Mark Twain first rose to fame as the author of an essay about a frog-jumping contest in California. Originally titled “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” the essay went viral in America’s biggest newspapers, eventually inspiring the New York Tribune to write of Twain that “no reputation was ever so rapidly won.” Yet the humor which made the essay so popular is often lost on modern audiences, in no small part because, as Ben Turnoff writes in Lapham’s Quarterly, frontier humor isn’t funny if there’s no Wild West.
At Full Stop, the editors interview Susan Bernofsky, who directs the literary translation program at Columbia and has published translations of works by Robert Walser, among other writers. She talks about German phrases that rarely appear in English, as well as the ethics of translating a work faithfully: “I think it’s the translator’s responsibility to be so attuned to the requirements of a given text (and the universe of the author) that these inevitable interventions are always appropriate and never arbitrary or willful,” she says. You could also read Tanya Paperny on the translator Michael Henry Heim.
Chemikal Underground, the Glasgow label that first launched Mogwai and Arab Strap, steps into the literary realm with its first audio collection of stories, The Year of Open Doors. You can listen to an excerpt–Arab Strap’s own Aidan Moffat reads his story “The Donaldson Boy.”
Probably the biggest literary debut the week is Arthur Phillips’ The Tragedy of Arthur, a faux memoir about the surfacing of a long-lost Shakespeare play. Also out this week is the first book from former Soft Skull head Richard Nash’s new venture Red Lemonade: Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny. And, finally, now out in paperback is Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. (Our two reviews)
Frederick Douglass was one of the first people to use photography to control meaning. Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American catalogues his many portraits and how they contributed to our perception of Douglass. Our own Edan Lepucki writes about the place of slave narratives in fiction.