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.
That’s how I will sum up the past two days. A few friends and acquaintances organized an annual conference this year. The topic was broad and it took me some time to figure out what the thesis of it all was but for the most part, the papers presented and the panels held were interesting. The participants consisted of PhD students from the US and Europe.
Of course, when you’re in a room of academics, you’re mostly thinking about how obvious your seat-squirming is and when will they be done talking so you can head over to the coffee and cookie spread. This did happen the first day, however, there was some fascinating papers presented. The one that stood out to me was about Gerard Manley Hopkins. The speaker was clear and concise, and was clearly passionate about his topic and engaged with the audience. He discussed how a writer becomes popular and/or canonical. He stated that Manley Hopkins was not popular in his own lifetime for various reasons, 1) he only sent his poems to Catholic publications, 2) his publisher barely publicized the book, 3) the book was printed by a private printer which made the book look archaic and was not able to be marketed to a larger audience because of the price tag. Thus, resulting in a lack of awareness by critics and readers. It wasn’t until the first half of the Twentieth century when the poet entered into the public conscious. A second printing in 1930 resulted in 2000+ sales of his book over the following few months.
I didn’t attend much of day 2, only making it to the final presentation/panel (my mind was definitely tired and needed to rejuvenate by watching hulu and eating tacos). The non-native English speakers were a bit hard to follow but a graduate student from Vanderbilt presented a paper on the notebooks of Nietzsche and Brecht. She touched upon the actual entries of the notebooks but focused more on the work as a physical entity. A back-and-forth broke out in the audience during the panel Q&A about whether books should be preserved only in archives or facsimiles should be available to the public even though they are pale omparisons to the original text. That was finally squashed and then it was onto the chitting and chatting.
Last night at Housing Works Bookstore, a dear dear dear writerly friend¹ and I went to the New York magazine Behind the Longreads panel. I usually turn into a pesky toddler squirming in their seat waiting for the moment of the final applause. However, this panel was fantastic.
The moderator was NYmag’s editor-in-chief and the panel consisted of 3 writers who published articles in the magazine in the past year. Because I had already read the articles, I found it particularly interesting to hear from the writers themselves about how much work and time goes into researching and writing the pieces. One of the writers said that his original draft was 50, 000 words! But it had to be trimmed to 10, 000 for the magazine.
Below are the writers and the articles they discussed:
¹FRIEND PLUG ALERT! My dear dear dear writerly friend is amazing. Her works has appeared in various publications including The Believer, Symphony, Forward. All of her articles for the New Yorker’s Book Bench are available in their archives.
I have come to literary translation recently in my writing career. Even though it is a lot of work and can eat up any free time I have, I find the whole process fascinating and perversely fun. I think I will do a separate post(s) about my views on translations and my personal experience, but for now, I’ll stick to the facts.
They provided information that I either was not aware of or would not have even thought of. We discussed securing rights, organizations (specifically, ALTA and PEN) that are established to support literary translation and translators, as well as technical aspects of translating. Two things that I found encouraging were: the enthusiasm for young translators and translators who have not been published previously and secondly, it sounded like many people translated from Spanish. As someone who does not translate from Spanish, the pool of potential competitors is much narrower. Michael Moore (PEN), a translator of Italian texts, also spoke about the differences between a good translator and a bad one.
The panel was even more helpful than I could have imagined. Maybe next paycheck, I’ll get a membership to ALTA!