Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bob Grumman and Foetry

This is a link to a collection of Bob Grumman's reviews of poetry zines and websites in Small Press Review.

29 July update: I just found Foetry is defunct, hence this post's title change.

I'll be going through my previous posts and update what needs updating.

31 July update: Jeffers Studies is devoted to Robinson Jeffers.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On Translation and World Literature

This article in New York on some of the best books yet to be translated into English has piqued my interest in world literature. I haven't heard of any of the eleven authors. Except for a Francophone Egyptian writer, Africa has been entirely overlooked, despite outstanding work from Somalia to Senegal and from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Oceania is totally off the map, and Asia is represented only by South Korea's Jo Kyung-ran and Israel's (technically part of Asia) Gabriela Avigur-Rotem. This list of novelists includes Tayeb Salih (Sudan) and Mario Benedetti (Uruguay) ("He is not well known in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world he is considered one of Latin America's most important living writers."--Wikipedia)

A Guardian blog post about literary translation points out that "Only three per cent of books published in the UK every year are originally written in another language." (Of course, the situation is comparable in America as this chart about comparative literature indicates.) The Guardian goes on to say:

Language is identity. Across the whole world, millions of people live their whole lives in a mental space that only marginally involves English. Yet these people are not intellectual cripples. Far from it. They can often communicate internationally using English, and still have a reserve of their own - their mother tongue.

At the London Book Fair we were treated to soothing words that told us that it was quite normal that only three per cent of books published in Britain are translations. At the Leipzig Book Fair a few days later, a Ukrainian intellectual spoke about the state of his culture. Yuri Andrukhovych has written one of the few Ukrainian postmodernist novels to have been translated into English - Perverzion, translated by Michael Naydan - but he is also a blunt purveyor of home truths when it comes
to central and eastern Europe. At Leipzig, Andrukhovych suggested that Ukrainians should be afforded visa-free travel to western Europe. But are they being afforded such travel into the minds of British readers?

We do, in Britain, have a number of publishers, such as Serpents' Tail, Harvill-Secker, Arc, Peter Owen, Hesperus, [not to be confused with the music group--P.Z.] Portobello and several others that promote translations of literature. But as British
television does not have a high-prestige books programme, such as the German Literarisches Quartett with the colourful Marcel Reich-Ranicki or the French Apostrophes with Bernard Pivot, British readers never get to know that there are more than a very few non-English books worth reading.

Britain is lagging behind. I fear that the fog may not be so much in the Channel, cutting off the continentals from Britain, but in the minds of those British publishers, editors and journalists that continue to take an introverted view of "world" literature, where only that written in English counts as "real".
17 July update: Brave New Words is a blog on translation, Words Without Borders concerns world literature, and Parnassus: Poetry in Review marked its thirtieth anniversary in March with a 600-page International Poetries Issue.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On the Fourth of July

"There is one day of the year when America should receive nothing but praise. That's July Fourth. On all other occasions, those who wish the United States well will vigorously distinguish the good from the bad, and especially from the BAD."

--Paul Fussell, BAD: Or, the Dumbing of America (New York: Summit Books, 1991)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Upcoming Works by Kunstler

Grove's Morgan Entrekin has signed The Geography of Nowhere author James Howard Kunstler to two more books, including a follow-up to his bestselling The Long Emergency and an eco-novel titled The World Made by Hand. The world rights deal was brokered by Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans....

The Daily Grunt (if I have anything to say)
July 2, 2007

Announcing my next book: World Made By Hand. A novel of the Long Emergency set in upstate New York in the not distant future.To be published by The Atlantic Monthly Press March 2008 .

"Thuggo and Sluggo"

Like many of Kunstler's posts, this is worth reproducing in full. To supplement this column, I'll add links, comments, and pictures.

July 2, 2007

Thuggo and Sluggo

As someone who spends a fair amount of time in airports, I marvel at the way my fellow citizens present themselves in public. I see middle-aged women who appear to have left home in their pajamas. But it's the costume and demeanor of American young men especially that raises interesting questions about who we have become.

The fashion and body language of male youth in 2007 comes from three sources: prison, the nursery, and the pimpmobile. It's an old story now that many conventions of gangster fashion come out of the jail experience, where they take away your belt and shoelaces so you won't hang yourself. Apparently, at some point in US history, they stopped giving the belts and shoelaces back on release, and it became stylish to wear your trousers falling down below the top of your underpants (or butt crack as the case may be). Jail being a kind of accreditation device these days, the message may be: I passed the entrance exam.

Less obvious is the contribution of the nursery. Pants that are ambiguously neither long or short, worn with XX-large T shirts, tend to make grown men look like babies. Babies have short legs and large torsos compared to grown men. They also make big awkward gestures and touch their sex organs a lot. Add a sideways hat [at left, from Beauty Tips for Ministers, an interesting blog I've just found--P.Z.] and unlaced sneakers and you have the complete kindergarten rig. Why a 20-year-old male would want to look five years old is another interesting question, but it may have a lot to do with the developmental failures of boys raised in households without fathers. They simply don't know how to be men. They only know how to behave like five year old boys. They even give themselves nursery school nicknames. But they are men, and what could be more menacing than the paradox of a child bent on homicide.

Tattoos used to be pretty much the sole fashion statement of merchant seamen or people who have served in the armed forces (or people who live in jungles). Now they are common among career girls. The tattooed guys I see down at the gym are ordinary young men who work in cubicles. Tattoos on sailors used to celebrate places they had been or people they had loved. The tattoos I see now are meant to convey fierce and barbaric statements of superhuman power: look at me, I'm a Power Ranger! It's understandable that someone who spends most of his waking hours in a cubicle wearing a telephone headset in order to swindle old people out of their savings might fantasize about rising above all that. But the tragic thing, of course, is that getting tattooed is not quite the same as accomplishing something with your life. In the end, you're just another loser with a grandiose and ridiculous tattoo.

The pimp connection is too obvious to belabor -- meant to mock normal executive attire while signifying an existence of total leisure and the enjoyment of unearned riches. The trouble is that the worship of unearned riches -- based on the belief that it truly is possible to get something for nothing -- has now become normal at all levels in American life. Everybody from the lowest whoremonger on Hollywood Boulevard to the Wall Street hedge fund managers believes in unearned riches plucked from "suckers." The catch is that men who live by this code almost always come to a bad end. They get their throats cut with razors, or go to prison, or manage to lose all their unearned riches (and the investments of many strangers, too).

The portrait of the young American male in 2007, therefore, is of an impotent, infantalized being lost in grandiose fantasies of power and importance. It's a picture of men without real confidence, and no idea how to achieve it, who wish to project a transcendently ferocious image complete with odds-and-ends of manner taken from comic books and movies based on comic books, in order to be taken seriously.

The rest of the world must tremble to contemplate the picture we present. The Nazi soldiers of 1944 were glamour boys compared to the riff-raff that American young men have become. As for those who actually do make it into the army, you wonder how they appear to the locals overseas -- they're probably taken seriously as exactly what the present themselves to be: manifestly evil beings who really need to be blown up. Back home, I look around at the thugs and sluggos at my gym, and I'm ashamed to be a citizen of the same country they live in.

This is known as "a pimp cup." This goblet, or "gobleet," as it's (mis)spelled in the photo's URL, has a retail price of $45. IcedOutGear's price is $19.99.

Heed this caveat: "These cups are made of plastic and you should not drink out of them."