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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

The Joys of Yiddish Dictionaries

February 22, 2013 | by

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 10.49.05 AMOne of the best things I’ve ordered on the Internet recently is a Yiddish translation of The Hobbit. After getting lost in the mail in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it finally arrived: a medium-sized white-on-black paperback titled Der Hobit, with a dedication to the “workers and residents of the Newtonville Starbucks (my office).” The translator, Barry Goldstein, is a retired computer programmer, and reworking The Hobbit is only one of his hobbies. He is an arctic traveler who has taken several trips to Greenland, and he has rendered accounts of Shackleton’s voyages into Yiddish. He is also on the editorial team of a more momentous, if not quite as whimsical, project: the new Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary, released in January by Indiana University Press. Now, thanks to Goldstein, I have the Yiddish Hobbit, and the means to read it.

A dictionary is meant to be a reflection of a language (or a prescription for it, depending on your view), but the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary reflects an entire culture. (In the interest of full disclosure, the dictionary received a grant from the Forward Association, which publishes the newspaper for which I work.) Unlike previous dictionaries, its audience is mainly English speakers, not Yiddish. It is aimed at readers of Yiddish literature (or Yiddish translations of children’s fantasy novels), rather than people who want to speak or write the language, though an English-Yiddish dictionary is also on the way. In the battle between descriptivism and prescriptivism it takes a middle path, erring on the side of the descriptive. Taken with its predecessors, it tells the story of Yiddish in America. Read More »

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How to be a Bureaucrat, and Other News

January 11, 2013 | by

  • How to query an agent: a guide.
  • If you’d rather be a Chinese bureaucrat, well, here’s a guide to that.
  • “However disgraceful or unprincipled you may think the scribblers of today, rest assured that their eighteenth-century equivalents were at least as bad and probably worse. Furthermore, the laments and recourses of struggling writers have changed very little in the past three centuries.”
  • Revise, revise, revise.
  • An enormous book donation helps Sandy-ravaged schools get back on their feet.

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    Dallas, Part 2: Up Close

    November 22, 2012 | by

    Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. With all eyes on Dallas, it seemed fitting to re-run one of our favorite pieces from 2012, an ode to the city and its complicated legacy.

    [Read part 1 here.]

    Have you ever seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night?

    Dallas is a jewel, Dallas is a beautiful sight.

    And Dallas is a jungle, but Dallas gives a beautiful light.

    —Jimmie Dale Gilmore, from the song “Dallas”

    From a Boeing 737 on a sparkling fall day, Dallas looks like a patchwork of mottled greens and browns, the ground more rich and loamy than withered and sere, as if the coming winter were just nature’s way of winking. The lakes are murky, the land billiard-table flat, laced with former wagon trails that have now become thoroughfares. Approaching the city, cloned suburban houses sprout in rows that curl and stretch with predetermined whimsy, the pools, tennis courts, and golf courses popping up at neat intervals. Divided expressways thread through the map, the roads laden with cars, pickups, motorcycles, and semis all going, going, going, even on a Sunday, even on a football Sunday.

    I am flying into Love Field, an airport that has served Dallas since 1917, when the army named the flying field after First Lieutenant Moss Lee Love, who crashed and died in his Type C Wright pusher biplane four years earlier. Kennedy landed at Love Field at 11:37 A.M. on November 22, 1963. It is a Texas State Historical Site. I am flying into history.

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    What We’re Loving: Dune, Anno, Common Prayer

    November 9, 2012 | by

    Not long ago I had the honor of officiating at the wedding of a Swede and a Russian Jew. It was not a religious ceremony (unless you count the Universal Life Church), but when the three of us sat down to discuss vows, the bride and groom agreed that the Book of Common Prayer couldn’t be beat; we just had to kill the “obey” clause and the stuff about God. It felt funny, crossing out words in my great-grandfather’s prayer book, but according to a new monograph by Daniel Swift, Shakespeare did pretty much the same thing, repeatedly. Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age makes a case for the Anglican liturgy as a work of politics and art and as a crucial influence on English literature. It made for perfect candelight reading after lower Manhattan lost power. —Lorin Stein

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    Defiance: A Literary Benefit to Rebuild Red Hook

    November 8, 2012 | by

    Last week, the waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, was one of the areas shattered by superstorm Sandy. On Wednesday, November 14, join host Kurt Andersen; musicians Steve Earle and Stew; novelists Joseph O’Neill, Sam Lipsyte, and Rivka Galchen; nonfiction luminaries Phillip Lopate, Chuck Klosterman, Philip Gourevitch, Meghan O’Rourke, Deborah Baker, Robert Sullivan, and others for Defiance: A Literary Benefit to Rebuild Red Hook. Readings will center on the themes of recovery and rebuilding, drawing on more than two centuries of literature about the historic neighborhood.

    The event takes its name from Fort Defiance, the revolutionary-era citadel that once loomed over Red Hook, keeping ferry routes clear for General George Washington’s Continental Army. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the evening will be divided between two nonprofit organizations that are leading Red Hook’s post-Sandy recovery, Red Hook Initiative and Restore Red Hook. Learn more and buy tickets here.

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    San Francisco vs. New York, and Other News

    November 8, 2012 | by

  • The bestseller lists from two beloved bookstores show what San Franciscans and New Yorkers, respectively, are reading. (Spoiler: everyone loves Junot Díaz.)
  • But which book about Lincoln? Experts help you narrow it down.
  • Print is dead, and nine other conversations the folks at Book Riot would just as soon, in a perfect world, never have again.
  • Tats inspired by children’s books. Yes, The Giving Tree and Le Petit Prince are represented, but so are Ramona and Harriet Welsh! And you have to love the simplicity of this Narnia ink.
  • The New York Public Library donated the food that would have been served at their annual fundraising gala to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.
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