Translating the Untranslatable

Recommended Reading: In which a great translator takes on a nearly impossible project: “Schmidt violates the rules of orthography and punctuation throughout the book, and its sprawling conversations cover James Joyce, trees, magic, the moon, and Xerxes, among many other things. After getting Zettel’s Traum out of his system, Schmidt would go on to write his best works. ‘I had to write it,’ he said. ‘And such a book had to be written sometime.'”

Give Me Free Reading Time or Give Me Death

If the looming election has you feeling like you might need a change of address on November 9th, you might (might) consider the United Arab Emirates. Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has implemented a groundbreaking initiative which requires government employers to give workers an allotment of free time for reading. Sheikh Mohammed had this to say to novelist Paulo Coelho’s praise of the initiative, “Did you know, Paulo, that in the 9th century, our region had over 100 publishing houses on the outskirts of Baghdad alone? … When its life was centered on books, Baghdad was, my friend, a beacon in the worlds of astronomy, medicine, mathematics and philosophy. Where is Baghdad today?””

The Starting Place

“I wanted to be able to approach the subject from many different angles, not just the one most people think of when they think of war: an infantryman with a rifle killing the enemy. What does one make of one’s moral responsibility for killing when you’re part of a crew-fired-weapon whose rounds strike miles away, when you’re not even sure if you have killed people or how many? What about when you’re a chaplain trying to influence policy, or a psychological operations soldier trying to help shape the battlefield?” Phil Klay, author of the National Book Award-winning collection Redeployment, on modes of storytelling and on the psychological difference between citizens and veterans.

Five Rows of Startlingly Empty Chairs

“An easel stood just inside the big glass doorway when I entered the store. On it leaned my author photo, the one from the back cover of Domestic Violets, and it was fucking enormous. It was the size of a photo you’d expect to see if Bono had been appearing at Barnes & Noble, Bill Clinton maybe, or perhaps the Reverend Desmund Tutu. For a full 30 seconds I stood there and looked at the gigantic, painstakingly airbrushed picture of myself. An elderly couple walked in and did a double take when they saw a stunned-looking me looking at me. ‘It’s too big,’ I told them.” This is what you do when no one shows up to your reading.

A Screwball Tragedy

“Expertly constructed, Mister Monkey is so fresh and new it’s almost giddy, almost impudent with originality. Tender and artful, Prose’s 15th novel is a sophisticated satire, a gently spiritual celebration of life, a dark and thoroughly grim depiction of despair, a screwball comedy, a screwball tragedy.” Cathleen Schine reviews Francine Prose’s newest novel, Mister Monkey, over at The New York Times.

Let’s Have a Panel About It

Man Booker Prize-winner Marlon James is finished talking about diversity, and here’s part of his logic: “A panel on diversity is like a panel on world peace. It should be seeking a time when we no longer need such panels. It should be a panel actively working towards its own irrelevance. The fact that we’re still having them not only means that we continue to fail, but the false sense of accomplishment in simply having one is deceiving us into thinking that something was tried.”

Do Or Do Not

“Listen to what makes your hair stand on end, your heart melt, and your eyes go wide, what stops you in your tracks and makes you want to live, wherever it comes from, and hope that your writing can do all those things for other people. Write for other people, but don’t listen to them too much.” Being a writer is really hard. Fortunately, Very Good Writer Rebecca Solnit is here with ten tips on how to be a better one.