Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Scribble, scribble: BEA, translation, Sopranos

Over at NewsQuake, I finally posted my BEA report. I took photos, spoke to some industry stalwarts, and tried to get a sense of how soon the digital barbarians would be storming the gates. I also stopped by an SRO panel on atheism, which is now one of the publishing industry's major growth sectors:
As I entered the packed room, Christopher Hitchens was mellifluously putting organized religion to the torch. "Clericalism is stultifying and ruining our culture," he told the audience, most of them chuckling atheists clutching their copies of God Is Not Great, at that moment the bestselling book in the United States."Who needs justice when you have piffle? Who needs evidence when you have tripe?" The panel included a couple of other non-believers, including scientist Victor Stenger and author Nica Lalli (Nothing: Something to Believe In), but Hitchens was the undeniable star, giving God such an eloquent thrashing that I actually began to feel sorry for Him. Even the spiritual comforts tendered to the dying were tucked briskly into the trash can: "Lying to the dying is, I think, even more disgusting than lying to the healthy."
You can read the rest here. You might also take a look at this dispatch I wrote for Critical Mass, about a BEA panel on literary translation. Here's a salient paragraph:
During the Q-and-A, the conversation touched on two high-profile success stories (at least given the modest expectations for a work in translation): W.G. Sebald and Roberto Bolaño. Epler quoted the original reader's report on Sebald's sublime The Emigrants. "I wouldn't advise you to publish this book," the reader had said, "because it's too intellectual for most Americans." In retrospect, it's easy to feel superior to this cautious judgment. Couldn't the guy recognize a masterpiece right under his nose? To be fair, though, he was behaving exactly like those young trade editors who feel themselves on such thin ice. As for Bolaño, whose bulky novel The Savage Detectives was published by FSG in April--well, he's clearly marked for mainstream success, having been awarded "four bunnies" in a recent issues of Playboy. Who said foreign writers can't catch a break?
Go ahead, don't be shy, read the rest here. And then head back over to NewsQuake for my tearful farewell to The Sopranos. I began this way:
After seven years of backstabbing, Byzantine fun, The Sopranos ended not with bang but with an onion-ring-scented whimper. In this sense, series creator David Chase--who stepped in to write and direct the final installment--toyed with our expectations to the very last frame. Obviously the attrition rate had been pretty steep during the concluding episodes. Anticipating Tony Soprano's death became a kind of national sport, the main question being whether he would be done in by a blood relative or by part of his extended, pistol-packing family, whose thinning ranks seemed to narrow down the list of candidates.
Tomorrow I really, really will resume broadcasting on HOM.

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