Thanks to Rory at Fourth Street Review, I was made aware of this titillating reading challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. It runs for the months of September and October. The initial concept is for readers who share “Autumnal predilection for the works of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker and other authors contemporary and classic who captured the spirit of Gothic literature” to come together for a mighty read.
I have never participated in a reading challenge but I thought this would put me right in the mood for Autumn (I am on a self-imposed writing retreat far away from New York in a tropical locale filled with palm trees, beaches, and HEAT and am certainly not feeling the lovely affinity I have for Fall with its orange leaves and hot spiced beverages).
There are a few different levels of the challenge, I have chosen Peril the First which is to read at least four books that fit into the criteria. But take a look at the website if you plan to join in the fun. There are various challenges. Here are the categories to choose from:
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.
As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules:
1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.
I also thought this would be the perfect opportunity to finally sit down and read some moody classics that have been on my radar for some time. Here are my selections and I hope you join as well!
Rosemary’s Baby, The Monk, The Private Memoirs of a Justified Sinner, Salem’s Lot
You still have two days left to see the fantastic and free exhibition at the New York Public Library dedicated to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s time he spent in NYC in 1929. Since April, a celebration of the writer has been going on in NYC. If you are unable to visit the exhibition, the Lorca in NY website is a plethora of illuminating images and information (the interactive map is worth a click alone but prepared to be distracted from any other business you were conducting–you were warned!).
The Lorca exhibition focuses on his time spent in NYC. He initially came to the US to study English at Columbia University but soon gave that up to work on his book of poetry. He communicated either in Spanish or in a less than stellar French. What I found most interesting about the exhibition was the fact that Lorca was so enthralled by Harlem. Usually, when reading works about Manhattan during this time period the lower part of the island gets the limelight with the upper neighborhoods being confined to the Harlem Renaissance. Lorca was a European who lived in a dormitory on Columbia’s campus. He was a hop, skip, and a jump a way from Harlem, a neighborhood that butts up against the university. He found friendship and inspiration from the people of Harlem and the neighborhood itself.
Besides having his words inspired by the city, the exhibition also exhibits Lorca’s artwork. It definitely had that Spanish Surrealism quality about it with its drooping figures and looping lines. Prior to his trip to NYC, Lorca was friends with Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel who had criticized his earlier poetry as being too traditional.
The exhibition is a lovely mash of Lorca’s letters to his family in Granada, artwork, information about his time spent at Columbia and NYC in general, his friendships with different writers in the city, and the overall influence New York had on him.
The exhibition is titled, “Back Tomorrow.” When handing in his manuscript for Poet in New York, Lorca left a note with these words to his Madrid publisher. Unfortunately, “he never returned. Weeks later, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he was brutally murdered by fascist elements in Granada, his body thrown into an unmarked mass grave.” Like all book blurbs these day, the entire exhibition was haunting. I think this was due to the surreal portraits he created and his enthusiasm and longing for the city mixed with his unfortunate and brutal death. If you’re able to see it, go immediately before the exhibition closes!
Yesterday was all rain and chill in New York City. So what better way to spend a damp evening than to go to The Bridge Series event hosted by Goethe Insitut. The Bridge Series “is the first independent reading and discussion series in New York City devoted to literary translation.”
I was pleasantly surprise. I can be a tough critique when it comes to readings (meaning, normally they are incredibly boring). But these translators chose mighty fine selections and their discussion after the reading was quite interesting. The translators included Ross Benjamin, Isabel Fargo Cole, Tess Lewis, and Tim Mohr. All four are working from German to English.
The standout of this whole event was how exciting all of the selections were. If they are not already released, the novels will be available very soon this year in the US (the UK already has some available in translation). Also, for any Kafka aficionados out there, Ross Benjamin is currently working on a translation of Kafka’s complete Diaries.
There were two questions that most peaked my interest. The first being, what happens if the author includes a blatant error in the original. An example given was an author writing about New York City had listed Gansevoort Street as being down near the World Trade Center (when in reality, it is over west in the Meatpacking District). The original author did this because he liked the sound of the name. It was convenient that he is a contemporary author because the translator was able to discuss this point with him and it was subsequently corrected in the translation. But whether or not such a mistake should be corrected was discussed further with one of the most notorious errors: Frank Kafka putting a sword in the hand of the Statue of Liberty in his work, Amerika.
The second question was about how contemporary German literature (and foreign lit as a whole) has changed recently and how does that apply to translating. The translators hit upon the fact that many references are no longer solely Germany/Austria/Switzerland based. They also incorporate many North American trends and concepts. The translators didn’t weigh on whether they thought this was a good or bad thing but they did note that they didn’t have to look up as many culture reference anymore.
All in all, I was delighted to go to last night’s Bridge Series. I recommend it. Not only do they cover German literature but other languages as well. You can visit their website for more information.
Back in January, I declared, “You must read this book now. Right now. This very second.” Renata Adler’s book, Speedboat, is one of my favorite books of all time. I always nominate this book when people ask for recommendations, but then it would pain me to add but it’s out of print! But not anymore. Grab up a beautiful copy from the New York Review of Books where they are having a special discount of 20% off right now.
But anyhoo, I was one of the lucky souls that was able to grab a seat at the incredibly packed Center for Fiction last night. Adler was there to read a few excerpts from Speedboat and Pitch Dark, followed by an interesting Q&A where she discussed writing the two novels, her time as a staff writer at the New Yorker, amongst other topics. Adler was quick and witty and the entire audience loved her. I even brought a couple of lovely friends who were visiting from Germany who had heard all of my fellow New York writerly friends and me kvell about Renata Adler and Speedboat. Beforehand, we all bought books. I have never read Pitch Dark and I can’t wait to get started. My German friends are so excited to begin Speedboat.
After the talk, Renata Adler signed everyone’s books. I told her about the class I taught a few years ago to undergrads and how much they enjoyed her book. She wanted to know what other books were taught in the class, too. When I told her Philip K. Dick, she replied back saying she really needed to read him.
If you were unable to attend yesterday evening’s event, the Center for Fiction posted a recent interview they conducted with her. A favorite snippet is when she talks about the process of writing her novels (which are not in any traditional structure),
Oh, I always shuffle. And there, the computer is just a disaster because the only thing I’ve ever been compulsively neat about is typing. I type with two fingers, and so I would always make a mistake near the end of the page, and since White Out is no use, I would throw the thing out and start again at the beginning. Then along came the computer and I thought it was going to help because you can move everything around all the time and you can change every sentence 50 different ways in seconds. But that’s exactly what I don’t want, because then what was I doing? If the computer can shift everything in a split-second, then what am I doing here? That’s what I used to do so carefully. One of the things that’s almost comically a problem is AutoCorrect, and what AutoCorrect thinks I’m saying.
I am saddened by the fact that I missed out on this truly fantastical looking exhibition, Hats Off to Dr. Seuss, that was held till a few days ago at the New York Public Library.
Dr. Seuss was an avid hat collector known to wear one of his crazy hats for inspiration while writing, and at dinner parties, it was often a tradition for each guest to wear a hat. In his artwork, as in his personal life, Dr. Seuss saw hats as transformational.
However, for my fellow New Yorkers or those visiting our fine city, “paintings that accompany the exhibit will be up at the Animazing Gallery in SoHo, NYC February 13 - February 18.”
The travelling exhibition is in honor of the 75th Anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. This yearlong celebration is moving around to various other cities, as well, so make sure to check the official website for dates and locations. If you are unable to attend any of the locations, the Huffington Post has a nifty slideshow that offers a glimpse at some of the hats and additional illustrations.
Filed under Books, Events
The annual Festival Neue Literatur has announced the featured authors for this year’s festivities. Every February in New York City, the festival brings together six writers hailing from Austria, Switzerland, and Germany with the intent of offering interesting discussions and readings along with enhancing the visibility of these contemporary writers to an American market. With our dearth of foreign novels in this country, FNL can be an exciting time to learn about new authors.
This year’s events take place during 22-24 February and all are free and open to the public (however, a couple do require an emailed RSVP, so check the website for details). These events have filled up in the past; last year, most notably was NYU Deutsches Haus’ brunch. I heard they had to turn people away because there was no room.
Events are held all around the city. For the complete listings, check their website. You can also find information on the authors, moderators & curators, sample translated texts and more. Enjoy!
This weekend, I had the pleasure of catching Argos Books‘ celebration of their most recently released chapbooks. The lovely and talented editors held their little shindig at the The Oracle Club which deserves its own post all together. Four readers read from the new books and each had such engaging poems. Two of the chapbooks also were in collaboration with visual artists that offered stunning images to accompany the words. Argos always produces lovely books; besides the words and images, the books themselves are outstanding pieces of art. They are hand-sewn and whenever I pick one up, I just want to touch every inch of the cover and pages. The reading itself was brief which was perfect. The poets kept the audience engaged and each one of them brought a different aesthetic to the event.
Another aspect of Argos that I love is that they take a special interest in publishing works-in-translation. They have a side by side series that offers both the original text and the new translation. They are working hard to bring writers that haven’t been published before in English to a wider audience. The editors at Argos are especially interested in this because of their own personal translation endeavors (one of the lovely Argos ladies works on translating from Swedish!).
Hearing them introduce each poet just showed how passionate they are about their writers and why they chose to publish them. They have a real appreciation and regard for the texts and I hope this small presse can continue producing big things.
Who is Mark Twain? by Mark Twain himself
(new, never-before published works, Spring 2009)
Chapter 2: “Whenever I am about to publish a book…”
Read by: John Lithgow
Publisher: Harper Studio
Direction and Live Drawing by Flash Rosenberg
video editor: Sarah Lohman
Screened at “How to Live Dada: Andrei Codrescu, Henry Alford and Mark Twain Interview Each Other” LIVE from the NYPL, April 13, 2009
Last week, I was kindly invited to the launch party for Zola Books. I was unable to visit their booth at BookExpo America but all was explained to me at the company’s little shindig. I had heard of Zola about a month ago but I had a hard time understanding the concept because 1) I can be super dense when it comes to technology and 2) I’m not quite sure if there is any other service that is comparable so I had nothing to relate it to. I chatted with a few people but it wasn’t until I got the rundown from founder, Joe Regal (formerly of Regal Literary), was everything illuminated. He and his small group of employees are super passionate about what they are doing (especially about the aspect of Zola that will give more revenue to the author and smaller “brick-and-mortar” bookstores). According to Publishers Weekly,
Zola’s interface, Regal said, is designed to make book-buying a more pleasant and cleaner experience than it is on Amazon…Zola’s e-books are platform agnostic (meaning they can be downloaded on all major devices, including Kindle) and can be read off the site, but readers can also opt for a more interactive experience…Regal is not alone. A number of authors have invested in Zola. One writer who put her money where her mouth is, is Audrey Niffenegger. The e-book edition of her bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife will be available exclusively at Zola when the site launches.
The article continues with a breakdown of some of the other features that Zola Books will offer. One of its goals seems to be a more positive experience for the author, readers, and indie booksellers. The website is not live yet, but I am looking forward to seeing the direction this company takes.
After a two year hiatus, the once-defunct journal is back in action. On Friday night, the editors of Circumference held a re-launch party in Brooklyn at A Public Space. Circumference is a bi-annual journal of poetry in translation. The fantastic readers that evening included Stefania Heim, Idra Novey, Matthew Rohrer, and Eliot Weinberger.
It was exciting to hear this lively group of translators/writers and it was also equally, if not exceedingly, exciting to see the enthusiasm of the new editorial team. The re-launch party was also held to celebrate their new website which offers great information about the journal and upcoming events, as well as articles, podcasts, etc. concerneing translation. The new Circumference is headed up by two of the founding editors of the literary press, Argos Books.
The quality of writing in Circumference is tip-top. An annual subscription in the US is $10 and an international subscription is $15. You can’t beat that.