Friday, September 30, 2011

Homer: Now Slimmer and Snappier

I cringe a bit when translations boast about how modern they sound, so when the new Iliad was described as "an action-packed, slick and contemporary rendering of the Trojan war saga," I sighed a little.

But the translator, Stephen Mitchell, has done other good work, including Rilke, so it's probably worth a look. And I do believe in the value of reading multiple translations, especially for something like Greek, which doesn't naturally transfer to English.

Alexander Ordering Homer's Iliad to Be Placed in a Coffer, Jean Pénicaud III, Wikimedia Commons
More from the above-linked WSJ article:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big Advice From a Nobel Prize Winner

Toni Morrison, from Wikimedia Commons
Wise words from Toni Morrison (excerpted from the linked Washingtonian article):
“My life is either reading, teaching, editing, or writing books,” she said. “I don’t ski.”
Nor do I. So we have one thing in common. Actually, most of that list in common.
The aim in her writing, Morrison said, has always been to, “write the books I wanted to read.” Some of those books have been censored, which she takes as a compliment. “All students know that the banned books are the real ones,” she said.
A nice thought during Banned Books Week. My thoughts on banning are somewhat similar. A ban is just another badge to wear, another award, for better or worse.
She said she challenged her students to go after big, ambitious subjects in their work. “I used to tell them, ‘I know everyone is telling you to write what you know. But I don’t want to hear what you know because you don’t know anything,’ ” she said, laughing. “Please, write what you don’t know.”
This seems true. But if I know that I don't know anything... then... Is this the writer's version of the barber paradox?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Those Books We Hope to Find (Or: Whittling Down a Top 10 List)

The Smithsonian has a list up of the Top 10 Books Lost to Time. It's an interesting read, though I expected something more exciting.  (Yes, I go to places like the Smithsonian when seeking excitement. Perhaps it's why I blog so often on boredom.)
Ernest Hemingway with Pigeons in Italy, from Wikimedia Commons
Numbers 5-10 are lost and uncompleted novels from Austen, Melville, Hardy, Stevenson, Hemingway and Plath. Most seem more likely to be minor works than monuments (even though I like most of the mentioned authors, or at least their peaks).

Prediction I: We'll unearth at least five novels in the next 40 years that will be more significant than any of these (except perhaps the Austen) would be. They'll probably be something in translation. (This list seems to have a bit of a bias toward English-language works).

Prediction II: There's probably already a remake of the Austen in the works.

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