Monday, November 26, 2007


Why That's No Ghost, It's....

Fred and the gang unmask the New-York Ghost!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


New From Ben & Jerry's: "Minty Badger"

Amid the onslaught of year-end notable title lists, the Guardian notes some truly notable titles for 2007: namely, Do Ants Have Arseholes? ... How to Fossilise Your Hamster... and, of course, Potty, Fartwell and Knob: From Luke Warm to Minty Badger - Extraordinary But True Names of British People.


Europa Europa

Glen Gold pointed out to me one publisher who's doing a sterling job of bringing European novels to the US readers: Europa Editions, whose upcoming translations include Carmine Abate's Between Two Seas. I reviewed their edition of Hangover Square for the Village Voice a while back, and it was a handsomely produced paperback -- clearly a labor of love.

One rather timely thing Europa's website mentions, and which I hadn't heard about: a couple weeks ago the first World Literature and Translation Summit took place under the aegis of the Miami Book Fair. No Youtube links, alas. I really do wish more panels would upload footage; there's no need anymore for audiences to be limited to the number of folding chairs a convention room contains.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Hmm, I Don't Know.... Does Sudoku Count?

Friday's Guardian takes on a problem which has been really, really... really bothering me: the appalling lack of translated modern works in our bookstores. (I cannot even tell you what a mortifying experience it was to walk into a well-stocked bookstore in Milan and to recognize... nothing.)

Well, it turns out my dread now has some statistics to quantify it:

In stark contrast to publishing throughout the rest of the globe, translated fiction accounts for only a tiny fraction of the books published in the English-speaking world. In Germany 13% of books are translations. In France it's 27%, in Spain 28%, in Turkey 40% and in Slovenia 70%, but in Britain and America the best estimates suggest that the fraction of books on the shelves which started off in another language is somewhere around two per cent. One measure of the lack of interest in translated literature from both government and the industry is that Britain is the only country in Europe that doesn't produce any statistics on translation.

It's a state of affairs described by translators as "shocking", "pathetic", "scandalous". And according to Esther Allen, the executive director of Columbia University's Centre for Literary Translation, the crisis may be even deeper in fiction. "The number of novels being published in translation is ridiculously small - in the hundreds each year," she says. "If you sort out the authors who are already globally validated - Nobel winners and so on - and the retranslations of the classics, then it's absurd."

Two percent?... They must be referring to the UK there, because I'd call that figure generous for the US.


Cook Book

A small gem was buried in the bottom of a Times business column yesterday: the Croatian food company Podravka and design firm Bruketa & Zinic have released a "blank" annual report titled "Well Done".... which must be cooked in an oven before its ink becomes legible.

There's plenty more over at Dezeen blog, which broke the story:

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Books on the Dismemberment Plan

Christopher Frizelle reviews Janet Malcolm's Gertrude Stein bio over at The Stranger:

Malcolm writes: "She seemed to shine when she walked into a room, and the work, even at its most hermetic, possesses a glitter that keeps one reading long past the time when it is normal to stop reading a text that makes no sense." This shine, this special something, is related to the mystery of how Stein and her girlfriend, Alice B. Toklas, two aging Jewish lesbians living in France, survived the Nazis—a friend of theirs was a bad guy, "one of the very worst guys," Malcolm writes—which is the focus of the first section of the book. In the second section, Malcolm reads (and reports back on, since almost no one has read it, including academics) Stein's The Making of Americans. "I finally solved the problem of the book's weight and bulk," Malcolm writes, "by taking a kitchen knife and cutting it into six sections."

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Barbershop Quarto

A few weeks back the Fine Books blog had a great post on old combination barbershop-bookstores, as evidenced by these stamps inside old books:

Digging around a little, I came across a brilliant modern variation on the idea: a 2004 San Diego Union-Tribune article on the R. Spot Barber & Books, a black bookstore-barbershop-poetry slam combo:

Creating such a haven was R. Spot owner James Richards' goal when the shop opened 17 months ago. Richards is 39, grew up in San Diego's Chollas Creek neighborhood and still has never cut hair. In the shop, he is the DJ, plucking rare records from crates and shelves and spinning them on a dual turntable system.... "We need black bookstores. Too many of them close down. I wanted to bring the books to the people. I've always been an activist. When I was a kid, my dad took me to Rob's Barber Shop, on Euclid Avenue. I heard all the cats there talking about black issues. That was a special time for me."

Sadly, the R. Spot is no more: it closed in 2005, after gentrification and new building owners jacked the rent from $1550 to $3860 per month.


Riding on a Moonbeam

My wife Jennifer has won a Moonbeam Children's Book Award for her book Autistic Planet:

Other winners include McSweeney's 826 National and U. Iowa Press, so she's in some fine company!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Books, My Ass

From Italy, it's the Bibliochaise: "Contains 5 metres of books."

(Tip of the hat to this month's Fine Books & Collections.)

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