The Blog

Bad Sex, LOLcat lit, and the hardliners on language change

Russell Valentino

This news: Rowan Somerville's novel The Shape of Her won the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award "for a scene in which a nipple is likened to the upturned 'nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night,'" Bloomberg reported. The author nabbed the U.K.'s "most dreaded literary prize" by besting a shortlist that included Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean, Neel Mukherjee's A Life Apart, Craig Raine's Heartbreak, Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap, Alastair Campbell's Maya, and Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. "There is nothing more English than bad sex, so on behalf of the entire nation I would like to thank you," Somerville said in his acceptance speech.

Translation from Tripoli

Russell Valentino

“Shakespeare somewhere compares a woman’s face to sunshine in July,” said Dr. Ramadan. “She must have been very hot.” He was joking, of course, from a North African point of view, and being a little provocative, from a translator’s: if you were translating that into Arabic, should you change the month to April, or better yet, March? He suggested that even a Libyan November would be more pleasantly evocative than July. “She would be all sweaty then,” he said. Earlier in the day, Dr. Jamal, clearly troubled by my insistence that creating the authorial image in the receiving culture is in the translator’s hands, asked me if I thought it was okay to “change the author’s words.” Before I could answer, his colleague from Algeria, Dr. Rafa, came to my defense to point out that Arabic translators, and maybe Dr.

@ ALTA 2010

Russell Valentino

My first day of the annual ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) conference, this year in Philadelphia, started off a little rocky, as I mistakenly attempted to to register for the Victoria Secret conference being held in the same convention center. The pink did seem a little strong for ALTA, but how did I know, the theme is different every year. Maybe a Victoria Secret theme might be just the ticket. I mean, isn’t translation kind of a guilty pleasure for its most adamant practitioners? I asked a few ALTAns to help me flesh out this thought. Oh yes, it doesn’t pay, and it’s something we REALLY like to do, said Alyson Waters. You might scandalize your parents, suggested Marian Schwartz: you want to do WHAT!? You want to go WHERE?!

On and Off the Road: Barbara Henning's THIRTY MILES TO ROSEBUD

Sarah Kosch

I picked up Barbara Henning's Thirty Miles to Rosebud because it was summer and a blurb on the back cover compared it to Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Perfect, I thought. Some adventures with the car window down and the feel of hot wind blowing the driver's hair is just what I want to read on a day like this. And I wasn't disappointed. Henning's independent and insightful protagonist Katie Anderson does indeed travel across the country from New York to Michigan, and from Michigan to Arizona, narrating along the way with a lyrical quality: "When the wind blows, the leaves turn up and back, dark green, light green. When the wind ripples, it looks like little waves across the fields. Cattle here and there and lots of bales of hay strewn over the hills.

The view from Ubud

Robin Hemley

(Dispatch number 2 from Ubud, Bali, by Robin Hamley, um, Hemley)

I had been slightly dreading my first panel of the day at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, "State of the Union," in which we were going to discuss "the shifting preoccupations of literature, society, and politics in Obama's America."

As I've spent most of the last two years outside of the U.S., first in the Philippines and then in Southern , France, I didn't feel especially qualified. My other panelists seemed much more so, among them Los Angeles-based novelist and short story writer, Lisa Teasley, novelist and painter Rabih Alameddine, who splits his time between San Francisco and Lebanon, and Mike Otterman, a young New York writer who's written two books on torture and Iraq.


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