Illness, family obligations, and miscellaneous dramas have limited my time and energy for writing. Here are some quick updates:
The first of my Der Nister translations to be published is "Walking," my translation of the story "Geyendik." I've been able to trace the story's bibliography to the 1929 Kiev edition of Gedakht; if anyone knows of earlier appearances, please share the bibliographic information. Its appearance is thanks to the excellent Samovar project by Strange Horizons. You can read my translation here, and if you have Yiddish, here is the original text.
There is even more exciting Der Nister publication news pending, but I have to keep it embargoed for now.
Other People's Books
I have continued my project of reading books off my shelves that are as-yet-unread by me. (Some days, it was all I had the energy for.) These are the ones that I consider worth commenting on, for reasons good or bad:
Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Chabon did not come to my attention until The Yiddish Policeman's Union, which I loved. Since I read it, I have made a point of buying any copy I encounter of one of his books, even if I do not immediately have time to read it. So this is one of those books that I did not read until well after seemingly all my friends--the Jews, the lefties, the queers, the comic book nerds, and the overlapping intersections of those sets--had read it and loved it. If you are a member of any of those sets, then you will probably like it, though the strongest correlation for loving it appears to be an appreciation for comic books, which are not my thing. Chabon's loving descriptions of its evolution as an art form, through the actions of his fictional characters and the cameos of their historical counterparts, left me with more appreciation for it. The fictional comics penned by the characters that I wish were real, so I could read them, are Luna Moth, the Citizen Kane-inspired pre-war editions of The Escapist, and various works by Rose Saxon.
Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello. Coelho is an author who, when I hear third-party descriptions of his works, I think, "I should read him." Fabulist, literate, etc. My delay had largely to do with the fact that Portuguese is one of my languages, and I tend to be undecided about reading works in translation when it is theoretically possible for me to read the book in the original. Apparently, I should not have worried about it, since if his other novels are anything like this one, he is a waste of time, in English or Portuguese. I'll sum up why in two words: Mystical gypsies. (Yes, that is the word he uses.)
Charles Dickens, Hard Times. Forced high school readings of Dickens' most popular books--Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities, and, egad, Oliver Twist--ruined him for me well into my twenties. We have a fair amount of Dickens on our shelves because my wife, at an earlier time of her life, aspired to become a scholar of Victorian literature. So from time to time, I resolve to give his lesser known works a chance. Previously, with his collected short fiction, and with Bleak House, the resolution has been worth it. Bleak House, in particular, I suspect may be one of the best English-language novels of the 19th century. But Hard Times, though worth reading for its almost Engelsian depiction of "the condition of the working class in England," is not, overall, a good novel. It has a message, and every character interaction must bend before its implacability. And that message is awful. It boils down to, "Hey, um, fellow rich people--maybe we should teach the poor some feeble sentimentalism, because if they get as calculating as we are, they might decide to eat us."
Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero. This is a painfully sharp, fact-based novella by one Egypt's best known feminists. Content warnings: FGM, CSA, rape, sex work, and murder, but the murder is the least offensive part because it's a pimp who gets killed.