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Posts Tagged ‘The Hobbit’

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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Parsing Middle Earth Contract, and Other News

January 22, 2013 | by

  • Listen to contemporary masters such as Charles Baxter and Siri Hustvedt read ten Sherwood Anderson stories.
  • “Most of the topography turns out to be relatively straightforward. The Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith sits falsifying back-numbers of the Times, is the University of London’s Senate House building in Malet Street. Big Brother’s statue in Trafalgar Square, now rechristened ‘Victory Square,’ adorns the plinth previously reserved for Nelson, while the waxworks museum on the square’s eastern side, where visitors queue to inspect tableaux of military atrocities, is the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields put to sinister propagandist use.” Mapping 1984.
  • “So far the dwarves haven’t committed any unsalvageable drafting errors or done anything that might jeopardize the validity of the contract.” A lawyer examines the dwarves’ contract from The Hobbit.
  • “Write drunk,” and other (questionable?) advice from famous writers.

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    Stephen King: The Musical, and Other News

    November 21, 2012 | by

  • It’s a David and Goliath story, if David were also pretty tall: the Tolkien Estate is suing Warner Brothers for a cool eighty million dollars over online slot machines and other digital merch that they claim violates copyright.
  • In more literary retirement news: Hungarian Nobel laureate Imre Kertész is also calling it a day.
  • Jennifer Egan, Roxana Robinson, Philip Gourevitch, John Burnham Schwartz, Jane Green, Michael Cunningham, Nick Flynn, Mary Morris, and Darin Strauss all have a mammoth group cameo in Michael Maren’s forthcoming film, A Short History of Decay.
  • Because numerous bookstores are refusing to stock titles from the Amazon imprint, one of its authors claims that his book The 4-Hour Chef is “poised to be the most banned book in U.S. history.” Dubious.
  • Presented sans comment: “Elvis Costello and Sheryl Crow will both be singing on the soundtrack of a ghostly musical written by Stephen King and John Mellencamp.”
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    Is Nothing Sacred? The Brontë Chapel Is Sacked

    October 25, 2012 | by

  • The Brontë Bell Chapel, the seventeenth-century West Yorkshire church in which the literary sisters were baptized, has been looted by stone thieves. The crooks took the stones from the tops of graves, as well as from the walls of the building.
  • Scholars at Oxford University may be on the brink of cracking the world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, a series of Bronze Age texts (in the original sense of the word).
  • “I think it’s time for us to advocate for poetry!” Matthew Dickman’s call to arms.
  • Here is a storyboard for The Secret History.
  • Oh, and while we’re at it, here is a Hobbit-themed menu, coming to Denny’s November 6. “Start off your First Breakfast—or Second Breakfast—with six bite-size round red velvet Pancake Puppies made with white chocolate chips and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Served with a side of cream cheese icing for dipping.”
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    Hobbit Mythology, Classics Reinvented

    October 1, 2012 | by

  • Artists from all over the world reinterpret covers for The Observer’s list of the hundred greatest novels.
  • The Ransom Center’s Pale King archive is now open to the public.
  • Look through some of DFW’s extensive notes.
  • Good news for Louie C.K.: the Puzo estate can’t prevent any future Godfather films.
  • The Hobbit, published seventy-five years ago, is not a fantasy-adventure as it is being described, but a myth, or part of a mythology.” On the novel’s scholarly underpinnings.




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    Trashing Tolkien, Finding Tom Sawyer

    September 25, 2012 | by

    The real Tom Sawyer. Courtesy Guardians of the City, San Francisco Fire Museum.

  • The people have spoken, and the Best Word Ever is … diphthong.
  • A map of Zadie Smith’s NW.
  • And speaking of interactive tours: explore the Roald Dahl Museum from the comfort of home!
  • Tom Sawyer was apparently based on a real person. His name was Tom Sawyer. He was a volunteer fireman from Brooklyn, and he and Mark Twain used to go out drinking.
  • Billy Connolly: “I could never read Tolkien. I always found him unreadable … I didn’t read [the books], and I normally don’t like people who have! The people who love it, they’re kind of scary. They talk all this gobbledygook and they think of it as the Holy Grail.” Dáin Ironfoot clearly doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.
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