translation

spent an idyllic day yesterday in the apartment of my translator friend, her translating partner, and my super sharp ex-student who is in town, in the heat with the glass doors and windows open to the terrace, fruit trees on the terrace, translucent cured beef and ancient vinegar, books lining the walls, great art on the walls, most of it gifts to her for the good work she does, some in trade, just as it should be, a good life humble and honest.  we went from one to another passage they had not yet been able to contend with.  it was ‘o lost’ the unedited version of ‘look homeward angel’ which I never thought I would be into but damn that guy can write.  made me feel better about deciding not to review a book that I had hoped to like enough to review and really did not like and declined to review and felt bad after having wanted to do this form of service to the community.  someday i may have the authority to write a big old harper’s style rage against the half-baked books that get named contemporary literature but i have not earned that, not yet.  I still think that if you are going to celebrate a book you ought to say “damn, that is some good shit, damn that one can write” or honestly can we move on?  not ‘oh that was good!’ that’s fine, okay, pass it down, but that is not what you spend all day celebrating, if there’s nothing to parse you don’t need to write anything, if there’s nothing difficult to describe you don’t need to describe anything.  (do I think this is true?  I do.  but I am also so sad that a lot of words about a book can do more for it than say six simple ones like:  this book does its own work… you have to always be convincing people with a ton of freakin words and then they’re all focussed on your stupid description and where did the actual art go maybe that’s the single virtue of lists– ) if the only thing a review does is tell you what you’re going to get before you get it I don’t see how that is good for people or books, it’s a sign of poverty, I remember my ex who was raised dirt dirt dirt poor explaining why she didn’t like to try eating new things it’s because if you only have a little money you want to know what you’re getting when you spend it, and later on if you do have a little money you don’t want risk b/c you can’t afford it.  how sad to live in a place where people don’t feel they can afford risk in what they do with their minds.  anyhow that wolfe, man, he can write.  he can do elastic scale and when you can’t follow his associative passages and then you do they are immaculately composed to a sly hilarious gaping purpose, and the reward is fireworks.

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