I have one more week of class left, two presentations to give, one short response paper to write (600 words), the second half of a final paper to write (6-9 more pages), and the majority of a different final paper to write (I don’t want to even break that one down).
One of my classmates asked me tonight if I’d done the assignment that’s due tomorrow (I had). Before I had a chance to answer, she said, “Oh, never mind. You do everything in advance.”
I told her, “That’s only because I sequester myself. I shut myself away so I can get things done. Then I don’t have to hate-read. Then I feel like I can read at a normal pace.”
Which is to say, slowly.
I’m worried about next semester. I’ll have to teach, plus keep up with three classes, plus read for apt.
I want to work on my novel over the break. Here’s hoping I can make time.
I keep trying to figure out what’s taking all my energy (other than the unforeseen distractions that crop up), and I think it has something to do with a strange sense of loss I keep feeling. It’s a nebulous lack, not to be confused with homesickness (though I’m experiencing that too). It’s this sort of absence of mind and spirit that I’ve encountered in quite a few people I’ve met. It comes off in some as aloofness, and in others as preoccupation, and still others as ennui or a sense of defeat. They can’t engage in conversation without getting glazed over or seeming guarded or giving off a vibe of general weariness that’s either unemotional or judgmental or both.
I want to make it clear that I’ve met some really great people—truly, wonderfully genuine people.
But there’s a superficiality to the interactions I’ve had with at least half the people I’ve met that speaks (I think) to some ingrained fear of emotional proximity. Or maybe people just don’t have time. Or maybe I’m placing too much importance on the few interactions I’ve had with people thus far, and I’m too geographically far away to make up for that deficit.
Regardless, it’s left me feeling adrift, and wishing I had a reason to go somewhere else.
Inflating a set of cat lungs
Lungs are by most accounts mundane. Everybody has them, few give it much thought. But sequestered within darkness of the chest cavity, enveloping the fluttering heart, there’s a incredible wonder to this oddly inflatable organ.
Dissection is a destructive process. Rudely excised from membranous mooring and nourishing vessels, the deflated lungs appear little more than bloodied meat; amorphous and exposed…….until a breath of air unfurls its secret glory.
Here, a set of cat lungs is inflated with a straw. Comprised of hundreds of millions of microscopic air sacks called aveoli, Mammalian lungs harbor air capacity that is difficult to believe unless seen. The color of the entire organ lightens into a soft pink, as each microscopic sac fills with air.
A debt of gratitude is owed to cyborgraptor for her assistance in creating these gifs, as well as the students that help me film this demo.
Public service announcement: You essentially have balloons inside your chest. There’s some really great anatomy GIFs and images on that blog, too.
The more I learn of how we we function, the more amazed that we do at all.
apt's 2013 Pushcart Prize nominees! Read these people!
And Something Else by Mary Kate Flannery
‘Do You Have Anything of His?’ Stella Asked by Christian Anton Gerard
Evacuation Route by Delaney Nolan
Loading… by Thomas Nowak
Ritual before Sleep by Amy Schulz
Volunteer Work by Andy Yeh
You can read all of the nominated work in issue three of apt, available here.
I want to emphasize that this photo illustrating this post means that all Pushcart Prize recipients get giant fair animals.
Many of you have probably heard of Italo Calvino–writer extraordinaire, fabulist, and author of several influential works, most notably, Invisible Cities and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.* If you know Calvino, you also know he was an Italian writer, which means if you’re reading this text, you’ve probably only read Calvino in translation.
My dear friend Robin was the first to encourage me to read Calvino’s work, but she stressed that I should be careful of whose translation I read. She gave me her recommendation: William Weaver.
I’d been curious about translation in the past. I’d wondered, when reading a translated text, whether I loved the original author’s work or whether I loved the translator’s. In reading William Weaver’s translations of Calvino, I learned that I loved both.
Weaver and Calvino had an auspicious start to their writer/translator relationship, which began shortly after Calvino had fired a different translator for taking liberties with his work. As a result, Weaver went out of his way to make sure Calvino felt included in the translation process, which often led to consideration of the original text as well as the translation:
With Calvino every word had to be weighed. I would hesitate for whole minutes over the simplest word—bello (beautiful) or cattivo (bad). Every word had to be tried out. When I was translating Invisible Cities, my weekend guests in the country always were made to listen to a city or two read aloud.
Writers do not necessarily cherish their translators, and I occasionally had the feeling that Calvino would have preferred to translate his books himself. In later years he liked to see the galleys of the translation; he would make changes—in his English. The changes were not necessarily corrections of the translation; more often they were revisions, alterations of his own text. Calvino’s English was more theoretical than idiomatic. He also had a way of falling in love with foreign words. With the Mr. Palomar translation he developed a crush on the word feedback. He kept inserting it in the text and I kept tactfully removing it. I couldn’t make it clear to him that, like charisma and input and bottom line, feedback, however beautiful it may sound to the Italian ear, was not appropriate in an English-language literary work.
Falling in love with foreign words (with any words) is a writer’s occupational hazard. However, I envision translators holding their words to a higher standard than love. They may love words, but loving them is, of course, not enough. Love is imprecise. Love is, often, not synonymous with respect.
Translating, like editing, is often considered an invisible art, but I’d argue that it’s more visible when more than one translator is at work.** Lydia Davis wrote an insightful response to a negative review she’d read of her translation of Proust’s Swann’s Way—in the review, Davis was accused of paring down Proust’s language in an attempt to make her translation a more signature version. (NB: Hers was the first translation since the original translation, which had scholars diving to parse the differences.) An excerpt from her rebuttal:
It is not difficult for an experienced writer to compose a cadenced sentence. But my aim was, precisely, to follow the lead of Proust’s own text as closely as possible, unadorned by my own interpretation, uninflected by my own writing style, not simplified, but not complicated, not obscured, but not “updated.” And because of the beauty of Proust’s prose, the work was an endless pleasure; what a privilege to spend one’s day deciding to toss out the nice enough “catastrophic deluges,” for instance, in favor of the more peculiar, but closer, “diluvian catastrophes.”
I’ve never attempted to translate another writer’s work (and, though I am in awe of the art of translation, I likely never will), but I imagine that shedding your own aesthetic style is like teaching yourself to walk, long after you’ve already learned. But while this new method may be more ornamental or more circuitous than your usual gait, it will get you to your destination faster and more efficiently (and, likely, through the appropriate entrance) than you would had followed your usual protocol.
That said, I also imagine translation must be like learning how to not talk—how to measure, how to refurbish your words for someone else’s voice. My most recent book features a woman whose speech production is greatly reduced after she becomes paralyzed, a topic I chose to write about for many reasons (physical paralysis as paralleled with emotional paralysis), but mainly because I found the idea terrifying. I find the idea of translation far less scary, but still an undertaking that requires a great amount of patience and will to be successful.
William Weaver was immensely successful. When I read his translations, I find I want to live in them. I want to fashion a house for myself with his thoughtful, deliberate words because I know they’ll hold.
* – If you haven’t heard of Calvino, I’d start with Invisible Cities, then go to Mr. Palomar, then hit his collection of essays, Six Memos for the New Millennium. Before you delve further, check the translator just so you can be aware of the nuance occurring.
** – To see what I mean, look at Calvino’s Complete Cosmicomics, which was translated by Martin McLaughlin, Tim Parks, and William Weaver. If you’re not yet ready for Calvino, there are other teams of translators. Etgar Keret‘s fiction is regularly translated by Miriam Schlesinger and Sondra Silverston. Borges’s Ficciones was edited by a crew referred to (in every edition I’ve ever encountered) only as “Emece Editores.”
Yesterday, I was talking to Carolyn Zaikowski about possibly doing a mid-Atlantic or west coast tour together sometime in the not too distant future.
Then I found out she’d be reading in Baltimore next Saturday, so I said, “Great! We can talk about it then!”
Then, less than twelve hours later, I was invited to read at the same venue on the same night.
So, I can say (with fair certainty) that the future is rapidly approaching.
To that end, if you’re in Baltimore next weekend, you should show up to Say It with Writing next Saturday to hear me and Carolyn AND Jamie Iredell (!). Reasons to come include:
- a nice range of contemporary fiction
- that just so happens to be free
- and will also, as it turns out, be followed by a party
So if you don’t like contemporary fiction, come for the party. And if you don’t like parties, come for the fiction.
And if you don’t like either of those things, come anyway so we can try to change your mind.
Also, for my dears in Boston, I’ll be coming at you twice in January:
FIRST in co-emceeing capacity (with the always lovely Randolph Pfaff) at Brookline Booksmith for the apt release party on Saturday, January 18;
THEN at Literary Firsts on Monday, January 20, I’ll be functioning in full host/reader force–and Carolyn will be reading that night too! She’ll be the fiction reader. I’ll be the confessional reader. My reading will NOT be recorded, so you’ll want to be there in person for this one.
Also, as a friendly reminder, you can keep track of all appearances (if you so desire) on the events page.
And now I have to run because I have to go to a different reading where I will just be in the audience, which is good because that’s where I like to be.