as it is. I may take another ten years just to process the scope and try not to sound like the idiot so many of us sound like when trying to answer the questions, “What makes Borges so special?” The answer is, of course, everything and nothing, bitch.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dolores Dorantes

"By subjecting English syntactical rigidities to the greater fluidity of Spanish syntax – e.g., “I can give you / agitated the mist / of my breathing” – Hofer is not only faithful to Dorantes’s meticulous deployment of words, but also introduces a necessary defamiliarizing – one could say baroque — note into what remains for Latin Americans an imperial language, compelling monolingual North Americans to read differently and think differently about their language (which, in the end, is what poetry is all about)."

The above quote, from this review, does the best job of explaining why one ought to read the first translation of Dolores Dorantes’s ongoing poetic work “Dolores Dorantes.” I found this book quite by accident—a happy accident, to be sure. The taut, sparse lines are by no means easy to digest. There’s something to admire in a writer who can do so much with so little. Every word, juxtaposed oddly with the next, does its job, though the machinations of this long poem are often unclear. Why read something that makes such demands on the reader? Again I refer you to above quote.

Stick that in your smoke and pipe it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A pox on the bones of the Red Lion. I miss that place more than I can say. Why, oh why, did they take it from me?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thomas Bernhard

“For let us not deceive ourselves: most of the minds we associate with are housed in heads that have little more to offer than overgrown potatoes, stuck on top of whining and tastelessly clad bodies and eking out a pathetic existence that does not even merit our pity.”

From Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard, translation by David McLintock. I just finished reading this book, my third Bernhard, definitely not my last. What can you say about a writer who left it in his will that none of his works be published or produced in his native country? What can you say about a man so deft at holding the mirror to his society that he was attacked by an old lady while trying to board a bus?

I’ll say this: rarely does a writer like this come around. Bernhard was, as the saying goes, the real deal. Like Celine, whose ellipsis riddled the page, his books tend to share the marked characteristic of lacking paragraph breaks, creating a singular style that was perhaps not 100% original inasmuch as he was not the first to try something so bold, but, in a much greater sense, is very goddamn original because he owned that style. When you do something better than anyone else, you own it.

Usually slim books, which might help those leery of reading such dense pages get through to the back cover, the work of this master cannot be explained other than to locate his tropes, themes, patterns and practices—a boring process, I’m afraid, and not befitting such a talent, but it helps us understand contextualize. I’d list them here, but to what end? (I will state that two of the three books I have read have suicides and the other features a madman.) Read the back of any of his books published in English and you’ll find out all you need to know about what loosely constitutes a typical Bernhard “plot.” Be ready to abandon the story and walk through the language; brace yourself for contempt, pathos, and a scathing critique of society. Sure, Austria is what often finds itself in the author’s sights, but the criticisms travel very well.

So what have we learned today? That the economy is still walking with a limp? That Illinois politics are endlessly fun? That we hate our jobs a lot of the time? What elevates us from these daily grinds? If you’re like me, a good book is the cure, and you could do a hell of a lot worse than Bernhard.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Funny for Today

Thanks to Carla for bringing us today’s funny. (Carla and, you know, The Onion.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

“The Audacity of Nope”

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Another Russian Translation War

Remember a few years back when two new translations of War and Peace dropped around the same time? The translators and publishers engaged in a media war (for those few who took interest… like me) over which was the edition. (By the way, the answer is both, assuming you are a true scholar of Tolstoy. If you wish to truly understand a translated literary work you will read as many different translations as possible. Actually, you really ought to learn the original language, but look who’s talking—I don’t speak no Russian.)

Well, peep this. Chad over at Three Percent defends the Open Letter edition of Ilf & Petrov’s The Golden Calf fron an attack by Russian Life’s The Little Golden Calf. The post is interesting not only for the translation questions and concerns raised, but also because it is really fucking funny.