Friday, October 16, 2020

Too Loud a Solitude: One of RPI's Czech Books You Must Read

Radio Prague International named Bohumil Hrabal's Too Loud a Solitude one of its Czech Books You Must Read. It's an insightful and informative post that I highly recommend. Here's a comment about the book from Esther Peters, Associate Director of the Center for East European and Russian Studies at the University of Chicago:
“The world would be a better place if more people read this book. It is an incredibly engaging read. It is so much fun and yet it is incredibly intellectual. It makes you think. Every time I read it there are new things to think about and it is one of the few books that I think combines these aspects so perfectly that you can delve into it, love reading it and just enjoy the process of reading.

“It is about knowledge, language, process and ritual, but it is also just a good story. That combination of things is quite rare I think. It challenges you to think, but keeps you entertained at the same time.

“Every time I read it something new pops out. I think that is another thing. It changes with the reader. I think that it probably changed with Hrabal as he wrote it. It is something you can take with you. It is a companion.”

Peters delves into why Hrabal is so difficult to translate, and the article talks about the three versions of this book, how it was semi-autobiographical, and more. Check it out, along with the other "must read" books they have highlighted.

My post on Too Loud a Solitude can be found here.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Upcoming (re-)releases: William Gaddis' first two novels by NYRB

I'm sure most people have seen the news that New York Review Books will release William Gaddis' first two novels, The Recognitions and J R, this fall. From the Publishers Weekly article:
NYRB editor Edwin Frank, asked why the press planned to republish what he called Gaddis's "two showstopper doorstoppers," said that the answer was simple: "really good books, great books, don't represent things so much as they represent themselves: they change things, change the way we see language, change the way we see the novel, change the way we see the world around us, and The Recognitions and JR do all of that to this day."

If you're planning on tackling either or both of these novels, I'd like to recommend getting a copy of the audiobooks with Nick Sullivan reading them to go along with reading them yourself. I know, I know. That sounds strange, but trust me it will help you make sense of what is going on, especially in J R. The Neglected Book Page posted on these audiobooks when they were released and he was right: they are phenomenal accomplishments by Sullivan. (Wow, that was ten years ago.)

Also of help for first-time readers (and maybe repeat readers, too) will be The Gaddis Annotations (although I saved that for after I was through with sections of the book), and Gaddis' 1986 interview with The Paris Review.

These are two of my favorite books, so I'm looking forward to the responses of those who decide to tackle these difficult-but-rewarding books.

Update: Chris Via reviews Gaddis' J R at Splice. Reinforcing why listening to the book might be a good idea:

Indeed, with the early scene depicting the rehearsal of the Ring cycle, and repeated invocations of Mozart and Wagner, Gaddis effectively signals that he is conducting an operatic epic so that we, as readers, will not only need to scan his words but also listen to him (as Bast implores J R to do). And, as we listen, attuning our ears to his dialogue, we become acquainted with his characters solely through their voices, which in turn become the book’s leitmotifs.

Another recent post/review of J R is in The Paris Review blog, written by Joy Williams: William Gaddis’s Disorderly Inferno.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Yekaterina Vasilievna Korotkova-Grossman

Vasily Grossman, with mother and daughter Katya
Picture source

From Robert Chandler's Facebook page earlier today:

A few minutes ago I received the sad news of the death of Yekaterina Vasilievna Korotkova-Grossman, the daughter of Vasily Grossman. She was someone unusually sensitive, perceptive and witty. We got on well from our very first meeting and I always greatly enjoyed our conversations. At one time in her life she worked as a translator from English. She read through our translation of The Armenian Sketchbook and made many helpful suggestions, not only correcting my misunderstandings of the Russian but also, here and there, coming up with stylistic improvements.
Yekaterina Vasilievna was ninety years old when she died.

In a separate post, Robert links to "a beautiful short memoir the late Ekaterina Korotkova-Grossman wrote about the years she lived in the city Russians call Lvov and which is now becoming known as Lviv." The story is Ukraine: On the Edge of an Empire.

In a 2010 interview, Yekaterina was asked what was the favorite work of her father:

Good Wishes - his account of the two months he spent in Armenia in late 1961. This is his kindest, most good-natured work. I also especially admire "In the Big Ring", one of his very last stories. This, I believe, will last for ever.

Robert Chandler adds: "In the Big Ring" is about a child from an elite family who is rushed to an ordinary village hospital. Acute illness throws the little girl into the company of women from other social classes, broadening and deepening her sense of life. We have not included it in The Road (the selection of Grossman's stories to be published this September by MacLehose Press) because we did not feel we could reproduce the wordplay that is so crucial in this story. But I, too, love Good Wishes - and my wife and I hope to translate it next year.

An excerpt from Good Wishes can be found here.

One last link: a 2010 conversation between Yekaterina and Robert Chandler can be found at the London Review Bookshop Podcast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

All right then... I'm a psychopath

Happy anniversary to this tweet! It couldn't have been me judging from where Mr. Gay lives and writes. Not to mention I don't like coffee and never drink it. I'm sure, though, I have engendered the same respone from others in coffeeshops that I have patronized for other caffeine delivery methods. Well, all that plus usually there's a book open on the table in front of me.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Tim Wilkinson (1947 - 2020)

I was extremely sad to see a post from on the passing of Tim Wilkinson, "One of Hungarian literature's most prominent translators, known best for his work with Imre Kertész and Miklós Szentkuthy." I've read quite a few books translated by him and have posted on some of them.
Wilkinson translated many academic books, mostly related to Hungarian history, and it was only decades later, in the early 2000's, he published his first book-length literary translations. From then until the present day, almost twenty literary fiction and non-fiction titles were published in Tim Wilkinson's name, including works by Iván Bächer, László F. Földényi, Miklós Mészöly, György Spiró and Péter Zilahy among others.

I was looking forward to Contramundum Press' fall release of Miklós Szentkuthy's Chapter on Love. Although the translator isn't named, I would assume it is Wilkinson. I love his attitude toward his translation projects (quote from one of the links on my posts):

I often translate just for my own pleasure, independent of whether I’ve been commissioned or not by a publisher. If I manage to “sell” one of these translations later on, then all the merrier, but there’s usually no guarantee that this will ever happen. Consequently, I’ve done translations of works—usually one or two—written by ten to twelve different authors, but these manuscripts are still slumbering in the depths of my desk drawer. There is also a list of authors I haven’t translated yet, but would if I only had the time. Among them are István Szilágyi, László Végel, György Spiró and Dezső Tandori, whom I’ve lately included. Ádám Bodor and Péter Lengyel are also on this list, but I know others are already translating them.

Wishing comfort and strength for his family and friends.

Additional links:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Dean's Lecture Series at St. John's College

I'm a little late in posting this, but here is the 2020 Fall Semester Dean's Lecture Series at St. John's College. There have been two lectures already, one on Hesiod and one on Montaigne. Hopefully the transcripts for these will be available soon at their archives site (link on the Lecture list page). Speaking of which, the archive site looks like it will be fun to explore.

Tomorrow's lecture for Constitution Day will be on the Grutter v. Bollinger case. The remaining lectures cover a wide variety of subjects, from pendulums to Aristotle's De Anima to photography. If you find something good in the archives, let me know!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Fairy Inn of Dry Creek

It's easy to get bogged down in negative things right now (well, at any time, really), so I thought I would share a few pictures of things that make me smile when I'm walking our dog. On a nearby trail it appears kids have painted rocks and set up a "fairy inn" to house them. They also leave rocks in places along the trail. The kids' work brightens every day we walk there.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Charley Crockett and Deep Ellum History

The Proving Grounds: Charley Crockett and the Story of Deep Ellum is a fun article that covers Crockett's career as well as the long history of Dallas' Deep Ellum story. It also caught my eye since I wanted to see if it covered the time I spent there in the mid/late 1980s. I was happy to see that it did. One of my first visits to the Theatre Gallery was to see the Del Fuegos. Just before their set started four or five extremely tall guys walk in, and it takes me a few moments to realize they're Dallas Mavericks' players. You never knew who was going to be in the audience with you at any of these places.
Theatre Gallery was a refuge for musically inclined misfits as much as it was a concert venue. Everything about its early days was DIY and, in all likelihood, very illegal. “We just gave away free beer,” Liles said. “You paid $5 and got beer all night. There were no licenses. ... Soon, [Russell] Hobbs opened up the Prophet Bar and Club Clearview in 1985, Club Dada in 1986. ... In the mid-80s, Deep Ellum was a scene with no rules and no definition of cool.

Even though I didn't move from Dallas until 1992, my days in Deep Ellum (and similar venues) slowed down and eventually ended around 1990 when I was working on my masters' degree and decided to take the CPA and CMA exams. It's a fun article and covers much more than the slice I relayed. Check it out!

The first time Ken Bethea, guitarist for the Old 97’s, went to Deep Ellum was in the fall of 1987. He’d just graduated from the University of Texas. In Austin, he had been indoctrinated to believe that everything in Dallas was lame, but his favorite band, the Butthole Surfers, was playing at Club Clearview on Main Street, just off of Elm. “I thought, ‘I bet that’s in the Deep Ellum place they talk about. Elm? Ellum?”

He left the show with a black eye and a notion that there was something special about the area. “I went there on a Wednesday night and had the best time that I’d ever had in my life going somewhere solo,” Bethea said.

Poster at Jeffrey Liles' "Concert poster art" Pinterest page

Friday, August 21, 2020

College Marketing


I don't think I have mentioned I have been receiving material from several universities' and colleges' admissions departments, marketing their college to names of people that do not live at our house. At first I laughed at them, but then I was concerned. What if there really was a kid out there that wasn't getting contacted from the college of his choice because they had the wrong address? So I contacted the colleges and universities regarding the various names through whom we were receiving information to let them know that either (a) they had the wrong contact info for the addressee, or (b) there was no person out there by that name.

A couple of the propaganda marketing mailings stopped, but a few have stuck with "us" from our move from California to Idaho. So I'm really enjoying reading and analyzing the material we're getting, and for the most part I'm really impressed. If you have ever wondered what the various fees and tuition actually pay for beyond salaries of professors and administrators, rest assured they are spending it on hiring very good marketing firms.

I don't mean for this to sound mean-spirited. I'm not to going to show anything from inside the booklet I received, but I will quote from the letter that was enclosed with it:
The Life of the Mind is more than numbers, anecdotes, and fun facts. It is a window into the rich texture and color of life at UChicago. It follows students, scene by scene, as they engage in our holistic education, where activities of the brain and the body, the academic and the extracurricular, and even the studious and the frivolous, are inseparable.

I have to hand it to them. As I read through this I was thinking how much this would have appealed to the 16/17-year-old me. I would have been "all in" after reading this. (Although I'm sure it's going to be a little harder sell with virtual classes in a hysterical COVID setting. Not to mention Chicago's recent history of ... well, I'm not going there.) It's an admirably done product that conveys what those that want to have the "college experience" hope to have. As I mentioned, it's what I hoped to experience in going off to college at 17.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The New Criterion, September 2020

The New Criterion September 2020 edition is available online. I want to highlight four articles, the first two behind a paywall, alas. If you’re interested in those articles, be sure to find access to a copy of the magazine. Also note, the other articles currently accessible may not stay available once the October edition is available online.

The first article is “True Lies” by Andrew Stuttaford, detailing the complicated career of Curzio Malaparte and focuses on his recently released Diary of a Foreigner in Paris (translated by Stephen Twilley) by New York Review Books Classics. I’ve been an admirer of Malaparte’s prose, if not his personal history.
Malaparte described the Diary as being, in part, “a portrait of a moment in the history of the French nation, of French civilization.” And so it is. Amid interminable rambling about the malign impact of Cartesian thinking on the French, a vivid picture emerges of a France still broken by the German occupation. Malaparte, referring to the foreign occupations of other peoples—including his own—over the centuries, sees this as an exercise in self-abasement: an unsympathetic observation so soon after the Panzers had been driven out, but a reflection, possibly, of the disappointment felt by this lifelong Francophile, and lifelong narcissist, that France appeared to be disappointed by him.

One more quote:
Even as he publicly moved to the left, Malaparte’s break with fascism never seemed entirely clear cut, an impression, if inadvertently, bolstered by the Diary. Malaparte stresses that his opposition to fascism predated the fall of Mussolini, a claim backed up by tales of imprisonment and exile that were at best exaggerated, at worst fictitious, and, with the exception of one failed intrigue, had little or nothing to do with politics. While the Diary is by no means a complete account of Malaparte’s time in Paris (it contains almost nothing on his literary or—a new detour—theatrical activities), it may be telling that there is nothing on his sending funds to Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a brilliant writer, disgraced by anti-Semitism and collaboration, then skulking in prudent, if impecunious, exile in Denmark. That said, Malaparte does reveal that at least some of his socializing was with individuals sullied by the war years.

As Stuttaford notes, this may not be the best place to start if you’re interested in reading Malaparte. “For the most part, this diary is a work for Malaparte completists who will pass over the fatuous philosophizing to savor again the dropping of aristocratic names, the wildly un-reliable gossip, the unexpected erotic tangents (armpits!), and of course the old lies, so many of them, sometimes with extra embellishment, sometimes pristine.” The notes I have on some of Malaparte’s books in translation can be found at these links: The second article is “Forests of Arden” by Paul Dean, a celebration of the completion of the Arden Shakespeare Third Series. The Arden series has long been my favorite “go to” for the plays and I enjoy their introductions. Dean goes through the history of each series, detailing the work involved as well as noting some of the changes in each series. He also provides an abundant amount of information (critical and praising) about some of the choices made.
Textual theories and critical fashions come and go, but annotation is probably the feature of the Ardens which students and actors have valued most highly. In this respect, too, there have been changes, notably in what earlier editors felt they could assume was general knowledge, and which they therefore left unremarked.

One more quote to highlight what the literary landscape looked like at the start of the first series, as well as the length of time each series took to complete and the time between each series' completion:
When Arden 1 began in 1899, the major critical authorities were still Dryden, Johnson, Lamb, Coleridge, and Hazlitt, and of these, only Coleridge went much beyond thinking of Shakespeare in terms of character and morality, to consider dramatic structure and poetic texture. Keats’s insights in his letters are irreplaceable, but they are not systematic. Swinburne, and one or two German scholars such as Gervinus, represented (then) contemporary criticism. By 1924, when Arden 1 came to an end—with Much Ado About Nothing, rather delightfully—there was little to add to the belles-lettrists, apart from A. C. Bradley and T. S. Eliot. By contrast, Arden 2, appearing from 1951 to 1982, could profit from the work of a galaxy of distinguished names on both sides of the Atlantic, following the rise of the New Criticism, the proliferation of academic writing (and academic journals), and the first phase of literary theory imported from continental Europe.

The third article is “Gray Mists & Ancient Stones,” an excerpt from the forthcoming translation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s memoir Between Two Millstones, Book 2: Exile in America, 1978–1994. “These pages, written in 1987 but published here for the first time in English, describe portions of Solzhenitsyn’s 1983 trip to the United Kingdom: his visit to the western highlands of Scotland, speech at Eton, and meeting with Prince Charles and Princess Diana.”
I’m no confirmed monarchist, to sympathize wholeheartedly with each and every crown, and, in addition, I gravely reproach the British throne: frightened of public opinion, George V refused to offer basic shelter to his deposed cousin, Nikolai II. None of the past was forgotten, yet there prevailed in me that bittersweet sympathy for this amiable young couple [Charles and Diana] in the stifling calm before the storm.

The last article is “Hildebrand’s Aesthetics of the Universal” by Gerald J. Russello, a reflection on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s philosophy. This interested me because I have lined up his recently translated Aesthetics to read but haven’t worked up the courage to tackle it yet. Other books included in the discussion are Graven Images, My Battle with Hitler, and Morality and Situation Ethics.
In his monumental two-volume Aesthetics, the German philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889–1977) rejects the notion that beauty is unimportant to nurturing civilization or is somehow reserved only for the elite or privileged: “One should not make the mistake of assuming that because many people today apparently lack any sensitivity to beauty, beauty is not a fundamental source of happiness, even for the simplest people. . . . The atrophy of this sensitivity is a terrible loss, and this ought not to be interpreted as a progress that modern man has made in the industrialized world.” As a consequence of our rejection of beauty, we have confused our understanding of aesthetic experience. Now everything is “art” if it expresses some feeling, no matter how vulgar or ugly, and it seems we must promote—and pay for—anything designated as art.

One of Hildebrand’s quotes from Graven Images struck me as extremely relevant today, and heightens my interest in reading his writings:

Moral goodness is identified with broad-mindedness, desire of progress, tolerance. Several fundamental amoral values such as purity, reverence, humility are not included in morality. Other moral values such as justice, veracity, generosity are seen in the light of the open-minded liberalism, erroneously interpreted as consequences of this morality.