Today in literature and publishing: Politico's online bookstore is missing some of the classics, Lauren Myracle describes her National Book Award unnomination, and a devoted Tintin fan has harsh words for Steven Spielberg.
- Random House reached a deal with Politico back in June to publish four e-books about the 2012 election cycle. The two have paired again to launch Politico Bookshelf, an online bookstore with more than 2,700 books about politics currently in stock. According to Politico, the selections will be "curated by [the site's'] editors" and customers will be able to "check in on what Politico reporters and editors are reading" at any given moment. The current inventory leans more towards punditry and quickie campaign bios, with enduring political tomes like Edwin O'Connor's The Last Hurrah, Richard Ben Cramer's What it Takes, and Mike Royko's Boss nowhere to be seen. [Politico]
- When Lauren Myracle received the call from National Book Foundation head Harold Augenbraum last Monday that her young adult novel Shine was a finalist for the National Book Award, she blurted out: "You're fucking kidding me!" When it came out that Wednesday her book was announced by mistake, she says Augenbraum told her "the judges unanimously would like to keep all the books on the list." The next day things had apparently changed. Myracle says she received a call from Augenbraum in which he "more or less said that the position was being changed and that people wanted Shine off the list" She agreed to withdraw the book from consideration yesterday. She tries to put the best spin on the situation, but also makes it clear the extent to which the events of the past week hurt her confidence and put her in a no-win position.
"I felt gutted. I felt embarrassed, and ashamed that I had the gall to believe that this book was worthy. So over the weekend came the question of, Do I withdraw, or do I let them strip it from me? I first thought: They made the mistake; they can clean it up. Then I realized that I had a chance to either be classy or be seen as someone gripping with white knuckles to something they didn’t want me to have. And I was going to be taken off the list regardless."
- Steven Spielberg's adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin doesn't open until December, but Guardian literary critic Nicholas Lezard has already set the gold-standard for cranky, hyperbolic takedowns after seeing an early preview. Coming out of the theater, he says, He writes that upon exiting the theater he was "too stunned and sickened to speak; for I had been obliged to watch two hours of literally senseless violence being perpetrated on something I loved dearly ... the sense of violation was so strong that it felt as though I had witnessed a rape." Lezard tries to go out of his way to note that the rape remark was meant "in honour of a very good joke made by an episode of South Park" where the kids hate the new Indiana Jones movie, but it's clear the cildren's movie has personally offended him. It's "Tintin for morons" directed by a man who is "a burned-out sun." The Tintin books, declares Lezard, are "one of the consistently great works of art of the 20th century." People do seem to love them, but unless you're familiar with the books, it's tough to understand the genius of "the little joke at the beginning of the first book, in which, in panels four, six and nine of the first page, we see [Tintin's wire terrier] Snowy scratching himself. Why? Because he's at a flea market! A joke whose corniness is obliterated by the fact that we have to work out the punchline, and even the fact that it is a joke." Maybe not getting moments like that is the key to not loathing Spielberg's movie. [The Guardian]
- It took four years for the English translation of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 to arrive, but unless you speak Japanese, it will be impossible for you to pass judgement on the quality of the work. "Unless you know the original work very well," concedes British poet Adam Thorpe, "it is impossible to judge a translation – even by the lodestar of fidelity." So when The Guardian asked Thorpe to rank the ten "best" English translations in history, he opted for a list comprised solely of translations that are self-contained masterpieces. Those are the ones that "vibrate with an energy that seems to be derived from the ur-text, rather as a vinyl mysteriously keeps the warmth of the live recording," he explains. Judged by that criteria, his top-5 includes:
- Beowulf (Seamus Heaney)
- Russian Short Stories (Robert Chandler)
- Poems by Wang Wei (GW Robinson)
- The Holy Sinner (HT-Lowe Porter)
- Pre-modern poems (Ezra Pound)