Final Thoughts on Frankfurt

23 10 2008

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

23 10 2008

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

17 10 2008

(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)

17 10 2008

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?

17 10 2008

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

14 10 2008
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

14 10 2008

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.