From the official copy: "Please join Francine du Plessix Gray, Edith Grossman, Shirley Hazzard, Richard Howard, J.D. McClathcy, Charles McGrath, Gregory Rabassa, David Remnick, and C.K. Williams in this celebration of poet and translator Robert Fagles's repeated success in illuminating the ground between "the features of an ancient author and the expectation of a contemporary reader."
Beth Dow - Fieldwork is showing until December 8th at the Jen Bekman gallery at 6 Spring Street. I popped in over the weekend. There are thirteen black and white photographs printed in silver platinum-palladium process; the technical aspects of which I can tell you nothing about. And never forget Jen's generous, nay, genius website 20x200!
Read, see, and do when Esther K. Smith, author of How to Make Books, speaks at Cooper Union's Great Hall (7 East 7th Street, Free). Follow the link above for the official copy.
I believe it was the Pharaoh Ramses who said that "humor is truth wrenched from a chicken." And I'll continue to believe that for my own amusement. Sorting through the shelves of a long-gone colleague, I came across SNAPS: The Original "Yo' Mama" Joke Book. I had the first editions in 2nd and 3rd grade and am discovering their full meanings only now. Here are some choice snaps (and no offense to anyone's mother):
"You're so fat, when you were a child you ate your chicken pox."
"Your mother is so fat, she uses a VCR for a beeper."
"Your mother is so fat, after sex she smokes turkeys."
"Your mother is so fat, when I got on top of her, my ears popped."
"Your nose is so big, it needs a screen so babies don't get sucked in."
"Your family is so poor, your house has a kickstand." - Mark Clark
"Your mother is so old, she eats rust." - Freddie Prinze
"Your mother is so poor, I saw her walking down the street with one shoe. When I told her she'd lost a shoe she said, 'No, I found one.'"
"Your teeth have more tartar than Red Lobster."
"You're so skinny, your nipples touch."
"Your mother is so cross-eyed, when she cries tears run down her back." - Donnie Simpson
"Your mother has wooden tits and breast-feeds beavers."
I can't tell if these are making more or less sense. Anyway, it's Friday.
It's taken sixteen days to work my way to writing about my little trip. It's amazing how many urgent, un-ignorable e-mails can accumulate after only one week. Thankfully we took about 6 GB's worth of photos; otherwise I would probably forget I had been anywhere. So without futher ado here are some representational photos from my trip to Prague.
Is that a bald spot sprouting back there? It could be the swirling confluence of my shortened curls, but from now on, no one's allowed to shoot me from that angle. Anyway, I did a lot of what I'm doing in that picture: looking up, neck craned, staring at beautiful things above my head. Here I'm looking at the entrance to the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Vysehrad.
Each and every building in Prague, as you either know or have heard, is exquisite; attention to detail is paid everywhere. Having survived WWII unscathed and having avoided large-scale redevelopment, its architectural history and evolution is right there to be walked by and gawked at. Here's a view of Hradcany and Northern Mala Strana from the eastern side of the Vltava River.
Franz Kafka has become something of an industry in Prague. I read a few of his stories while there to see if I could pick up any reverberations. I'd have no proof if there were. We tried to visit his grave at the Old Jewish Cemetery, but despite the explicit directions of our guidebook there was no telling where the man could be. Graves are stacked one upon another, elevating the ground in uneven heaps. The gravestones are worn away, roughly cut, the oldest dating from 1439, all leaning toward one another in seeming consolation. Days later it became clear why we couldn't find Kafka's grave, we were in the wrong cemetery. That was my bad.
As compliment to the hauntings of Kafka, perhaps the Czech Republic's most-celebrated artist (or the artist who most celebrated the Czech Republic) Alfons Mucha left his stamp in plain sight: from the art-nouveau facades of buildings to the stained-glass window in the city's largest cathedral. When the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918, he even designed the currency and state medals, and, later in life, went on to paint the massive Slav Epic. I won't reproduce his entire biography here but I've a few new favorites, like Poetry: from the Four Arts (1898).
And, of course, I made it to some book shops. Here I am at the smaller of the two Shakespeare & Co's. Anagram, Big Ben, and The Globe round out the English book shops in Prague (and as you can tell by the delighted look on my face, I'm not hungover at all). Not to naysay, but the selections in each were geared entirely to tourists (not that I blame them--I mean, there I am, a tourist). They stocked mainly UK reprints of US bestsellers, and all seemed to have the same editions of the same classics. Twisted Spoon Press, an independent press based in Prague, did offer some nice discoveries.
Oh, and there was beer. All the time. Thank you, Gambrinus, Pilsner, Buweiser Budvar, and Staropramen. If I've left any of you out, it's your own fault.
Listen to Chris Belden's musical tribute to the photographer Marion Ettinger, the clicking finger behind an impressive number of author photos. Belden's music sounds like Soul Asylum covering a Jimmy Buffett song, but he sings that Joyce Carol Oates looks like a vampire. So you might enjoy it: Download marion_ettlinger.7.mp3
This fall Ecco and Knopf will release two new translations of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. PW examines both sides of the coin -- from cover treatment to translators to the prevalence of French -- and the choice facing readers as they decide which version to purchase. The article, "It's War (and Peace), As Rival Translations Head to Bookstores", happily pits the two houses against one another, filtering in comments from each front (and a few other places). It's a fun read and ends with the obligatory quote that promotes good sportsmanship and success to all.
Another head-to-head article appears in today's WSJ: "Fortune as Fate: The Story Of Two Poetry Magazine." Willard Speigelman, Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, pays tribute to the literary magazine Parnassus, to which he contributed for the past 25 years. The magazine will publish its 30th and last volume later this year. The story compares the shoe-string travails of Parnassus to Poetry Magazine's current plenitude. "As Wallace Stevens, insurance man and poet extraordinaire, once said: 'Money is a kind of poetry.'"
And for a visual treat, Wallace Berman photographs are up at Tam Tam Books.