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Jeremy's journal

If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale or when we exhale.

Shun Ryu Suzuki


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Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Backstory

I had forgotten about the fifth chapter of The Art of Resurrection -- it is an extremely dense, 7-page long paragraph of a sort of context-switching stream of consciousness. Last time I read this book, I'm pretty sure I mostly skipped over it. It is valuable for the way it gets inside Zárate Vega's head, and by switching back and forth between the narrator's voice and the Christ of Elqui's, makes explicit the identification between reader and writer and character -- also we see the use of first-person plural, not used in this book anything like as much in Santa María de las flores negras, to make explicit the identification between the narrator and the workers who live in the salitreras.

posted evening of March 20th, 2012: Respond
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Shame

“War is hell,” said Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration: he said it following the killing of 16 civilians, among them children, by a deranged sergeant in the Afghan province of Kandahar. This massacre unleashed on the world a series of images that one cannot look at without being reminded of similar massacres from the Vietnam War — for instance, My Lai.

-- "Shame", by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The Utopian's blog publishes my translation of Vásquez' latest column for El Espectador: the original is "Los Avergonzados", from last Thursday.

On the subject of shameful killings: Founderstein's Michael Austin has exactly the right take on the killing of Treyvon Martin in Florida last month. (via Russell Arben Fox)

posted evening of March 20th, 2012: Respond
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Monday, March 19th, 2012

In Transit

Chapter 3 of The Art of Resurrection is more setting-up of the story, as Zárate Vega makes his way from Los Dones to Sierra Gorda, the closest railway stop to Providencia. There is a lot to like about the writing and the scenery here, but I am aching for the real story to start in Chapter 4.

posted evening of March 19th, 2012: Respond
➳ More posts about Hernán Rivera Letelier

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

A Jug of Mountain Punch

What happens when Mountain Station tries playing an old Irish drinking song? Liam Clancy says of this song that it's like St. Patrick's Day in the way it starts out beautifully melodic and rapidly deteriorates.

Well I think we have a bit of a head start on the deterioration aspect of it... With a little practice I think this is going to become a core bit of the Mountain Station catalog.

posted evening of March 18th, 2012: Respond
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Folk Process

Practice with John this afternoon was composed exclusively of almost-new and brand-new songs.

  • "Chinese Bones" -- we've abortively tried playing this a couple of times before, today was the first time it really came together, through the magical-seeming addition of a short capo on the second fret.
  • "Old Joe Clark" -- we've played this once or twice, how could we not have, but not for a long time. Sounded really nice.
  • "See Emily Play" -- this one will take some work, I'm excited about doing that work.
  • "Jug of Punch" -- we tried playing this (in honor of the Saint's day) a couple of times, it was sounding ok, suddenly John got the idea to speed it way up and completely alter the melody of it; and all of a sudden it was a Mountain Station song! Really fantastic. I will post a video later on.
  • "I've Just Seen a Face" -- what fun. We haven't done any Beatles covers but this one might be a keeper.

posted afternoon of March 18th, 2012: Respond
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Hilit

In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. ... I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time.
In the NY Times Sunday Review*, novelist Jhumpa Lahiri reflects on the "urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another" -- I empathize with her as far as this being a primary motivation. I love her description of reading Italian, which captures perfectly how I enjoy reading Spanish.

I sometimes underline sentences too, though I don't remember having done so in college -- it's a habit come by recently, until only a few years ago I could not hilight a book without its feeling forced and unproductive. Just last night I started a reread of The Art of Resurrection, which happily contains lots of underlining and margin notes from 2010. I believe a part of blogging my reread is going to be quoting from these, seeing if I am still finding these artfully arranged bunches of words to hold the same beauty and enchantment, how my reactions have evolved over the time since I first read it -- which time of course includes my translation of and revising of the first chapter , and reading Santa Maria de las flores negras...

I'm thinking I'll try to keep fairly good bloggy notes about this reread. (As for Chapter 1 though, I am going to let my translation stand without discussing it.)

The second chapter (which I call "In Transit" in my notes) is slightly tedious compared to the opening (although, well, what would not be) -- there is a shift of tense from the imperfect narrative to a remembered preterite, the camera zooms out for a little setting up of the plot of the book. Here Magalena Mercado is introduced (again not in person, but via a story told by a traveling salesman) and we get some of Zárate Vega's back story.

My only hilight in this chapter is the last line -- ¡Aleluya, Padre Santo! -- where I note a transition into Zárate Vega's voice. Switches between tenses and between voices are a very, very important part of this novel I think -- based on the two books I've read of Rivera Letelier's it seems to me like these switches are almost the key feature of his prose style. In this regard, the Christ of Elqui makes an ideal character for Rivera Letelier to draw.

* and/or in the online "opinionator" section of the Times website? I am no longer sure with this newspaper what is the print organ and what is the digital presence. This piece is certainly printed on the front page of the "Review" section of the hardcopy Times delivered to my stoop this morning. However its url identifies it as part of the site's blog section -- perhaps there is no longer any distinction to be made between these venues.

posted afternoon of March 18th, 2012: Respond
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Saturday, March 17th, 2012

More Music Links!

Lots of fun things happening music-wise this weekend. Here is an interview with Ravi Shankar, who is still going strong at 91. Here is a writeup of Bob Dylan's debut record, which was released 50 years ago on Monday. Both links via Bob Dylan examiner Harold Lepidus.

posted evening of March 17th, 2012: 1 response

There's Whiskey in the Jar

Happy St. Paddy's, all you serpent-haters! Some of my favorite early musical memories are of listening to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on my dad's stereo, singing Irish drinking songs. Here are two versions of "A Jug of Punch":

posted afternoon of March 17th, 2012: 3 responses

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Let's Listen to

Two songs.

You're welcome.

posted evening of March 16th, 2012: Respond
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Thursday, March 15th, 2012

New Saramago! New Pontiero!

How exciting: the current issue of Guernica features the first half of the story "Things", from Saramago's short story collection Objecto Quase (1978) -- the second half will be published in April. To the best of my knowledge, it is the first time any of these stories has been seen in English translation. The full collection will be published by Verso Books at the end of April, under the title The Lives of Things. Really great news -- Saramago's signature style begins to take shape in these stories, and themes that will occupy his writing throughout his career.

It is also great news to see that the translation is by Giovanni Pontiero, the master who translated so many of Saramago's early books before his untimely death in 1996. Clearly the translation has been out there for a long time, at last it will be available to the public.

Speaking of translation -- I had good news today, word from the editors of Words Without Borders that they'll be publishing my translation of Fernando Iwasaki's "A Troya, Helena," my project of last weekend. It will appear in their April issue.

posted evening of March 15th, 2012: 5 responses
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