Next time you’re reading Elena Ferrante, or Roberto Bolaño, or Leo Tolstoy, think about this.
When you buy a book in translation, only a few pennies of that money are going to the translator–you know, the person who agonized over every word to bring you an incredible story from halfway around the world. In fact, many translators don’t even earn a royalty, so they’re not getting any of your money.
If literary translators weren’t working for pennies, the only other way you could explore these masterpieces of international literature would be to actually learn a foreign language. And how much would that cost?
New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!
This will sound ridiculous to anyone who knows Elvis, but I somehow never quite understood his gospel roots. Elvis was always a caricature to me. So when I took a little time to listen to some of these early tracks recently, I really enjoyed the vocal-driven gospel stuff. This was one of the highlights for me–it’s simple, its energy is infectious, and it’s just so… Elvis!
Intoxication doesn’t just happen. It’s an art, one that requires talent and application. Haphazard drinking leads nowhere.
While there is often something miraculous about the first time one gets really plastered, this is only thanks to proverbial beginner’s luck: by definition, it will not happen again.
For years, I drank the way most people do: depending on the party, I consumed drinks of varying strength, in hopes of reaching that state of heady inebriation which makes life bearable, and all I achieved for my pains was a hangover. And yet I have never stopped believing that my quest might be turned to better advantage.
My experimental temperament gained the upper hand. I was like those shamans in the Amazon who, before they begin to chew away on some unknown plant, subject themselves to draconian diets, the better to unveil its hidden powers; I resorted to the oldest investigatory technique on the planet: I fasted. Asceticism is an instinctive way to create the inner void that is indispensable to any scientific discovery.
photo by Catherine Opie
I can’t remember the first time I heard of Eileen Myles, but I remember singing along to Le Tigre’s feminist anthem “Hot Topic,” in which they list feminist, LGBTQ, and progressive artists. Myles is one of them. When Inferno came out, I saw the reviews on my Facebook feed, and knew I had to read this book, subtitled “a poet’s novel.” The writing felt like Myles was talking right to me.
Myles taught a class in my graduate writing program, and I immediately signed up. We studied all kinds of works, in all genres, and she challenged us to read and write things that pushed up against the boundaries we had set for ourselves—and the boundaries that were set for us. That’s when I first read Chelsea Girls.
Chelsea Girls has recently been reissued, along with a collection of Myles’ old and new poems, I Must be Living Twice. Myles took time out of her book tour to answer a few questions.
I know you’ve been with smaller publishing houses before, but Ecco and HarperCollins are pretty big. What prompted the switch. Do you think this has any bigger implications for poetry? Continue reading
I’ve never felt scared of death. When people ask if I’m scared of death I say no. When I attempted to scratch at my wrists in fifth grade, I did not feel scared. I remember my father’s befuddled face: Did you know you could have DIED?
But I’ve always felt scared of the lead-up to death. Death, once I hit it, I imagine to be a sweet release—when there’s nothing to be done about it, I can relax. What I fear is the part when I don’t know if there’s anything to be done, the part when I’m trying to figure out whether to hold on or not.
Reading Alexandra Kleeman’s debut novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine is like staggering through this anxious interstitial space where you’re not sure if you’re about to die. The book is about a relationship between a city-dwelling young woman, A, her roommate, B, and her boyfriend, C, with whom she mostly watches television and has silent sex as pornography lopes on in the background. Like many close female friends, A and B begin to look alike, diet together, and encourage each other to avoid calories. Like the most skillful postmodernists, Kleeman takes these “normal” contemporary tendencies and stretches them just a bit past what we know.