At a party thrown by Tom Stoppard in 1972, Kingsley Amis bumped into Roald Dahl, and was encouraged by the Matilda author to write a children’s book in order to make a quick buck. “The little bastards’d swallow it,” Dahl said.
In general, we think of translators as people whose job, briefly summarized, is to create elegant texts out of works in foreign languages. But J.R.R. Tolkien, in his translation of Beowulf, set out to do something different. The Lord of the Rings author published a translation that he kept intentionally clunky. Why? In his telling, he did it to better imitate Old English.
Michael Chabon is really into prog rock. And I just picked up a couple of great Emerson Lake & Palmer LPs. So now I’ve got a soundtrack for reading Telegraph Avenue, which I’m especially stoked on after our own Michael Bourne’s review of the novel, devoted as I am to the “brilliant little brushstrokes of language.”
New this week: The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine; The Mortifications by Derek Palacio; Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple; The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke; The Trespasser by Tana French; The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang; and Nicotine by Nell Zink. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
Year in Reading alum Angela Flournoy writes about Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for the National Book Foundation. “I return to Invisible Man often because it accomplishes so many things at once, but never at the sake of intelligent, moving storytelling.” Pair with our interview with Flournoy.