Reading

Reading & Chatting at the Bridge Series

bridgeYesterday 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.

Renata Adler! The Center for Fiction! Books…Books!

adlerBack 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 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.

Free Podcasts from the Writers Guild of America, East

Through iTunes, the Writers Guild of America, East has made available many free podcasts.

Here’s Boardwalk Empire showrunner Terence Winter discussing the merits of premium cable with Denis Leary,co-creator and star of Rescue Me. There’s Tony Award–winning playwright John Guare explaining the challenges and rewards of adapting work from stage to screen. From 90-second clips to hour-long panel discussions,WGAE’s iTunes U site provides entertaining and educational media for any artist, writer or aficionado.

While perusing through their listings, I noticed podcasts discussing such topics as Writing NY: How the Big Apple Inspires and Informs the Movies, Reflections on Adaptation, and many other components of writing. Although, these podcast have more to do with television & film writing, I thought this could be quite interesting. They offer podcasts on mistakes to avoid, marketing yourself, and chat with successful playwrights and screenwriters.

Also while clicking around in iTunes, I came across some other free podcasts that might be of some interest,

  • Film Forum, not solely writing but can offer some interesting discussions from filmmakers
  • University of Warwick, hear writers read their own work along with discussions and notes

Festival Neue Literatur 2013

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!

Santaland Diaries read by David Sedaris

Hearing David Sedaris read his excerpt about his time working as an elf at Macy’s during the holiday season is one I never tire of. Regardless of what you do on the 25 December, make sure you at least listen to the wonderful anecdotes of Sedaris as Crumpet the Elf dressed in “green velvet knickers, a forest green velvet smock and a perky little hat decorated with spangles.” Available through NPR. Enjoy!

Argos Books at The Oracle Club

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.

Circumference is back!

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.

East Harlem Cafe

Who do you see when you walk into a coffee shop? Writers, of course (or at least those who fancy themselves writers). I’ve recently become aware of a fantastic little cafe in East Harlem aka Spanish Harlem aka El Barrio. Because of the fantastic group, Harlem Writers’ Circle, and the equally fantastic literary journal, Crescendo City, the East Harlem Cafe has become the unofficial literary homebase for emerging talent that call Harlem and its surrounding areas home.

In a neighborhood that is plagued by social problems, the East Harlem Cafe is trying to reach a fundraising goal so that they are able to update their equipment and introduce healthier options (yogurt, fruit, etc.) to the neighborhood (Spanish Harlem is notorious for its lack of fresh food options). Also, the owner has been kind enough to host readings, etc. but must keep the cafe open later than intended. Without her hospitality, there would be no readings or open mics. Most people think of the writerly scene being down in the East Village or whatnot, but there is plenty of totally rad writing happening uptown. Last night, the cafe hosted a reading by some of the writers published in Crescendo City’s inaugural issue.

So, if you can support, please donate or if you’re in New York, stop by the cafe for a coffee or on a Monday evening for a Writers’ Circle workshop.

it’s a bird? it’s plane? nope, just me; i’m back.

After a lovely time abroad, I have returned to the Big Apple. With suitable jet-lag still in tow, I found myself awake in bed at 5:30 this morning trying to finish my engaging airplane read (perhaps, a review soon?). Even though I have been gone for only 2 weeks, I feel very behind in my life in Manhattan (I was chastised for not realizing The Hunger Games film had come out).

A few weeks ago, I was at a book festival promoting a book that has a literary translation I worked on and a piece of original fiction. It was the first time this writer of no significance felt like a 10%-big-shot. In total, I participated in 4 readings/panels/etc. I then took a much needed vacation in Prague for a week where I received a surprising tan.

Sitting in my small bedroom next to my giant pile of undeclared Czech chocolate bars, I am making a to-do list for the near future:

1. find travel grant to return to Europe.

2. find a new part-time job, ideally in a small bookstore, perhaps? I have much in the way of bookish expertise!

3. translate translate translate

and most importantly…

4. write write write

Looking forward to catching up on all of my favorite writerly blogs!

Medieval cellar where I participated in a reading.