Tuesday, July 11, 2006

So many titles, so fast flies time.

Michael Sedano

Darn it. I've spent the past month intensely distracted and doing only desultory reading for pleasure. For a couple weeks there I was doing a daily videoconference with people in Australia. When it's 2:30 in Califas, it's 7:30 a.m. tomorrow in Sydney. I think you get the picture of how time flies when you're having fun being in two places at the same time. Beats gathering flies, que no?

Sigh of relief, that intensity has waned for a couple weeks, so now, thanks to tips from my La Bloga blogmates, I've picked up several titles for upcoming reviews. And I need your suggestions. I feel like a Beagle Boy with a key to Uncle Scrooge's moneyvault. Where to dive in first?

There's Cubano writer Leonardo Padura Fuentes' (translated by John King) Adios Hemingway. Should be an interesting complement to Jose Latour's Cuba.

The oddball in the pile--neither Dan nor Manuel has mentioned it-- is Brian Freemantle's To Save a Son. I picked it up on the strength of Freemantle's Charlie Muffin series, of which this isn't. Espionage readers who do not yet know Freemantle owe themselves at least one Charlie Muffin tale. These are addictive.

Leaving Albion's shores to the far northern part of the Dominican Republic--upstate New York, to be precise--comes Julia Alvarez' Saving the World. This opens with a bit of vexation, but that's 'cause I haven't dug in yet to figure out what I've started. Sounds like the same voice as Yo!, but troubled. Because she's turned 50 and didn't have a cinquentañera? I'm looking forward to finding out.

I also started reading Laura Esquivel's novel, Malinche, and so far it's moving along just fine, though, on first impression, a bit floridly. But that may be translator Ernesto Mestre-Reed's choices, quien sabe. Sadly, the novel's gotten a lot of bad word of mouth. Ni modo; I'm an Esquivel fan. I thoroughly enjoyed her Sci-Fi piece The Law of Love, despite taking dirty looks from folks who didn't. And after that one, I enjoyed Esquivel's As Swift as Desire so much I read it in Spanish, too, Tan Veloz Como El Deseo. Not only do I enjoy her work, I'm an old telegrapher, the occupation of a central character in Tan Swift. Plus there were a couple of questions I had about the English and needed to see how certain things turned in the writer's original words. It was the same book, but in Spanish, more nuanced because the words sit there and allow the reader to enjoy their depth. Translation, in choosing one word or expression, reduces semantic depth to a shallower dimension.

Literature in translation has always intrigued me. Whose art does the reader consume, the translator's, or the writer's? Think Ezra Pound's "translations" of Chinese poems, for example. Perhaps among European languages, translations don't impact the art and culture as dramatically as when the original writing is a non-Western tongue. For some reason, that reminds me of my last month in the Army. I did 13 months in Korea and as a way of bridging the cultural gap from Korea and Army to the US and real life, I read my complete Shakespeare from cover to cover. I suspect it tamed me. For a thoroughly involving exploration of issues surrounding intercultural literary translation, check out Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi's edition of essays on the subject, Postcolonial Translation Theory from Routledge 1999.

In the "Interesting how well bad things turn out" department, is my just-arrived copy of Beckett's facing page edition of Waiting for Godot / En Attendant Godot that I picked up at Eagle Rock's Imix Books. Back in 1963, when I started college, the University of California's foreign language requirement specifically excluded Spanish. It was "not an academic language" the professors (who it turns out, liked my looks) told me. So I continued my French and thus I can look forward to several enjoyable days working through Godot on both sides of the page. Tan cool, que no? (French came in most usefully a couple years ago when I was able to buy a migraine pill from the only non-English speaking pharmacy in Paris).

Imix, at the same time, supplied me with the Grove Centenary Edition of Samuel Beckett's work, a boxed set of four volumes including nearly all the prose, which I savor particularly. Several of the novels are translated by Beckett from his original French, as with Godot, but unlike that, come to me English only.

Decisions, decisions. Among such riches, what to read all the way through first? next? That Beckett collection beckons. It's been years that I read the novels, and there are some short prose pieces I've never seen but only read about, and one title I shoulda heeded Polonius' advice, I lent and never got back, More Pricks Than Kicks, the one with the Spanish ditty.

I forgot Michele Serros! Imix got me several copies of Chicana Falsa. I give this one away to young people at work, on condition that they tell me their favorite parts, and give the book to someone.

Sabes que, that's what I'm gonna do. I want to laugh out loud, and if there's a book that will make anyone--chicana chicano or not--laugh out loud, it's Chicana Falsa.

So that's what I'm reading tomorrow. And after that, you've seen the list. What do you suggest?

te watcho next week,


Unknown said...

Read Saving the World next. It's an interesting book and very different for Ms. Alvarez. Very different, very intriguing and very, very cool.

Anonymous said...

I was just coming to say, Saving the World! I just read it and it was fantastic. The historical parts are the best, and I'm so impressed she built such a rich and beautiful world. There is also a lot of great exploration about the role of a writer.

Raymundo Eli Rojas said...

Wait till the new "Libros, Libros" come out in a few weeks and then you'll be sorry. Ha, ha. Hope your well vato. www.plumafront.blogspot.com