Posts Tagged ‘Lydia Davis’
May 25, 2011 | by Matthew Specktor
11:00 A.M. Where better to start a Los Angeles–based culture diary than on the city’s enpretzeled freeways? I leave an editorial meeting and take the 101 to the 5 to the 10 to Boyle Heights, en route to David Kipen’s Libros Schmibros, “a community bookstore and lending library.” It’s pretty much the best bookstore in the world, not so much for its scope (its stock is superb, but it’s an average-size storefront), but for its curation and spirit. Not only is every book in the shop one that any sane reader would covet, but if you happen to empty your pockets while you’re there, you’re free to borrow books you don’t buy. Kipen is clearly some sort of a pinko, but if you can get your head around it—a store that lets you take out works of art on loan—the idea kind of grows on you. (If only someone would make so free and easy with the closely guarded spoils of the music business!) I plan on sending David’s children to college by bankrupting myself in his store. Today’s haul: some replacement Greil Marcuses, swanky hardbacks of Philip Roth’s The Counterlife and Our Gang, Leonard Michaels’s Time Out of Mind, Lewis Hyde’s Common as Air, Daniel Fuchs’s The Golden West: Hollywood Stories. Also, a handsome copy of Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September. The rest I left, just because I was too embarrassed to ask for a dolly to carry it all to my car. (Edit—there’s no store here! I’m making this up. Book lovers, stay away! David, I’ll be back next week.)
May 6, 2011 | by The Paris Review
Thanks to a three-day flu I read Rebecca Wolff’s witchy coming-of-age novel The Beginners, then stayed up late reading the rest of Jennifer Egan’s juggernaut A Visit From the Goon Squad (it lives up to the New Yorker excerpts), then started rereading Geoff Dyer’s deeply charming book on photography, The Ongoing Moment, plus a bunch of his old magazine pieces, now newly collected in Otherwise Known as the Human Condition ... all worth a good deal of coughing and sneezing. —Lorin Stein
I picked up Lydia Davis’s The Cows, a chapbook about, well, the cows that live across from her. “She moos toward the wooded hills behind her, and the sound comes back. She moos in a high falsetto before the note descends abruptly, or she moos in a falsetto that does not descend. It is a very small sound to come from such a large, dark animal.” —Thessaly La Force
Amid the impeccably constructed drama of the last of John Updike's Rabbit novels, Rabbit at Rest, sits an unforgettable line about how popular culture produces and reproduces itself, one generation after another: “They lead us down the garden path, the music manufacturers, then turn around and lead the next generation down with a slightly different flavor of glop.” —Rosalind Parry
Thanks to associate editor Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, my summer reading list has unmistakably flipped its wig. Friedersdorf has compiled a list of nearly 100 superb nonfiction pieces from 2010 for every one of us to start diligently plowing through. Our very own interview with John McPhee claimed a spot! —Angela Melamud
May 6, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
This Mother’s Day, I’d like to give my mom a thoughtful gift as a gesture of my deep love and respect for her. I’d like to give her a book with a strong, wise female character whom she might resemble. Do you have any suggestions?
Yes, I made that mistake once: I gave my mother To the Lighthouse—and told her that Mrs. Ramsay reminded me of her. She didn’t much like the comparison. Mrs. Ramsay is certainly strong and wise, and we want our mothers to be strong and wise, but so often our mothers have ideas of their own. I suggest Lydia Davis’s Collected Stories, which contains not only tributes to strong and wise mothers (including Mrs. D) but also funny and sympathetic stories about mothers under pressure.
My mother has an etiquette question: is it impolite to say when being seated in a restaurant “Away from children please,” given that she has four children (but they are adults and she didn’t take them to restaurants until they had manners). —A friend
This one I checked with my own mother, who managed a restaurant when my sister and I were children, and has pronounced views on restaurant etiquette. Her view: away from children, by all means! I feel the same. It is always depressing to see adult conversation sacrificed to the whims of some little psycho in a high chair, playing fort-da with its knife and fork. I think our mothers were absolutely right to leave us at home (even if, in my case, this has left me with an unslakable and expensive weakness for eating in restaurants, and for eating late, and generally for the company of grownups ... )
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
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January 7, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
I am preparing to tackle Marcel Proust’s mammoth, his tomb of involuntary memories and I cannot decide on a translation. Should it be the original English translation by Moncrieff? Or the revision of Moncrieff by Kilmartin? Or the revision of the revision by Enright? Or the new translation that begins with Davis and continuous with six different translators? I prefer a translation that is as close to the original as possible, without the translator attempting to “update” the language for modern readers, without inserting words that the writer would have never originally used. Which translation should be trusted when it comes time to read the mammoth? —Manuel Garcia
For Swann’s Way, you can’t really go wrong. All of those translations are wonderful. My favorite is Lydia Davis’s. It sticks very close to the French, which I think you will like. And I think you will like Davis’s sensibility: she is no vulgar updater. On the other hand, the Scott Moncrieff translation may appeal to you because it’s contemporary with the original. In fact, Proust’s French is often more modern then Scott Moncrieff’s English. The anachronisms are all in the other direction.
I can’t vouch for the new translations of the later volumes. My advice is to read Swann’s Way in the Davis translation, then switch over to Enright. It will also be fun for you to compare Davis to Enright every once in a while. You’ll hear the difference right away.
October 29, 2010 | by The Paris Review
I’ve gone from one big novel about a vengeful Paris seamstress—A Tale of Two Cities—to another: Cousin Bette. Charles Dickens’s Mme Defarge leaves more blood on the cobblestones, but Bette’s the scarier of the two. Just as Balzac is the scarier writer. No one has more vicious fun writing about sex, aging, and money. It’s all good for a laugh ... but that is some seriously dark, Olympian laughter. —Lorin Stein
I have just read Love is Like Park Avenue, a collection of stories and vignettes written in the late 1930s and early 40s by Alvin Levin, a Bronx-raised avant-gardist and pamphleteer. The action—most of it cerebral—is set among young lower-middle class Jews, who go to City College, fish on the weekends off City Island, listen to Glen Miller, and think about how to get into each other’s pants. “She was soooo pretty,” one character coos. “Like something out of a 35 cent movie. You didn’t need technicolor. In black and white it was packed full of glamour—in a quiet way. Can you get what we mean?” Along with Richard Price’s early novels, and the next-to-last section of Delillo’s Underworld, this is a Bronx classic. —Robyn Creswell
It will probably come as a surprise to no one that The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis are really, exceptionally, almost unbelievably good. I’ve been keeping a notebook with me while I read so I can jot down my favorite phrases. From “Five Signs of Disturbance”: “She knows that if she speaks on the telephone, her voice will communicate something no one will want to listen to. And she will have trouble making herself heard.” From “The Professor”: “I thought if I married a cowboy, I wouldn’t have to leave the West. I liked the West for its difficulties.” —Miranda Popkey
October 8, 2010 | by The Paris Review
Edith Grossman, translator:
I admire Lydia Davis’s writing, and it is always extremely interesting to learn how another translator works, especially one as eloquent as Davis. I don’t often have the opportunity to read about another translator’s methods and attitudes toward the work, and I was intrigued by her essay.
The one point on which I disagree with her absolutely concerns reading other people’s translations. Although most of my translations, like hers, have been of texts not previously brought over into English, in the past few years I’ve had occasion to translate classic Spanish works, each of which has had countless versions in English. But it always seemed crucially important to me not to consult them or study them—to what end, I asked myself, when the point of a new translation is to be a new translation, with a fresh voice and a different point of view.
On the other hand, I agree with her absolutely regarding the importance of the translator’s ability to write the second language. Hearing the first text, and finding appropriate phrasing that recreates its tonalities and intention in the second, is the fundamental translating skill. Nothing else compares.
I’m curious about her not reading the entire text before beginning the translation. Even though she states her reasons, I still don’t quite understand why she doesn't. We are the translators, after all, not ordinary readers, and we have a different kind of obligation to the text.
I assume there are seven translating sins to match the seven mortal ones. I’ve never thought about this in terms of sins, deadly or otherwise, but I imagine the first—right up there with pride—is having a tin ear in English.
Wyatt Mason, translator and critic:
Every translation is an interpretation. As with all acts of literary criticism of which translation is only the most thoroughgoing, there are richer and poorer specimens. Not unreasonably, when a translation doesn't seem to cohere, when its parts do not quite cleave together, we look at its string of choices and worry its beads one by one. This is not heavy work. Any state trooper with a bilingual dictionary can ticket any translation for the betrayal of its original. A more complicated undertaking is to divine why, when a translation does cohere, it does cohere. The same trooper with the same bilingual dictionary will, as often as not, discover that the coherent translation is no less a word by word betrayal of its original than its incoherent demon twin. To succeed, then, a translation depends as much upon deliberate choices as upon indiscriminate magic. A steady accretion of dutiful particulars cannot alone compound into something finer than the merely finely wrought: Fine writing is not made by magic, only industry. The magic of the achieved work of literary art, whether borrowed or made, is always nested deeper than its visible pieces. The magic of the achieved translation, like its maker, and no less inexplicably, is that it is a thing that possesses a living soul, or does not.Read More »