Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A short review of Adrian McKinty's Fifty Grand, incorporating the working girl's helicopter miscellany

I predict that Adrian McKinty won't be on Tom Cruise's Christmas list this year, probably not on Brad Pitt's either, and definitely not on Raul Castro's. I predict, too, that if the Boston Red Sox win the 2009 World Series, they will not vote McKinty a share of the winners' money.

Fifty Grand includes a gut-tightening prologue, a more nuanced view than you might expect of Mexican immigrant life in Colorado, and a refutation of Clive James's too-confident declaration that "In most of the crime novels coming out now, it’s a matter not of what happens but of where. Essentially, they are guidebooks.” And it includes revenge.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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435 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Ah yes, but did you like it?

Not fishin, just wanna know.


v word mannish - obviously a Muddy Waters fan.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

And to be honest its been hard for me to take Clive James seriously after reading this

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Does your wife call you a mannish goy?

Yep, I liked it. I'd have preferred a bit more action, along the lines of the Forsythe books, but the ... well, it's difficult to discuss this in detail for fear of spoilers, but the view of immigrant life throughout the body of the novel strikes as more persuasive if less lurid than most. I actually plan to touch on this in another post in the next day or so.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Apropos of my first comment, have you ever thought about writing a travel book? I don't mean a guidebook, I mean a book about Cuba or Mexican immigrants or Spanish soccer riots or maybe even your own life in the U.S.?

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That article gives practically no examples of the sins of which it accuses Clive James. Still, its description of him as "someone who knows at least a little about most things and a lot about many. The topographical range of his erudition is often more formidable than its depth, but his prose, like his TV work, is lively, nimble, and stylish" is plausible. International crime fiction, about which he wrote in the New Yorker, looks like one of those subjects about which comments with occasional insight but no special depth. I called him "a sharp and funny guy but prone to overly sweeping statements."

December 22, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

The thing that always bugs me about CJ are the mistakes. Lots of simple fact checkable mistakes.

In his New Yorker attack on Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners he spent an entire paragraph ripping Goldhagen because he used the word "decimated" incorrectly; but when he goes around telling us that Gus Van Zandt directed Lone Star or that guys who died in 1936 insufficiently condemnded the Anschluss you have to wonder if his priorities are in the right place (or if he's heard of Google).

I agree about the prose though - lovely stuff.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

"mannish goy"

- ha

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, when I was a young man, just about twenty-five /
My mama told me I was gonna be the biggest shaygetz alive.

I gotta write and copyright this thing before Weird Al Yankovic gets to it.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if Clive James is a better conversationalist or epigraphist than he is an author.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I think that after reading all of the Little House books, Adrian will probably end up being the most mannish goy in all of Australia. Unless he 'accidently' falls down a well.

Nice brief review without wrecking it for anyone, Peter. I want more, but probably not just yet.

I'm sorry that CJ doesn't have a better fact checker working on his stuff. Because I like the title 'Cultural Amnesia' quite a lot. I want the book to live up to it.

December 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I like the idea of a witty, widely read critic commenting on matters far and wide. On the other hand, the accusations against him carry weight based on the one piece of his work that I've read. He offers sharp, amusing, astute comments in his New Yorker crime fiction article, but the piece also contains unaccountable lapses. He accuses Massimo Carlotto of bad writing on the basis of a bad sentence in the English translation of one of his books, for example, but he fails to account for the possibility that the fault may lie with the translator. And anyone who makes the sweeping statement he does about international crime fiction being mere guidebooks has not read or has failed to consider Carlo Lucarelli, Peter Temple, Jean-Claude Izzo or Bill James, to name just four. But I'd agree that Cultural Amnesia sounds worth looking into. I wonder if he's a kind of wittier, hipper Allan Bloom.

Nice brief review without wrecking it for anyone, Peter. I want more, but probably not just yet.

You're going to get more later today but not enough to ruin any suspense for you, I think.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Seanag

I read all of Cultural Amnesia. (Sorry to lower the tone but its a perfect book to keep in the crapper as no chapter is more thatn 3 pages long.) But man oh man the mistakes! I am certainly no expert on European cultural criticism but I counted about twenty errors of fact. And this from an ill read dummy like me. My copy is in a storage locker in Denver but if it ever makes it to Oz I'll email 'em to you.

Thing is when he says something outrageously wrong every 10 pages or so it shakes your confidence in the rest of the material.

Beautiful, graceful prose of course, a deft touch and yes, a surfeit of wit and good sense.

Still....

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I once wrote to Larry Gonick, author of The Cartoon History of the Universe, and, among other compliments, I told him his books were the best bathroom reading ever (though in fact I rarely read them there). His response: "Make room on your bathroom shelf!" because a third volume was on the way. Now, there's an author with commendable perspective.

I wonder how much, if any, research Clive James did or if Cultural Amnesia is, in effect, transcripts of brilliant conversations.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I do remember 1 thing though. Much of Cultural Amnesia showcases Clive James's expertise on WW2. (Thus his attacks on Goldhagen, Gore Vidal etc.) but at one point during a funny critique of the film Where Eagles Dare he says baldy that the film was inaccurate because among other things there "were no operational helicopters during WW2". Of course thats not true. I made a model of the German Flettner maritime chopper as a boy and the Germans also had the Focke Achgelis 223 - a utility helicopter.

This is the kind of thing that James or a fact checker at Norton could have found easily.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm too sweet, kind and forgiving. Do you suppose his statement might have hinged on some odd definition of operational?

If even a pubiisher such as Norton can't check facts or pay to have them checked ...

V-word: convin

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Uh, Adrian, you can't actually lower the tone for someone who's only published book credit is actually called The Bathroom Book of Southern California Trivia, okay? But even for this lower literary form, there are standards, and I hazard that when one is reading in said room, one wants to feel that they are not reading, well, a load of crap. I think I was pretty much the sole fact checker for the trivia book, so though I tried to be scrupulous, I did live in terror for awhile that someone would say either that I had swiped their material or gotten it dead wrong. So I don't really understand how a book can come out on the level that Cultural Amnesia did come out without some sort of content editor asking CJ searching questions, if even about the most obvious things.

I certainly wouldn't count you in the ill-read dummy category, Adrian, but you would think that Norton or CJ would worry about having the well-read catch them out on errors of fact. I mean who the hell is going to read that sort of book but the at least marginally well-educated?

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Also, after I finish the Izzo trilogy, I'm right on to Carlotto and Lucarelli, whatever Clive James says.

Some people just don't get crime fiction. More fools them. P.D. James had something telling to say to them in the latest Publisher's Weekly. She said that she doubted that the powers that be would have asked her to be on the Booker-Man prize committee or made her a Dame if they found mysteries an inferior form. I suppose she has a quiet chuckle about the likes of James on her way to deposit her latest royalty check in the bank.

As we say in America, though probably quite inappropriately in this case, you go, girl!

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I agree with you: McKinty is no I.R.D.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I was just reading this on the desktop though and the spelling mistakes in my posts are shocking. The laptop and its small screen are unforgiving...

At least thats my excuse.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Have you read the Clive James crime fiction article? I've cited it fairly often. He can be a perceptive reader, but there is a decidedly sneering tone to the article.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Typographical errors in blogs are signs of immediacy.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As we say in America, though probably quite inappropriately in this case, you go, girl!

I believe P.D. James is a peer, which would make the proper form of address "You go, lady!"

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Sneering is a bad thing?... I'll check out CJ's article tomorrow when I'm a little more awake.

Adrian, yes, damn those laptops and their inability to alert us to all our typing mishaps. You know what we really need is a good koppyediter...

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Peter, yes, 'Lady' is the right form in England. But here we say ' you go, girl' to pretty much anyone we feel like, including men. In the case of a peer like James, 'Lady' is implied unconsciously, usually with a fawning internal inflection.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"We long for these sleuths to be surrounded by classy prose, like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, so that we can get the art thrill and the thriller thrill at once. Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean. Great idea, great sound, great sociological significance."

Well, there are good sneers and bad sneers. I think he inches close to the bad kind above.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"But here we say `you go, girl' to pretty much anyone we feel like, including men."

"Here" meaning in Santa Cruz, or all over Santa Cruz County? I have never heard "You go, girl," said to anyone by a woman. Uses beyond that would be of sociological interest.

Let's compromise on P.D. James and cheer her on with "You go, Phyllis."

December 23, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

a more nuanced view than you might expect of Mexican immigrant life in Colorado

well, it's difficult to discuss this in detail for fear of spoilers, but the view of immigrant life throughout the body of the novel strikes as more persuasive if less lurid than most. I actually plan to touch on this in another post in the next day or so

I liked the glimpses into immigrant experience in DIWMB,and your brief review stirred my curiosity.
Both immigration and Cuba are topics I've been involved in various way for years,so my expectation has a tinge of anxiety.



v-word:derailli.
Probably the verificator comments on all the Clive James discussion,and it's right,expecially because I don't know him.

December 23, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

Also, after I finish the Izzo trilogy, I'm right on to Carlotto and Lucarelli, whatever Clive James says.

Good! Since Peter is a great Lucarelli fan,while Carlotto is my favourite Italian crime writer,I'll spend a few words on the latter.
His novels translated in English are:
The Colombian Mule
The Master of Knots
The Goodbye Kiss
The Dark Immensity of Death

The first two are number 4 and 5 in a series.
There are spoilers,and the novels should probably be read after the original trilogy (untranslated), which is superior,imho.
The other two are standalones,and are both very good.
One thing to say is that Carlotto often leaves the context implicit, and this probably hinders his reception abroad more than in the case of Izzo or Lucarelli.
For example,the city of The Dark Immensity of Death is never physically described,but it is very clearly Padua.
Or,I've read review comparing the protagonist of The Goodbye Kiss to Ripley,which completely misses the point-he's not meant to be a seductive,luciferine figure,but rather a mediocre schemer who succeeds betraying his friends and finding his niche in a system which is already morally corrupt.
Like,say,the real life example of a former red terrorist who managed to emerge scot-free and now is a respected (?) journalist and pro-life activist while some people whom he convinced to give refuge to terrorists without reavealing their identity have had their life ruined.

If you only read one,read The Dark Immensity of Death-it is one of my favourite novels,and a real masterpiece-I've read a German review (Die Zeit) calling it a modern day Crime and Punishment.
The style is deceptively simple,but pitch-perfect for the story.
With Carlotto is also important to distinguish between the personal and the political-obviously his experiences shape his novels,but they are generally in service of more general points-in The Dark Immensity of Death,themes like Justice (retributive vs reformative) and Vengeance,Life Imprisonment and the Insitute of Pardon,the way society pits the rights of sentenced offenders against those of the victims,the sensationalization of crimes by the media,and so on...



v-word:retiond

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Having lived a stone's throw away from Pueblo, Colorado, (where a good number of immigrants tend to show up) I'm definitely interested in this one. Oh, and anyone who dislikes Raul C. is a friend of mine.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Marco

Dont be nervous. I've got the creds. I was born and grew up a council house, none of my family had ever gone to university until my sister Diane went to teacher training college, and I was an illegal myself in the US for my first three years there during which I worked as a house cleaner, shop assistant, bouncer and an attendant in a nursing home et alia.

But even so I'm not interested in didactic story telling. In fact I think that's one of the biggest traps a novelist and especially a film maker can fall into. (In my opinion the Oscar bait issue film is the worst of all genres.) I'm more concerned with characters, dialogue and style.

Thats why Clive James can remain interesting. He's wrong about so many things and he's clearly quite lazy when it comes to facts (Gus Van Zandt, helicopters, Anchlusses etc.) but he writes with wit and elegance and that forgives a lot.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I was going to say that I'd let Adrian speak for himself on immigration and Cuba, but I see he's done so on one of those subjects. On Cuba, I'd say the narrator's view is one of someone who likes the country a good deal more than its current regime.

My v-word is the great new snack that's crispy AND frothy: chipons

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the background on Massimo Carlotto, especially The Dark Immensity of Death. When I think of Padua, I think of Giotto's frescoes in the Arena Chapel -- and of the vongole that I surreptitiously dumped in a potted plant at a restaurant because my Italian wasn't up to speed when I ordered, and I don't like vongole.

With respect to Carlotto, Clive James article attacks him for a clumsy sentence in The Master of Knots. James is right; the sentence is awful. But the attack is unpersuasive because James fails to account for the possibility that the fault is the translator. Perhaps the sentence too literally translates syntax that would be acceptable in Italian but sounds wooden in English. Do you have any thoughts on this matter?

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, I'll look forward to finding out what you think of this when you read it precisely for the reason you suggest. You may be better prepared than most readers to comment.

December 23, 2008  
Anonymous Peter Temple said...

It's impossible to take seriously a critic who accuses Clive James of being ahistorical when James criticises Karl Kraus for not opposing the Anschluss on the grounds that Kraus died in 1938. The Village Voice critic and Adrian Mckinty appear to be confusing the actual German annexation of Austria with the long-standing issues of Pan-Germanism (and an Anschluss with Germany). The latter had been a fundamental issue in Austrian life since the dismemberment of the Austrian empire after World War One. Many, many Austrians (97 per cent in one district) favoured Austria becoming part of a greater German republic. It is Kraus's position on this question that irks Clive James. On the German use of helicopters in military operations in World Wart Two, James appears to be correct.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In popular usage, at least, Anschluss refers specifically to the 1938 annexation, and not to the preceding buildup of pro-German sentiment in Austria. Perhaps Clive James is guilty of careless wording rather than historical ignorance if he enlarges the word's reach. I wouldn't know; I have not read the passage in question.

December 23, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

With respect to Carlotto, Clive James article attacks him for a clumsy sentence in The Master of Knots. James is right; the sentence is awful. But the attack is unpersuasive because James fails to account for the possibility that the fault is the translator. Perhaps the sentence too literally translates syntax that would be acceptable in Italian but sounds wooden in English. Do you have any thoughts on this matter?

What I found annoying after reading the article is the quick dismissal of Carlotto as "not a real writer" and the assumption that his success is due to his street creed.
At the time Carlotto went into hiding he was a student in one of the oldest and most prestigious universities of Italy,not a street thug.His works have enjoyed some very favourable reviews outside Italy,two have won crime prizes in France and another took second place.
A too literal translation could certainly be part of the problem-and it's one of the reasons why the prospect of translating DIWMB scares me so much.
(Btw,you didn't enjoy Gadda,did you?)
That said,reviews for The Master of Knots have generally been less positive,and,to put it bluntly,it is the one I liked the least of his novels -with the possible exception of Nordest (a collaboration).
It is difficult to be objective when a novel by one of your favorite authors disappoints you;you risk being too negative or,conversely,too forgiving.
It feels tired and clumsy -the fifth novel in what was originally conceived as a close-knit trilogy,and large chunks of it have been rewritten after July 2001 in order to incorporate the G8 Genoa riots,resulting in two plot strands who don't mesh well together and ultimately aren't dealt with satisfactorily.
You can see he cares,and he did research thoroughly (as always) the milieu of the novel,but overall the result isn't very successful.

Carlotto intends the noir genre as a means to investigate “the dark angles of society” and his perspective is decidedly political,as he explains in this
article .
In his best novels,this means a minimalist,unobtrusive style,which allows the broader canvas to emerge seamlessly from the individual stories,and characters who feel extremely real-neither adulterated by romanticism nor distorted by voyeurism.
Elsewhere,there may be a risk of didacticism,some minor infodumping,and the prose may feel more opaque.

Finally,I forgot to mention one of his works available in English,

The Fugitive,

which is the story of his years on the run, his capture, imprisonment and pardon.
Also very good,and,perhaps surprisingly,it's the only one of his works that displays a vein of humour.


v-word:eticat

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Hmm. For a post that was originally a brief review of a crime novel, it has certainly led to a lot of questions about both translation and the ambiguities within a language. Which does fascinate me.

Nevertheless, since I'm pretty sure Clive James knows more than I do, and am certain that everyone posting on this thread knows a lot more German history than I do also, I'll leave you all to it to hash that one out.

I have never heard "You go, girl," said to anyone by a woman.

I wasn't sure if I should take that phrase at face value, or if you meant 'by anyone except a woman'. In any case, it's obvious that you aren't watching enough bad television. Women, following Oprah's exhortational style do use it the most towards other women. But you'd hear a very zippy, extroverted male talk show host or newscaster use it, and some gay men would use it toward other men, whether gay or straight, though usually with sarcastic inflection. I don't think I've heard women say it to men, though. Hey I may just try it out on the customers at work and see how it flies...

Marco, thank you very much for all that info on Carlotto. I think I'd better copy and paste it for future use, since I may not remember what post I read it on by the time I get to him. I was just going to go for whatever Europa editions we happened to have in, but now I will try to read him in non-spoiler order.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

And yet another person that's read 50G before I can even purchase it. Damn you guys. Damn you all.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I'm reading Gadda slowly, in tandem with other books, at a time of professional upheaval. Do not interpret my failure to comment on the book yet as a sign of dislike.

Interesting that you think less of The Master of Knots than of Carlotto's other work. Maybe Clive James was onto something in his criticism but slapdash and excessively broad in his assessment. That would be part of what I found frustrating about the article. He was right about the Carlotto sentence, and he had some witty and possibly incisive things to say about Georges Simenon, for example, but he's like a miniaturist who thinks he's painting a panorama.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eticat: Cool v-word, possibly Haitian creole for a concept, untranslatable, that combines ethics and etiquette. Or else maybe "The Eticats" is a sequel to "The Aristocats," only about a band of animated felines especially concerned about being comme il faut at all times.

December 23, 2008  
Anonymous Peter Temple said...

James is not guilty of careless wording and he is not making any attempt to enlarge the reach of the term Anschluss. He is writing as an intelligent and educated person for an audience of people for whom the term has the same meaning as it had for Austrians and Germans long before Hitler and National Socialists appeared. Give the bloke some credit, will you? He's the smartest thing Australia has given to the world since the stump-jump plough.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Also, I meant to ask Adrian what he thinks of the work of John Sayles as far as how well it succeeds with issue driven movies. I really liked Silver City, for instance, which, centering around a gubernatorial race in Colorado, ends up dealing with illegal immigrant issues, and may cover some similar ground to 50G.

At the time, I rather naively hoped it would have some impact on GWB's campaign, as it was clearly taking pot shots at him. IN retrospect, Sayles never shared my optimism.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"seanag said...
Hmm. For a post that was originally a brief review of a crime novel, it has certainly led to a lot of questions about both translation and the ambiguities within a language. Which does fascinate me."


That’s part of what the blogosphere allows. I am not so stodgy that I fail to recognize this.

"Nevertheless, since I'm pretty sure Clive James knows more than I do, and am certain that everyone posting on this thread knows a lot more German history than I do also, I'll leave you all to it to hash that one out."

It may, as I hinted at above, be a question of copy editing rather than history. Did Clive James mean anschluss, or did he mean the Anschluss? Of course, German capitalizes all nouns, or at least used to before a recent spelling reform, which complicates matters.

"I have never heard "You go, girl," said to anyone by a woman."

I wasn't sure if I should take that phrase at face value, or if you meant 'by anyone except a woman'.


Yipe, that was a bad typo on my part. I meant to write that I had never heard it “said to anyone but a woman.”

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter (Temple that is) for all I know you're a good friend of Clive James and certainly I respect your opinion as an intellect and as a writer. However, perhaps CJ can be given a pass for his expansive definition of the Anschluss but the helicopter question is not debatable at all. There were at least two German working, operational helicopters in WW2. And by operational I mean they carried soliders, officers, dispatches, supplies etc. These helicopters were the Flettner 282, a small maritime reconnaissance helicopter used mostly in the Mediterranean, and the Focke Achgelis 223, a general purpose utility chopper. They had also several experimental non operational helicopters and gyrocopters. For CJ to baldly say "there were no operational helicopters in WW2" is a simple mistake.

Peter, here's a (slow loading) link to a book someone has downloaded on German helicopters from 1928 - 1945

Also Gus Van Zandt did not direct Lone Star.

Yours, respectfully,

Adrian McKinty

(please dont set the Melbourne mafia on me, I've enough problems with saxophone playing neighbours)

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the man's a big John Sayles fan. Maybe he can weigh in when he's done arm-wrestling with Peter Temple.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter R,

Is CJ brlliant? Without a doubt. Is he sometimes wrong? Yes. As I said on a post on my blog the mistakes in Cultural Amnesia arent his fault though. Its the fact checkers at Norton who are to blame. God knows in a 600 page book crammed full of stuff there's bound to be mistakes. Its Norton's job to find those errors and fix them.

I reviewed Body of Lies for the Washington Post also publihsed by Norton around the same time as the CJ and although I liked the book the factual errors really got on my nerves. Norton needs to buck up its ideas in the FC dept.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, an Australian author named Peter Temple has given the world some pretty smart stuff, too, but understand my position: I see the world through the eyes of a copy editor (or sub-editor).

I probably ought to shut up and go read the passage in question, and the rest of Clive James' book, but I can't resist. A reference to "the Anschluss" without an explantion that the word has a wider meaning than the events of 1938 might confuse me.

OK, now I'll take my own advice and shut up until I've read the book and can argue in something more than hypothetical terms.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Hey, I just realized that this whole comment thread is right in keeping with the spirit of Festivus! The airing of grievances and now the wrestling portion. Even the normally sweet-tempered Brian O'Rourke has just sent everyone here to perdition. Bring on the bad sax players! Bring on the aerosol cans! Bring on my tattooed ex-property manager with his yappy little lapdog. Happy Festivus everyone, and happy every other currently seasonal holiday too! (And especially to Clive James, who keeps getting wrestled to the floor, but who seems to have no trouble getting right back up again, even in absentia.)

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lone Star was your man John Sayles.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, have publishing houses treated fact-checking the way American newspapers treat copy (sub-) editors; that is, as tolerated, possibly desirable, but dispensable luxuries? Has the state of fact-checking got worse, in other words?

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Bring on my publisher! Bring on my whole goddamned profession! Bring ...

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, if I go to hell, I'm taking my books with me.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

You could be right. Perhaps it was always thus.

Seanag

If this were a true Festivus celebration I'd be bitching about my day job, my increased poundage, my thin wallet and my recent disastrous hair cut.

- oh wait I just did.

Happy Festivus everyone.

And of course Happy Third Night of Channukah and Merry Christmas.

And I'm not forgetting Brian in the middle of his debauched Saturnalia....



v word whopper - I mean come on, now they're advertising?

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I share your complaints with the exception of my recent good haircut. But the guy who did the cutting was obnoxious.

Oh, sure, whopper. Like, I believe that was really your v-word.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

My daughter said of my haircut "Did you do it yourself in a mirror?"

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Oh, dear. I think we may all plug away very valiently for Adrian's fame, because his honest sense of himself is quite unlikely to be plagued by vanity with two daughters around. Although if it was Arwynn, she may have just been hoping for a bit of the Little House on the Prairie type of self-reliance.

Never mind. Hair does grow.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The bluntness of children is bracing. I recently visited with friends whose household includes a 6- and a 7-year-old. One of the children told me: "You're better than we thought you would be." His sister, who contrived somehow to glimpse the back of my head from above, enjoyed chanting: "Bald spot! Bald spot!" But that's all right. I threatened to get back at her by giving her onions for Christmas.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

The bluntness of children is bracing, but strangely refreshing. Sure, they should learn some manners, but the thing is that they can make these kinds of swipes at our self-regard, and yet still love us too. It can make you stop and look at yourself from a very unegocentric point of view. That glimpse is both humbling and fleeting, and therefore precious. Despite how we may feel about it at the time.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, hair does grow, though global warming seems to be shrinking the polar hair cap in the extreme northern cranial region for some of us.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I really did find their bluntness bracing, since it was so open, honest and utterly without malice. There was not the slightest meanness to it.

That hair-cutter guy, on the other hand, braced himself against my cranium with all the tenderness of a carpenter holding a block of wood against a workbench as he pounded a nail into it. The result was good, but the lightness of touch was lacking.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I had a haircutter once, who sat me down and began tutting over hair friz or some such thing, very displeased. And I just got up and said, you know, I don't think we're going to be doing this here today. The hairdresser, completely discombobulated said, "Well, have a nice day!" I think I said something to the effect of, I'm sure I would.

Kids are one thing. Adults who should know better are another.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gee, my hair guy told me I had beautiful hair.

Your hairdresser's reaction is a surprise, since haircutters, like bartenders, are proverbially sensitive and understanding souls. Your hairdresser may have had too much artistic integrity to be anything but daringly, shockingly blunt. I'm not sure I'd have had the gumption to do what you did, but that comment would have cost the cutter a good chunk off his or her tip.

December 23, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Yeah, I think the problem is that I come across initially as a nice, uncomplaining type, but I'm not actually that. I expect the hairdresser thought that her grumbling was actually sort of maternal in a fussy way, but my own mother would have told her how well I take to that sort of treatment...oh my god, I have much to atone for.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You might have suggested that she restrict heself to performance and not try to be a critic. But then one should always be careful what one says to someone who is about to hold a sharp instrument at one's neck.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Yeah, the sad thing about being a bookseller is that you don't really have any great dangerous weapons. Pricing guns don't really cut it. I suppose this isn't the sort of thing to say in this season of divine love and fellowship, but there you have it.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose you're right. Dan Brown is more psychological torture than combat weapon.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Dan Brown is more psychological torture than combat weapon.

C'mon. In hardcover The Da Vinci Code must weigh three pounds. That qualifies as blunt instrument to me.

(My review of that thing here. The very next day a much snarkier and better one appeared here.)

December 24, 2008  
Anonymous Peter Temple said...

To move from haircuts back to frivolous matters, I have never seen testimony from anyone, Germany or Allied, who saw a German helicopter in service with the Kriegsmarine. Plenty of people saw gyrocopters, but I await witness testimony of the Flettner 282 in action in the Aegean and Mediterranean (and not just flying around and posing for photographs during tests). As for the Focke Achgelis 223, it did some interesting things but it certainly never saw operational service.

Next. Don't blame Norton for mistakes, if mistakes there be, in James's book. Norton bought the rights from his UK publisher Picador (a limb of PanMacmillan). They would have assumed that Picador had run a ruler over the manuscript. They were entitled to assume that. It is a little unrealistic to expect publishers buying rights to check every assertion of fact in every published book they buy. Prices would have to rise and long delays would ensue.

Next. Clive James is a superb epigrammatist. I am not sure that he has tried his hand at epigraphs. Still, he attempts many things.

Finally, Who the hell is Gus Van Zandt? Gus Van Sant, yes. Townes Van Sandt – a legend. Gus?

December 24, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Nicely done. Petard. Hoist. Blood rushing to head...And here was I thinking that my excuse of having to type on a small screen would be a reasonable get out. (Though I did say it twice which is a bit dodgy.)

As to helicopters, well I'm not going to vacate the field just yet. I dont know if this will meet your criteria for eye-witness testimony but I found this page on the Fa330 pretty convincing

The Flettner 282 seems to have had a long and fairly well documented service life.

I also found this page on the Fa223 pretty convincing. The Fa223 is an interesting beast and although its operations were mostly debacles, operations they certainly were.

The Fa223 page is well referenced it seems to me and the Flettner page is ok. This wikipedia entry on all the helicopters of WW2 has no references at all, but it and the previous three entries would certainly give me pause if I were going into court to prove that "there were no operational helicopters in world war 2"

For a while I lived in Leamington Spa which is near Baginton home of the Midland Air Museum and it was there that I saw the remains of one of the types of Flettner. It was pretty cool.

Next time you're down St Kilda way lemme know and I'll bore the pants off you about my geeky model making plane spotting youth and perhaps shock you a little with an outre haircut.

A...

December 24, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Here's that eye-witness testimony you were looking for, courtesy of the Discovery Channel. The Fa223.

Clive James is a pretty smart guy but Alistair MacLean was no dummy either.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I should not make fun of The Da Vinci Code. It's too easy an target, though I read just the first sentence. But that sentence was quite enough.

I'd have considered the hardover large but not massive, not a weapon of mass destruction to an obstreperous bookshop customer along the lines of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

Peter,

You know what they say--
You go to heaven for the weather, hell for the company.

And sometimes books make the best company.

B

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I never knew he had tried his hands at epigrams, but I think a number of his remarks in the crime-fiction article might well serve other authors as spigraphs.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I did notice, too, that the article on helicopters -- and I recognize that Wikipedia may not base its articles on eyewtiness accounts -- says that "the Luftwaffe's only operational helicopter squadron - at Mühldorf, Bavaria, were captured by US forces."

Being of cautious, plodding intellect, and unschooled in military matters, I wonder it this helicopter squadron, when operational, was, in fact operational, i.e., of, pertaining to, or involved in military operations.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Next. Don't blame Norton for mistakes, if mistakes there be, in James's book. Norton bought the rights from his UK publisher Picador (a limb of PanMacmillan). They would have assumed that Picador had run a ruler over the manuscript.

If not Norton, then Picador. I presume Adrian would be as willing to direct his frustration over mistakes at one publisher as at another. To what extent ought a publisher to check assertions of fact in its books? Did Picador fall short in doing so with Clive James?

As for Norton, I am unhappy that it seems no longer to publish my man Bill James in the U.S.

December 24, 2008  
Anonymous Ian Sinclair said...

Interesting discussion.

The Luftwaffe had one operational helicopter squadron, yes, however the German navy had at least a dozen operational helicopters.

Alistair MacLean who wrote the screenplay for Where Eagles Dare may even have seen the seen the Kriegsmarine helicopters during his time serving in the Mediterranean theater with the Royal Navy.

Its a nice discussion but this isn't a moot point at all. The Germans had dozens of "operational" helicopters in World War 2.

As the Discovery Channel points out the 223's were very nearly used in the spectacular rescue mission of Mussolini, which would not have been forgotten by mister James or mister Temple or anyone else.

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Er, make that "epigraphs" rather than "spigraphs" in the comment above. I may have trouble with my grams and graphs, but I'd hate to be prosecuted under Martial law for my lapses.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note, Ian. Though an apparent mistake by Clive James sparked this discussion, it's turning out to be a fine sales tool for his book. I, for one, want to dig out the reference and see what he really says, since I am of a forgiving nature and resist as long as I can before declaring, "Yep, he screwed up." Once I find the reference, there is every chance I may go on to read the book.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And forgive my lapse in not having wished you a Merry Christmas as well. Merry Christmas.

December 24, 2008  
Anonymous Ian said...

I found the reference quite easily in my copy (or should I say the bookstore where I'm currently sitting's copy).

Cultural Amnesia p. 692 "the German commandant arrives in the castle courtyard by helicopter. There were no operational helicopters in World War 2."

CJ doesn't even say no "operational German helicopters," his claim is broader.

Keep up the excellent work on your blog and best wishes for the new year.

Ian

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the kind words and wishes. Assuming your quotation is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, I think we may safely declare that Clive James was wrong. Then we may decide whether that will inhibit our enjoyment of his wit and his wide interests.

May your new year's reading include Adrian McKinty, Peter Temple and Clive James.

(This reference may be of interest in re helicopters and World War II. It says, among other things, that:

“(H)elicopters were used for numerous light utility duties such as scouting and searching for submarines. They also carried out a large medevac operation in June 1945 when helicopters airlifted at least 70 wounded soldiers from the front lines in Luzon to rear-area hospitals, marking the first time that U.S. helicopters came under concentrated enemy fire. But few helicopters—either German or American—made it into front-line service.”

Once again, absent some specialized meaning that does not make it into regular dictionaries, that sounds pretty operational to me.)

December 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lord above, what I won’t do to build this blog’s traffic. I was filling some idle time this evening doing online searches for articles on World War II and the history of helicopters when I found this entry, which quotes extensively from the article in Cultural Amnesia that contains Clive James’ contentious helicopter reference.

To my surprise, the article’s subject is not military history, not World War II or the history of armaments or aviation, but rather cultural stupidity. James writes with special glee about the movie Where Eagles Dare and especially about Richard Burton’s hairstyle in the film. Here’s the reference that sparked this discussion:

“Similarly, it could be put down to an equally hallowed cinematic convention when the German commandant arrives in the castle courtyard by helicopter. There were no operational helicopters in World War II, but there were no operational cannon ancient Rome either, and Shakespeare still put a few in.”

In this light, James' assertion seems similar to his take on Massimo Carlotto’s bad sentence. There, he quite rightly poked entertaining fun at an awful sentence, but took flight from there into broad, possibly unwarranted and, in one case, woefully unexplained assumptions. Here, he offers penetrating and entertaining analysis of stupidity in movies and its possible explanations, but he then leaps from what may be just criticism of an anachronistic scene into what appears to be historical error.

As I predicted, however, the rest of the excerpt makes me more inclined than before to read James. His analysis, even his embrace, of stupidity as a cultural phenomenon is exciting. He may be no historian, but he's an incisive critic.

December 24, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Hmmm that's kind of interesting. I'm on the road here and not able to reference books, but I always thought the famous Roman anachronism was in Julius Caesar about "the striking clock". The famous cannon anachronism is by the sergeant in Macbeth. Perhaps there are more cannon references in JC or Anthony & Cleo etc. but its possible that uncle Clive could have made a double blunder in a couple of sentences.

I wonder if the stuff about Nazi haircuts (the whole meat of the story) in the Where Eagles Dare piece is accurate.

In fact I wonder if anything in that particular essay would stand up to close scrutiny.


A...

December 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No cannons in JC, A&C or Coriolanus (or Cymbeline), but perhaps no joy for you either, since there is this from "The Rape of Lucrece":

But this no slaughterhouse no toiol imparteth
To make more vent for passage of her breath;
Which, thronging through her lips, so vanisheth
As smoke from AEtna, that in air consumes,
Or that which from discharged cannon fumes.

December 25, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter


Hmmm, thats pretty thin. My feeling before I'm cut off from the virtual world is that James mixed up Macbeth and Julius Caesar in his head and no one at Norton or anywhere else bothered to check it.

December 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Here's a Shakespeare concordance, should you wish to disrupt your vacation even more than you have already. I suspect you may be right.

V-word: ousters

And did you see that the Yankees signed Mark Texeira?

December 25, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I'm not hearing the choppers just now, so there must be some sort of Christmas/Channukah/Festivus/Kwanzaa/Ramadan/Festivus/etc. truce. Waving my white flag--no, make that my Red Cross flag in the no-man's zone, and whistling with a false bravado, I'll just mention that the Nazi theme and the haircut theme seem to have come together in Von Ryan's Express. Don't know if Adrian was kidding entirely or not, but it turns out I'm more comfortable in the hair zone than the war zone. Who'd have thunk it?

Gotta go-I can feel that this armistice is fleeting...

v word=acting, which is almost too literal for the Shakespearean portion of our dialogue.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And a Merry Ramakwanzivus to you, too. I hope the intra-holiday lull finds you well.

I had just logged off Blogger when your note arrived, so I had to log on again, which meant ... a v-word!!! Unfortunately, mine was nothing special, certainly nowhere near yours, which is one of the best.

Adrian was not entirely kidding about the haircuts, I think. Clive James' essay pokes fun at (and analyzes and explains) the high stupidity of Where Eagles Dare. He hinges much of his discussion on Richard Burton's haircut in the movie. No one with a 'do like his would have passed as a spy in World War II, but then, he says, that was the point: Burton was not there to play a double agent, but rather to play Richard Burton.

James also appears to have made an error or two, in case you hadn't noticed.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I am still quite interested to read Cultural Amnesia, by the way, despite whatever his failings may be. I am actually more interested in what his broader theme is, since I have a very occasional blog on memory or the lack thereof. It would be much more frequent if I didn't keep forgetting all about my interest in the topic...

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may have suggested this already, but are you familiart with Sucharita Sarkar's Past Continuous blog? You might find her writing about memory and memories interesting.

I, too, would like to read Cultural Amnesia. I hope that these factual errors that James seems to make do not inhibit my enjoyment of the book. For now, I'll say that errors of fact might be especially unbecoming in a book whose title calls forth forgetfulness and its cousin, ignorance.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I think you have mentioned it and I think I forgot to get to it...I'll go check it out now.

It's very peaceful here now, isn't it? But I've realized that the war has really only moved on to another front.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This may be because one of the combatants has retreated into the bush or at least somewhere in accessible via Internet. I hope the does not augur a new and more troublesome phase to this frank and open discussion.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

What we really have to hope is that it hasn't become a ground war.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I guess I'd better add to anyone who doesn't know me here a little that I'm kidding about that.

Really just trying to see if we can boost this up over a hundred.That would be good for everyone with the possible (and only possible) exception of Clive James.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll be happy to fly over there and mediate peace talks. I've never been to that country, and I would be chuffed to meet both principals. I see myself in the Jimmy Carter role, edging the former belligerents toward one another for a grudging handshake and a brilliant photo opportunity.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I meant what I said earlier that even this little controversy might not hurt Clive James' sales. Even someone who scours the book for errors is still scouring the book.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

If anyone could handle the peace negotiations you could, Peter, but I expect this is even beyond the skills of Jimmy Carter. All would go well for awhile, but it would probably break down over something simple, like whether James himself should be invited. Or there would be some kind of airshow featuring non-operational WWII German helicopters--something is bound to throw a wrench into your best efforts. Better just go Down Under and visit both of them on holiday sometime.

Me, I'm going to stay up here and ponder the importance of hairstyles in WWII movies. Maybe read a little CJ on the subject.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I could hardly think of anyone less suited to delicate negotiations than I. Patience? Nah. Diplomacy? Forget it. A possibly dangerous tendency to crack jokes at either side's expense at delicate moments? You bet!

I see a contentious shouting sessions stilled by the sight of Clive James descending from the heavens, only to break out again when Peter and Adrian cannot agree whether this deus's machina is a helicopter or a mere gyrocopter.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Hilarious.

In fact, I see James himself being left forgotten and standing in the dust as the scuffle takes the antagonists completely out of our field of view.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Left behind in the dust, clutching his coiffure before he repairs to his study to write a scrupulously accurate account of the battle.

December 28, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

to write a scrupulously accurate account of the battle

Or not.

101. You're over the top!


v word=slyad

This is indeed a sly ad for Clive James, Peter Temple, Adrian McKinty and various other shady characters who are really no better than they should be...

December 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

They're the slyad triad.

Thanks for starting on my way to my second hundred.

December 28, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...


Thanks for starting on my way to my second hundred


You looked a bit younger to me.


Back to a minimum of operativity after a few days in bed with the flu.
I checked the sentence from the Master of Knots.

Here's the translation:

‘We’ve absolutely got to find a way of stopping the Master of Knots and his gang,’ Max said angrily.”

and here the original:

"Dobbiamo trovare il modo di fermare il Maestro di Nodi e la sua banda" sbottò Max rabbioso.

The Italian sentence doesn't sound awkward at all-it's perfectly acceptable.
'dobbiamo' here is imperative (though the form is the same as the present indicative) -and the translation uses 'we've absolutely got to' to convey the added emphasis.
The rest is more or less literal,though 'sbottò' is more something like 'erupted' and that phrase could be translated more literally 'erupted Max with rage'.

I've also discovered that The Master of Knots and The Colombian Mule,the two Alligator novels,have not been published by Europa Editions.
Sarah Weinman,who's a great Carlotto fan,already had this to say about the translations: “Reading Massimo Carlotto's The Master of Knots, published in England by Orion, was a markedly different experience than reading Massimo Carlotto's Death's Dark Abyss, published in America by Europa Editions. The former was loaded with only-in-Britain words like "tyre" and "car park" that stopped the noir narrative cold, while the latter, with a more American colloquial approach, felt more natural to read and less grating on my ear.”

Here's Lawrence Venuti on translating Carlotto.

All that said,I do think that James chose a sentence at random from a novel that didn't convince him on many levels,and of course he has the right to his own opinion.
Declan Burke called “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” badly written, overlong, with characters that seem the idealized fantasy of a middle-aged man;Ali Karim considered its importance for modern crime fiction comparable to the discovery of the grail.
What irritates me is his smugness,and the easiness with which he passes judgement on things he has only superficially researched.

The article itself has many flaws and little substance.Had it been written by a Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the Philadelphia Inquirer I doubt anyone would have cared.

After reading a few of the articles on his site,including the one about Kraus which is probably the basis for the correspondent section of Cultural Amnesia,I'm afraid I'm not a fan.
He's a more elegant Cristopher Hitchens-after you understand his general worldview,what he thinks about this or that becomes soon predictable.
What he says about Karl Kraus could well be applied to him:
The risk run by the aphorist is that people will grow restless between aphorisms, because they aren’t getting enough of what it says on the label.
Clive James can certainly draw interesting,sometimes brilliant comparisons-but they are not mathematical equivalences,and since he has a tendency to use them as the basis of his arguments,these are always rhetorical constructions rather than logical deductions.
Like,in extreme synthesis: War on Iraq=War on Hitler=Good.
One critique often levelled against Cultural Amnesia is that his portraits tend to be either figurines of saints or fun house mirror distortions based on his views and sympathies,and from what I've read it seems very likely true.


Re:errors The article about Cultural Amnesia on the Complete Review (whose author is of Austrian origin) mentions,in a otherwise fairly positive review many,many errors in German names or titles.
None seem particularly grave,but either he hasn't reread the manuscript at all or he's not as fluent in German as he says he is.



dithr,says my v-word,but I will not.

December 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Welcome back, I hope you're feeling better, and thanks for a comment that is the very opposite of dithering. I may, in fact, mine it for a new post or two. Thanks, too, for the link to Lawrence Venuti. I enjoy hearing from translators, and I expect I'll find this piece thought-provoking as well.

I'm not sure Britishisms would have stopped my reading cold once I made the necessary mental adjustment. I suspect that part of Sarah's difficulty is simply that we crime readers equate hard-boiled and noir with American crime fiction. British terms thus might be jarring in such a narrative. Perhaps this will change as and if more British authors move into territory once more exclusively occupied by Americans.

As for Clive James' article, the attack on a single translated sentence without accounting for the possibility that translation or some other aspect of context might be at fault was so glaring that I wondered whether an editor might have been at fault. I am always willing to give benefit of the doubt. 'Tis sweet and commendable in my nature, I suppose.

December 29, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Marco, it's great to see you up and at your keyboard again, minimally operational or no. I hope your Christmas wasn't completely ruined by the flu.

As far as translation goes, I do think there is a problem about whether you choose to translate into American English or British English, which has nothing to do with the skill of the translator. An American reading a British translation of an Italian novel is going to be very sensitive to the Britishisms, while I think the same might be true for a British person reading an American translation. I don't know if there is an equivalent in Italian to this split--I mean, I'm sure there are regional differences, but I'm guessing there is a kind of standard Italian that overrides this in writing. There really is no overarching standard English that makes sense to the whole English speaking world. Or am I oversimplifying this?

Still, I wonder if Sarah Weinman's problem wouldn't have worked the same way in either direction. We forget that in translation, we become accustomed to the translator's voice as much as the author's, so to suddenly read a very different style of tranlation would almost certainly be very off putting, and actually tend to show the medium of translation too baldly, when the very aim of translation is to be in some sense invisible.

Peter--slyad triad--now that was clever.

December 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Peter--slyad triad--now that was clever."

My newspaper may soon go bankrupt because nobody will buyads.

Marco will shed more light on this, I'm sure, but these discussions always bring to mind Andrea Camilleri's Catarella or Mike Mitchell's translations of Glauser. Camilleri's translaters must render what I presume is standard Tuscan Italian as well as Sicilian dialect and Catarella's mangling thereof. Mitchell finds some clever ways of rendering Glauser's significant shifts between dialects of German.

I suspect you're right about translators' voices. When I come across a bad sentence in English translation, I always assume that any English reader will recognize the sentence as bad: me, Clive James, everyone. Then I ask why? What was the translator thinking? Did he or she make the mistake of rendering literally a sentence that is acceptable in its original language but not in English? I've written about all of ths before, but I sometimes wonder what a translator does when confronted with a bad sentence, and there appears no reason for the sentence to be bad. Will the translation strive to capture the original's clunkiness, for example, or improve it? All I can figure is that a translator probably has to be at least as good a writer and prose stylist at the author bring translated.

December 29, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

Not only Christmas - also New Year.
I still have the cough,feel pretty debilitated (Fever has gone from 102 to 95.5 F)and have yet to go out the front door,so I don't think my chances of having a wild capodanno tomorrow are very good.

There isn't much of Standard Italian in Camilleri-even Montalbano and the other characters speak mostly in Sicilian-though lighter and easier to understand.

Glauser-I have the German version,I began to read Wachtmeister Studer,but they're so old and yellowed that they make me cry (I have a generally very mild dust allergy).
But I may buy one of the Italian editions to see how it deals with the dialect.

Another one that will be interesting to reread will be Il Terzo Poliziotto (The Third Policeman).

What was the translator thinking?

The verificator asks if this is a quize.I wonder if he expects prizes for correct answers.

What I said to Adrian when I was attempting to refuse his proposal:
Trying to fine-tune a translation is a bit like repeating a word so many times it starts to sound funny-you lose the distance,you cannot trust your ear.

December 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm pleased that my comments for this post rose above a hundred while your temperature dropped below. But 95.5 sounds a bit low. So I hope I keep rising, but you stop dropping.

Interesting that there is not much standard Italian in Camilleri. That may explain why an acquaintance of mine, from Lazio by birth, did not recognize the expression "mangiare a quattro palmenti."

Glauser's novels are occasionally touhcing and humane enough to bring a tear to one's eye even without the dust. It would be interesting to compare different translators' approaches to the dialect. I've probably posted this to you before, but here's my interview with Mike Mitchell, who discusses his approach to translating Glauser's dialect shifts.

December 30, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

So I hope I keep rising, but you stop dropping

I'll try.

"mangiare a quattro palmenti"

Was it in Camilleri? Did the translator leave it in Italian?
Anyway,the expression should be,and generally is,understood everywhere in Italy (though knowing what exactly a palmento is is another matter); my mother used to say it a lot.
I don't know whether it has a definite regional origin.

December 30, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

Oh,and my previous v-word was multe =fines
while this one is speri =(you) hope

December 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The expression occurs in L'odore della notte. I'd read the novel in English translation, and I wondered what the original versions were in a very funny passage in which Montalbano grows exasperated with the cliches that he's afraid Livia will use. A fellow blogger, Italian and living in the U.S., answered my questions.

I have a medical v-word: edema

December 30, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

That girl is selling away our most cherished secrets.
Though it's a much needed effort - Adrian had a list of "Sandwiches of the Year",which is sad,really.

My v-word: ovula

December 30, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

The Sandwich of the Year category is at least a democratizing part of his year end wrap up. Everyone at least feels qualified to weigh in on sandwiches.

As far as translating goes, the whole question of finding a clunky sentence in the original is fascinating. There has certainly got to be the temptation to at least tidy it up a little. It would be very hard on one's vanity to repeat the clunkiness, as you would know people would be blaming you for it.

Marco, I do see more and more clearly why the prospect of translating the Michael Forsythe trilogy would seem quite daunting. The idea of closely observing how other translators have rendered Irish English into Italian sounds like one of the most useful preparations. Maybe you should read an Italian translation of Finnegan's Wake, if only to make translating McKinty seem like a piece of cake.

Just kidding.

December 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I enjoy her site, and if I cooked more than I do, I'd visit more often. She and another blogger run a periodic event in which they ask readers to prepare dishes that figure in crime stories. Now, before you wrinkle your nose, this need not be restricted to cozy mysteries. Cuisine has a small but important role in Jason Goodwin's novel's set in late-Ottoman Istanbul, and his Web site has a section devoted to cookery. I asked him about the role of food in his first book, and he said, "It's all about cooking." It is, and in some highly unexpected ways.

And it's about time those quirky sandwiches got some recognition.

My v-word is the price that a slangy, old-time American gangster or gumshoe would pay for his guns: gatrate

December 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the year-wrapup is for pita sandwiches only.

With respect to clunkiness, it would take a highly sensitive translator to determine whether the clunkiness was deliberate, whether it worked in the original, and whether he or she could reproduce it with similar effect in the new language. I'm no translator, but I do know that sometimes a translator must realize that not everything can be translated. Sian Reynolds did this when she cut one or two passages from a Fred Vargas novel about a group of Parisian police and their Qubecois colleagues who have some difficulty with each other's brands of French. This would obviously be hard to translate into English, and in one or two instances, Reynolds chose not to.

December 30, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

My verificator has said nonot
and,after accidentally closing the tab,hypes.
Don't know how I (or you) should take it.

I had a brief look at my translation of Angela's Ashes but I found the diminutives used to render the Irish colloquialisms grating.
But I remember I didn't much like Le Ceneri di Angela,while I thought Il Terzo Poliziotto was very good,with notes when it was impossible to translate without losing something.
But publishers don't much like notes,expecially in thrillers-too distracting.

Sandwiches-If I have to,much better a panino with real,fresh bread.

December 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Panini have become trendy in America, but Americans use the plural form as a singular: "Have a panini." God, this grates on my nerves.

Nonot: A reversal of the sequence in a line from that greatest and most intense of folk songs, "Rocky Road to Dublin":

"The captain at me roared, said not no room had he /
When I jumped aboard, a cabin found for Paddy"


I enjoy a brief note, maybe a sentence or two, about translation problems. Sian Reynolds sometimes provides this. And Stephen Sartarelli provides fairly extensive historical and linguistic end notes in his English translations of Andrea Camilleri.

I modestly shrug off any suggestion of hype or hypes. Or maybe the v-machine gave you a two part message. "No not hypes." It's not exactly "mene, mene tekel uparsin" as these utterances go, but I'm pleased by it.

December 30, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

You guys keep forgetting that the word vericator, though all seeing, is not particularly all spelling. It's quite possible that wishing to enter in on the subject of translation, it 'knows not' how to solve the more vexing problems. Although I have to admit that would be uncharacterisitically humble of it.

I agree with Peter that the brief note about the problems of translation or the reasons certain changes were made is welcome and the reader can always skip it if not interested in that sort of thing. And I think even the occasional footnote--short and to the point and right there on the page--is not too distracting, even in a fast paced thriller.

Panino, huh? You see what will happen now, don't you? I'll go into some chain sandwich shop and ask for a panino of some sort. The teenage counter help will then smirk as he or she makes me some version of a sandwich, and, handing it over to me, will say "Here's your panini, Ma'am." There had better not be any sharp knives within easy reach at that point is all I'm saying.

December 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Singular panini puts me in a bind. I can't bring myself to utter the word, but what's the point of being misunderstood? I have pointed out the error a time or two to servers with whom I am friendly. Usually, I'll just get around the problem by saying something like, "I'll have one of those panini."

With respect to smirking counter help, I give credit to Starbucks for one thing: I refuse to use their pompous terms for their serving sizes, but never once have I ordered a large and had a server reply, "Do you mean a venti?"

December 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Jesus this thread went a bit crazy didn't it?

Next time throw in a few jibes about Germaine Greer and we'll really see the fur fly.

And I noticed nobody stood up to refute my helicopter evidence.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Never underestimate the interest people have in mid-century rotary-aircraft, including the ones that Germaine Greer flew in World War II.

I thought even Peter Temple conceded the point on helicopters, with a (good-natured) crack about people who go and look up Clive James' exact words, but I can't find the comment above. Either I missed in the profusion, I imagined it, or her deleted it.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I think you were a bit unfair to old Alastair MacClean. Yes he was a roaring drunk and his screenplay is a bit wacky but he was a world war 2 vet who saw a lot of service and probably knew at least something about Nazi haircuts, helicopters etc.

Incidentally according to Wikipedia he's buried right next to Richard Burton in Switzerland.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Someone hear did attack Alastair MacClean for excessive drinking, didn't he?

In any case, though I haven't seen the movie and thus an in no position to judge Clive James on Nazi coiffure, his point is plausible: that Richard Burton was playing Richard Burton.

And I presume that's the Richard Burton next to whom Alastair MacClean is buried, and not Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Er, someone "here," that is.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Never underestimate the interest people have in mid-century rotary-aircraft, including the ones that Germaine Greer flew in World War II.

Germaine Greer? No. Greer Garson in a WWII movie maybe. In either case, not enough to rattle my chains.

At the risk of stirring up last year's battle, what happened is that Peter Temple posted his last riposte on Peter R's subsequent post. I am not sure Temple actually conceded anything. I think he may have thought that the opposition had been routed himself, not knowing that Adrian was too busy alternately drinking himself senseless and throwing his children into a bitter cold sea to challenge him.

Sorry, Adrian, but that was for Germaine Greer. Do not mess with feminist icons.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, seanag. I was afraid the exhilaration of the fray had robbed me of my senses. I was sure I had seen Peter Temple's post somewhere.

And I'm sure that if Germaine Greer had starred in World War II movies, irrespective of which aircraft she flew, Clive James would have let us know.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Apparently, Clive James might have let us know this was the case even if it was not. Unfortunately.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hasn't poor Clive James taken enough flak already? And don't let anyone tell you that flak was not used in World War II. The word dates to 1938.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I doubt very much that Clive James has taken any flak at all from the likes of us. I expect he sits serenely above this little skirmish, or I would worry a lot more about how this was affecting him. I don't think that the question of whether or not he makes a lot of small errors has been resolved in his favor. It remains to be seen whether such errors are ultimately important to his larger aims. Though I do understand that those kind of lapses drive some people crazy. As someone quite prone to error myself, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, some might suggest that these comments have tended toward the negative. I haven't read enough of Clive James' work to judge whether he makes lots of small errors. All I am prepared to say is that he appears to have made one or two in the essay under discussion.

As for larger aims, call a book "Cultural Amnesia," and you're putting onus on yourself to get facts right.

January 02, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

At the risk of having this thread go on forever, Seana, what's your take on Greer's quasi endorsement of domestic violence in Aboriginal Communities or her mad piece in the Guardian where she calls Michelle Obama ugly?

January 03, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

May I jump in on this? I wonder how much contact Germaine Greer has with these people she seems to think she knows so well. Your fellow Australian crime writer Adrian Hyland, for one, probably knows Aboriginal Australians better than Germaine Greer does.

Of course, she doesn't exactly say Aboriginal men should not be asked to stop commiting domestic violence, at least not in these articles. Rather, she says, "They can't get over it, and it's inhuman to asl to get over it." That smacks of arrogance and, er, paternalism, but she might be saying that it's inhumanly difficult, but one must make this heroic, inhumanly difficult effort. If she really means what she says, well, some Australian ought to be cooking up a local version of "Radical Chic and Mau-mauing the Flak-catchers" right now. Clive James, perhaps?

But for a chat over coffee and even for getting down to getting constructive work done, I'd take Noel Pearson over Germaine Greer any day. As for Greer's gibbering about Michelle Obama's wardrobe, I could not make it all the way through the piece.

Speaking of Radical Chic, by the way, I have recently seen "The Bank Job."

January 03, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

ave you indeed then me old china plate? i was too bloody cream crackered to see it at the manet and picasso so i watched it free on youtube and that was peachy.

January 03, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I 'ave seen it, 'aven't I? I liked it, too. At first I thought the scene with the walkie-talkie falling from the roof was a bit much, but I've since read that the heist on which the movie was based was known in the UK as "the walkie-talkie robbery" or something similar, so who knows? Maybe that scene is closely based on true events.

And that stuff that princesses got up to. At least Procopius and Suetonius said what he had to say about royalty and didn't try to blackmail anyone -- that we know of.

January 03, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Well. First off, why would you not want this thread to go on forever, Adrian, since your upcoming book is right there at the top of it? I'm more than happy to argue with you guys seeing as Peter Temple has apparently dropped out. Maybe we can disagree all the way to 200.

That said, I'm not exactly a huge Germaine Greer fan, for the simple reason that I was not really part of the feminist wave where she became prominent. I never even read 'The Female Eunuch'. But, having taken a look at the two articles cited, I guess I do feel that I have room to say a couple of things.

I am not altogether sure that the shocked author of the article on the domestic violence issue really gave Greer credit for the complexity of thought that her own essay showed. Although I agree that she may not be doing much besides wringing her hands hopelessly at the status quo, I don't think she's in any way endorsing domestic violence by anyone against anyone. I think that what she was saying is that rage has complex roots, just like other appalling crimes like pedophelia has complex roots, and though the perpetrators do have to own their crimes, the crimes do not generally spring from them without their being some very misery making catalyst in their own background. Or a culture that condones it.

As for the Michelle Obama issue, well, I do not for one moment think that Greer was saying Michelle Obama was ugly. She was taking exception to her fashion sense, particularly since she has placed on some important 'best-dressed' list for several years running. Personally, I find this overconcern for Michelle Obama's fashion sense sexist. I have already had to combat it in my book group, where that very dress came up for censure. My friends explain to me that it's because they love Michelle that they want her to look good, but I think that to descend to that level on such a historic night when the Obama family could have come out in rags and still been the heroes of the hour shows that women still have a hell of a long way to go to before their ornamental aspect doesn't trump other more truly valuable features, at least where national politics go.

v word=prescor, which is obviously shorthand for press corps, though whether WV approves or disapproves of this venerable body remains unclear.

January 03, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I am not altogether sure that the shocked author of the article on the domestic violence issue really gave Greer credit for the complexity of thought that her own essay showed.

The shocked author does seem to isolate and exaggerate parts of Greer’s argument, yes.

As for the Michelle Obama issue, well, I do not for one moment think that Greer was saying Michelle Obama was ugly. She was taking exception to her fashion sense, particularly since she has placed on some important 'best-dressed' list for several years running.

I agree. If she called Michelle Obama ugly, I missed it. I would add that I detect hints of desperation in this concern over attire. It’s as if the world being beyond our comprehension, we grasp at whatever significance we can find in such items as presidential or First Lady fashions. Women have to face more of this kind of thing than men do, of course, but it may have been JFK and his lack of a fedora that started the modern era of public concern with what the First Family wears. And presidents at least since Reagan have made it a point to be photographed in work shirts and so on, the better to be identified with working people. But Greer did seem to analyze the issue in far more detail than I thought interesting and far beyond the degree of analysis the subject can properly bear.

v word=prescor, which is obviously shorthand for press corps

Alas, the name, like the members it embraces, has been cut back.

January 03, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Publicity seeking lunatic is my verdict on Greer. No its not nuanced but if you troll through her recent pieces on Princess Diana, Michelle Obama's dress, domestic violence, etc. etc. it does seem to be the case. She doesnt seem like a particularly nice person with particularly deep thoughts so I doubt I'll try and understand her further. Life is way too short to try and understand her shrill, unfunny misanthropy. At least Clive James is hilarious. Wrong but hilarious.

The pair of you may like this: I just went to see Frost/Nixon at an art house cinema on posh Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. Right before the movies began there was an ad for Carla Bruni's pop album - all dizzying camera work and implied Frenchie sophistication and yes nuanced sexuality.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Actually I was all ready to mock but if this was going on next door instead of that bloke with the saxophone I wouldnt mind it so much.

And Seanag for shame about your PR remark: its obvious that its just the three of us now and we're all getting free copies of the book. BTW got a very nice blurb from Sir Ken of Bruen which I'll put up in a week or so.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Adrian, you're the one who started us on Germaine--I don't have the passion about her to go on defending her here, at least right now.

Verdict on Frost/Nixon? I saw some little piece about it, about various 'fictionalizations', ie, fabrications, in it, and had to wonder why people don't just watch the original tapes, as those would surely be more telling about Nixon's real motivations, even though I admire both actors.

What is it with these high production ads for non-movie stuff in theatres these days? I've seen this horrendous Louis Vuitton one over and over for months here, looks like some high minded soul searching but utterly crappy preview for a film until you get to the end, though getting to the end is a task in itself, since it's long enough to qualify as a short short. I cannot imagine that anyone watches that and at the end of it thinks, you know, right after the movie is over, I am going to march myself right down to the mall and buy myself some luggage. Unless it's all sublimnal.

Caught your addendum right before I was ready to post this, and will just say that you never know who's lurking out there. Not everybody comments, you know. At this moment, Germaine Greer may be programming her GPS for the most direct route to St. Kilda's to give you a piece of her mind. And Carla Bruni may be thinking how nice a jam session with a by now surely great saxophonist might really be.

Ken Bruen thumbs up? Nice one.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, well, I'm not in Australia, so Germaine Greer is not a part of my daily cultural landscape. For now, I choose to keep in that way.

"if this was going on next door instead"

I presume you mean an attractive woman with her legs curled into what really must be an uncomfortable position for playing guitar, rather than weird guy in the next apartment wandering in and out of the picture with a candle. That reminds me. It's been a while since I've seen Rear Window. Maybe I should rent it again.

I haven't heard a wide variety of French female pop singer, but they do seem to have done an awful lot of cooing since the mid-1960s.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think we're in a new era of pre-movie viewing at theaters. We may be catching up to what Europeans, or at least the French, have been doing for years. French theaters used to advertise not the movie starting time, but the "seance," the gathering time, which is when the pre-movie commercials would start.

One of the local art houses shows nice slides of Philadelphia attractions or of work from local galleries.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I think I like the Carla Bruni piece more than Peter did. However, my enjoyment was marred or at least rendered hilarious by imagining you as the weird guy next door with the candle, Adrian. When he looks distraughtly at himself in the mirror, I could imagine he/you thinking "I'd like to pay a welcome visit to the new neighbor, but was my daughter really right about the haircut?..."

You have to admit, it does give the thing a kind of a plot.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I actually did like the clip. It's just that French pop music is so easy to mock.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And hey, she's the second presidential wife to come up for discussion here. I wonder what Germaine Greer thinks of her.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seanag

I thought Frost/Nixon was pretty good. You know - for a Ron Howard movie. Not as good as The Queen which had the same lead (Michael Sheen) and screenwriter.

Peter

I laughed out loud at the Carla Bruni commercial, but am reevaluating following that video. I think I should do that candle trick with all my neighbours and see what happens. Bring the kids too wearing animal masks. At midnight. Shake things up in a heavy acid dropping street.

I saw a preview for Proof which looked a tad overwrought.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I might see Frost/Nixon. I've heard nothing about the movie except rumors that it's supposed to be pretty good. It could be an interesting viewing experience since I am old enough to remember the fuss over the original interviews, but too young and from the wrong country to have been hit by their full effect.

I wonder, as I think Seana does, what the difference would be between the movie and viewing the original tapes. I'll save for later any obvious thoughts about nothing seeming real until it's been made into a movie.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Damn me, the chorus of "Quelqu'un m'a dit" is running through my head.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I just downloaded it as a Torrent for my iPod, dont tell anyone though, sort of thing you never live down.

January 04, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I just downloaded it as a Torrent for my iPod, dont tell anyone though, sort of thing you never live down.

(Pointing the finger in his best Nelson Muntz impersonation ):

ah ha

Though her music is not that bad,in a French bubblegum pop Serge Gainsbourg kind of way.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I see it all now. In a retrospective discussion on Adrian's work, Clive James and Germaine Greer will opine:

CJ: "After the massive success of Forty Grand, McKinty seemed to lose that hard edge for which he had previously been renowned. Strange to say, but it was almost as if he had been listening to French bubble pop night and day. What do you think, Germaine?"

GG:Well, first of all, that's Fifty Grand, Clive. And it's bubble gum pop. But point well taken. I personally was shocked by the animal masks he forced his children to wear at all public occasions. And what do you think he was really trying to say with that haircut? I know that his hairdresser could not be reached for comment afterwards. I did extensively interview his daughters later, attempting to understand a little of his primal rage, which of course he couldn't help.

CJ: Of course. It goes without saying. I watched the movie they made of those interviews, Germaine. Brilliant. Though it was a little hard to hear what they were saying through the masks.

GG: True confession? It was impossible. So I made a lot of that stuff up.

CJ: Ah, well--in a world without fact checkers and copy editors, we must just do the best we can.

GG: In our humble way, we can but try.

Peter--

Is this libelous per se, or just per quod?

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"I just downloaded it as a Torrent for my iPod, dont tell anyone though, sort of thing you never live down."

Speaking of downloads, earlier methods of circulating music would have allowed for an attractive, though unadorned, cover photograph of Carla Bruni. Digital methods such as downloading would allow room for extras such as liner notes and photos. Do digitally distributed/downloaded "albums" include such things?

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Though her music is not that bad,in a French bubblegum pop Serge Gainsbourg kind of way."

Serge Gainsbourg is the obvious touchstone for this weird school of French pop music, but for all the Carla Bruni song's odd breathy talkiness, it has a catchy refrain. That's pretty un-Serge Gainsbourg, I think.

On the other hand, I heard some Francoise Hardy in a cafe recently, and I was surprised at how tuneful some of the songs were, so maybe French '60s-and-later pop isn't all breathy sludge after all.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Is this libelous per se, or just per quod? "

Another thing I learned is that truth is an absolute defense against libel. At worst, your entertaining vignette adheres to a higher truth. The only thing it's missing is a helicopter. Well, that and Germain Greer saying that rage forced Adriam to make his children wear those animal masks and that it would be inhuman to ask him to stop doing it.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

The helicopter is missing because I am not sure it was ever conclusively proven that it was ever there in the first place.

January 04, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Well,there's Jane Birkin's refrain in Je t'aime moi non plus

I believe Carla Bruni has covered a few songs of their repertoire.

Seanag,your post is priceless.

v-word:hydra

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Shall we take it, then, that Clive James will not likely wind up in the editorial staff at Jane's All the World's Aircraft?

That's Jane's, the publisher of reference guides to military equipment, not Jane Birkin, inventor of the pop-music orgasm.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seanag

Ok I stand corrected its the four of us reading this, but everyone is still getting a free book.

Yes Seanag you tied everything together in a very impressive Dara O'Briain type of way This is Dara not tying stuff up but being quite funny about a common experience in Ireland.

Just to piss off all Australians we'll have to throw in some Robert Hughes stuff, though that quote Peter dug up about Basquiat was brilliant.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Marco

"Nelson Muntz" nice cultural reference and very appropriate.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I never thought of anything to do with "Je t'aime moi non plus" as refrain, verse, anything one normally thinks of when one thinks of music.

The introductory bars are nicely poppy and tuneful in that wonderfully heart-tugging way, like the opening of the Trogs' "Love is All Around." But I don't think that's what people think of when they think of "Je t'aime moi non plus." On the other hand, three chords, plus a minor key, plus strings, plus lines like "If you really love me, come on and let it show" adds up to a message fairly similar to Birkin's and Gainsbourg's, I think.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

As a torrent you get nothing but the song for free and of course a lifetime of guilt for stealing royalties, but Weird Al says it better

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, I loved an Italian quoting Nelson Muntz to poke fun at at an Irishman in Australia for downloading a French pop song by an Italian singer. What a world!

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I think that I know more about the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine WW2 helicopter fleets than I ever wanted to know, but I've always preferred Jane's Fighting Ships myself.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"That's a fecking mixed marriage!" is an effective refrain.

"Verse after verse after verse of the fecking hymns" is not bad either.

No reaction, though, when he let slip the line "the Christian faith, or those of you who have happily forgotten it."

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll check out Weird Al after I get done with Dara and head out for, er, breakfast.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have always loved Jane's Fighting Ships for its title. I think one could combine that title with Jane Birkin's persona and make an entertaining video.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Couldn't find a youtube of Dara tying things up but thats basically his shtick. He asks audience members about their job, where they're from and then he pokes fun and at the end of the gig ties everything together in an inspired Eddie Izzardish stream of consciousness riff.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

There was a big Apollo sign on the stage behind him. Where was that recorded?

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and I like that he uses "abomination," always one of my favorite words, probably because of its nostalgic air. We don't do abominations the way we used to.

January 04, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

A lifetime of guilt?
mmm...this gives me the idea for a novel.
A group of students,minds corrupted by the study of the classics,are caught in a perverse spiral of illegal downloading-but another students knows,and may reveal their secret.
They plan therefore the murder of their friend (who,admittedly,is a bit of a pain in the ass) proving that by now they've become hardened criminals (subtle reflections on Fate and abundant quotes From Weird Al lyrics).
I'm sure it will be a worldwide hit.

My v-word has a long neck:giraffe

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Not Apollo Bay alas, but the Apollo Theatre in London. There used to be a YouTube of his entire latest concert DVD but it looks like its been removed.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Marco

I liked the bit at the end of Secret History where he dreams about Henry in a strange city. Maybe you could have a similar epilogue to a dream world where John Lennon, Hendrix, Joplin etc. were all still going strong.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I'm still downloading O'Briain on my embarrassingly slow dial-up connection, but I will say Dara is a brave man. It's one thing to "tie up" a conversation on your keyboard with, as Adrian points out, about three people paying any attention--quite another to do it on stage at the Apollo Theatre.

Yes, this has become something of an Aussie bashing thread, hasn't it? Which is odd, because I tend to like Australians. Someone else will have to dis Hughes, though--if that's really to be our common purpose.

I am still not entirely sure that I will get a galley of 50G, by the way--it's kind of up to the vageries of the publishing world. Still, you're right in that none of us here have to be sold on getting our hands on a copy, by fair means or foul.

I like your novel idea, Marco, though it is unfortunately not quite as 'novel' as it should be to avoid the wrath of Ms. Tartt.

Hmm. "Minds corrupted by study of the classics". This seems to be precisely what has happened to all of us here. Luckily for us, any murder planned would probably have to be virtual.

Okay. Off to check out this Dara fella.

January 04, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Which is odd, because I tend to like Australians

Australians I like:
Triffids, Go Betweens, Nick Cave, Patrick White, David Malouf, Murray Bail, Pat Rafter.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Some Australians I like:

Simon Baker, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, the late great Heath Ledger...

Okay--enough with the movie stars already. Authors: Peter Carey, Roger McDonald, Miles Franklin. The couple of women writers I thought of off the top of my head, Keri Hulme and Janet Frame, on reflection proved to be from New Zealand.

Actually, I was thinking more of Australians I have met along the way, but I don't mind throwing in some of the big names.

January 04, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

My selection is very sexist.
I'll add Christina Stead.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I haven't read Christina Stead, though have meant to, forever. Miles Franklin is actually a woman, by the way--didn't want to give anyone the wrong impression.
Although My Brilliant Career only leads me to think of more Australian movie stars, like Judy Davis and Sam Neill.

And what about the fabulous Toni Colette? Speaking of whom, has anyone else here seen the marvelous and haunting Japanese Story?

I'd post a review, but even the best of them tend to be spoilerish.

January 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian and Marco: Hmm, I thought this lifetime of guilt was a Catholic thing, though I love the idea of students corrupted by the classics. In fact, it would be fun to compile a list of classics that could make people angry. My god, this could start a movement and revitalize classics at the same time.

OK, anyone reading this is hereby a member of the classics underground.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Not Apollo Bay alas, but the Apollo Theatre in London. There used to be a YouTube of his entire latest concert DVD but it looks like its been removed."

I was wondering if if just might be the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, which would have lent a bit of bite to the jokes about mixed marriage.

God bless comedy! One day I shall talk about my experiences among London's Muslim population, and how a spark of irreverant humor from a Muslim restored a bit of my faith in humanity.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't realize we were bashing Australians. I have warm feeling toward my Antipodean brothers and sisters. For reasons I can't recall, Australians constituted this blog's first group of readers. And the few that I have met have on my travels have been disproportionately generous and jovial souls.

And, perhaps ironically, as it turns out, Peter Temple was one of the clubs with which I beat Clive James over the head. No way James would have written what he did about international crime fiction if he had read authors as good as, among others, Peter Temple.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Australians I like:
Triffids, Go Betweens, Nick Cave, Patrick White, David Malouf, Murray Bail, Pat Rafter.


Australians I like: Robert Hughes, Adrian Hyland, and that group of bloggers who take such knowledgeable and enthusiastic pride in their country's crime fiction.

Two of my favorites, I met in Italy. I was in San Sepolcro waiting for the Museo Civico to open so I could go see Piero della Francesca's "Madonna della Misericordia" and "Resurrection," and this Australian couple heard me on the phone speaking English to a friend. They bought be breakfast and would accept no payment, no drinks, nothing.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And Sidney Nolan, who painted those iconic images of Ned Kelly and his gang.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, seanag, and maybe especially Adrian: I have never read Christina Stead, but I remember that I first saw her mentioned in a Harvey Pekar story. Who says comics can't be educational?

January 05, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Ned Kelly--now I don't know that I can completely include him in the cast of 'Australians I like', since he was a bank robber, but I really, really liked True History of the Kelly Gang, written by the aforementioned Peter Carey. Carey made Kelly sympathetic enough that I can almost include him on my list despite his life of crime.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Well I've got dozens of Australians I like on my street everyone in fact except for one particular gent right next door. And of course my daughter goes to Sir Sidney's old school: Saint Kilda Primary.

Sam Neill though Seanag? Born in Omagh, Country Tyrone. An Ulsterman through and through.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know enough about Ned Kelly to like or dislike him, though I have heard that he and his mother took some grief because they were Irish. But the paintings are quite something. I stumbled upon the by accident when they were on special display in Boston.

I ought to add that novel to my list.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, then, how about saxophone players you like?

January 05, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Sam Neill though Seanag? Born in Omagh, Country Tyrone. An Ulsterman through and through.

Oh. Maybe that's why I like him....I guess he's played one too many Australians in my viewing experience. Where is my fact checker when I need him/her?

The one Sidney Nolan painting that the link sent me to looked very good, if dark. I will have to keep an eye out for more of his stuff.

v word=tweers. Which sounds derogatory, even if it's not.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That painting is part of a series Nolan painted about Ned Kelly. I saw them all together, which enhanced the likeability. The paintings have a bit of a cartoonish edge, and seeing them all together was something like seeing a giant comics pages, with a story and bold images.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

" Where is my fact checker when I need him/her?"

Hard at work on Clive James' latest project.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Nicole Kidman (whose stalker Clive James fantasises about murdering in Cultural Amnesia - no I'm not kidding) named her baby with Keith Highlights Urban 'Sunday' after Sunday Reed who financially supported Sidney Nolan. The Ned Kelly pictures were painted at Reid's Melbourne house and after Nolan stormed out following a dispute Sunday kept the paintings eventually donating them to the state.

January 05, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I haven't read Christina Stead
I've read a couple.Starting in the eighties,her work has been extensively (re)translated here.

Peter Carey-I've read Bliss,but I didn't like it.Once bitten...

January 05, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I love the idea of students corrupted by the classics. In fact, it would be fun to compile a list of classics that could make people angry.

I'm sure there's a long list of famous challenged books-my favourite is I Neoplatonici by Luigi Settembrini.
Settembrini was a humanist,a man of letters,a fighter against the rule of the Bourbons in Naples and for Italian unification,was sentenced to the Death Penalty (commuted to Life Imprisonment)and later became a Senator of the Italian Kingdom-in short,almost a founding father.
He was also an expert and translator of Greek and Latin literature,and wrote a short novel called I Neoplatonici (The Neoplatonics),purportedly a translation of a greek text by some Arystheos of Megara.
I Neoplatonici tells the story of two male youths who start as inseparable friends in their childhood,then fall in love and begin "experimenting" with sex- at first timidly and with a certain goofiness,but soon more assuredly.
After some adventures they end up marrying two sisters-and while their marriages are happy,their relationship continues well into old age.
What's remarkable is the tone of the novel-never pornographic,voyeuristic or even picaresque,always warm,lighthearted and humorous (at times a bit tongue-in-cheek).
For example there's a passage in which the two sacrifice to Athena after realizing that a judicious use of olive oil (sacred to the goddess) may be of help in resolving some...problems they encounter in their efforts.
The sex scenes,though filtered through euphemisms and circumlocutions (which everywhere else would sound very cheesy,but here fit perfectly) are very explicit-and to find such a serene,positive and unproblematic view of male homosexuality you'd have to wait the final decades of the Twentieth Century.
Also interesting,Settembrini had no problem discussing the manuscript in letters to his wife-apparently their relationship was mature enough that the topic wasn't taboo.
Of course catholic guilt had its say-Benedetto Croce called the novel called "the grave mistake of a revered master, obscene, unhealthy and dangerous for the minds of the young" and vetoed its publication.
It was only rediscovered in 1977,roughly 120 years after its composition.

v-word: sables

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I believe you, Adrian, though I probably should fact-check your comment first.

Other than the ties to Sidney Nolan, I found this striking phrase in a Wikipedia article about Sunday Reed: "She married an Irish-American Catholic, Leonard Quinn, on 31 December 1926, who gave her gonorrhea ..."

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've heard good things about Peter Carey, but it's mainly the Ned Kelly paintings, which made such an impression, that makes me want to read them.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds like an interesting book, especially for its time, but one does not have to wait until modern times, of course. I had in mind classics, as in the Greeks. I haven't read Aristophanes, but he must have made a lot of Athenians angry. And Euripides must have made some at least uncertain about their prospects in the afterlife with his remarks about traditional Greek religion in Alcestis.

January 05, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I had in mind classics, as in the Greeks
I know,but I Neoplatonici is also interesting because the initial idea was to make it pass as the translation of a legitimate Greek text-and Settembrini did in fact translate a lot of the Greek classics.

We are sailing towards 200 without a single baseball-related comment.Good.


May the Befana fill your socks with candies,and bring lumps of coal only to badly behaved Australians (be they annoying sax players,attention seeking lunatics or enemies of fact checking and copy editing).

v-word:torso

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I figured there was a connection when I saw the title, which I assume means The Neoplatonists.

Thanks for the good wishes, and that v-word of yours was one of the better ones, especially as it concerned a novel that appears to be largely about fleshly matters. The v-word machine is, perhaps, an overseeing intelligence.

I bought Roma Eterna last night. It dovetails nicely with Procopius' Vandalic Wars, as its first real chapter is set in the time of Justinian. Nice stuff about Rome underground.

I can't let the opportunity pass without mentioning that 200 is one of those numbers with special meaning in baseball. If a player gets 200 hits in a season, he's had a fine season.

January 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

200 Home Runs is not enough to get you into the hall of fame, 200 wins for a pitcher might be enough but probably not.

Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon and Don Dellilo attend Mets games together (not NYY games of course) as did Samuel Beckett once. Beckett of course was a famous cricketer and something of a star at the Portora Royal School in Fermanagh where Oscar Wilde had also gone to school, when the complete letters of Oscar Wilde was published it boasted that it included "200 unpublished letters".

Marco

You know better than to tempt us.


Peter

Unless Urban has removed his highlights my information is correct. Nice fact about the social disease by the way.

January 05, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I bought Roma Eterna last night.

I don't think it's Silverberg's best,nor my favourite among the selection of AH I presented you,but it's still good-hope you'll like it.

Another AH I forgot to mention,probably because it has some fantastical elements (but it's a bit more complex than this)
is Kim Stanley Robinson's The Year of Rice and Salt.It is set in a world where Europe and Christianity have been nearly completely wiped away by the Black Plague,and the power vacuum has been mainly filled by China,India and Islamic Sultanates
(Australia is Chinese,Europe is mainly Arabic)-there are a lot of unexpected explorations/immigrations/diasporas and it's very,very good.

Salman Rushdie, Thomas Pynchon and Don Dellilo attend Mets games together

I don't believe you.Pynchon and Delillo are required to,since their books are soaked in American culture,but surely Salman Rushdie knows better.

Btw,have you heard Pynchon is due with a new book this year (not three years since ATD-a world record) which apparently will be a detective story set in the 1960s?

January 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

200 wins won't get a pitcher into the Hall of Fame unless he adds other extraordinary accomplishments or compiles the wins in a very short time. Sandy Koufax barely won 150, I think, but is commonly regarded as one of the best ever.

That's quite a group of literary Mets fans. I bet their publishers attended NYY games.

The other 200 of significance in baseball is the Mendoza Line, that boundary a player crosses when his batting average dips below .200. One rarely hears the expression these days. Perhaps this is for fear that someone would think the name offensive to Latinos. In any case, it is a highly appropriate subject with which to close comment 199 in this string.

January 05, 2009  

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