Jennifer Solheim weaves the story of her decade-long translation of Yolaine Simha’s I Saw You on the Street into a meditation on the nature of the translator’s labor. Solheim looks at history, politics, time and rereading to parse how “translation can become a snake biting its own tail: the translator as writer and reader is simultaneously subsumed and resurrected by the text in the original.”
“Writers can almost be defined as professional outsiders. It’s part of the job. You often have to step outside of a situation to observe it—to choose the right details—to reshape a mess of events into a narrative.”
Yiyun Li (Gold Boy, Emerald Girl) discusses with Angela Watrous what it means to be an American writer; the elusive process of revision; the art of transforming stories into screenplays; and the act of talking aloud to famous dead writers.
“Fiction is my default writing mode. Whenever I witness something odd on the streets or hear intriguing dialogue on the trains, my first impulse is to drop these things into my fiction bank. I don’t have a memoir bank. Fiction, to me, is running through the woods rather than running on a treadmill. It’s freedom to make up characters, setting, situations, etc.—and through this freedom I feel better equipped to express and explore my ideas.”
Earlier this fall, FWR contributor Sarah Van Arsdale was in residence at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in the Santa Cruz mountains. While there, she collaborated with filmmaker Peter Gossweiler on a short video titled Bone on Bone. Sarah calls it “the story of one hapless human’s encounter with modern medicine.” Readers of Sarah’s recent essay “Hobbling Up The Magic Mountain“ will recognize her wonderful illustrations. The wit and humor of her voice as a writer are here again too, highlighted even more so by the fact that Sarah narrates the piece (via Vimeo): The next application deadline for the […]
In This Craft of Verse, Jorge Luis Borges’s collected Norton Lectures, Borges diverges–with sparkling erudition–from conventional forms, offering lectures that are not arguments, but gentle provocations. Remarkably, these visionary pieces were composed at a time when Borges was nearly blind. By this time, as editor Calin-Andrei Mihailescu writes in the book’s postscript, Borges could see “nothing more than an amorphous field of yellow.” We quickly learn, however, that his mind’s eye was as sharp and discerning as ever.
Brian Short talks to fiction guru Eileen Pollack about the juggling act of writing fiction, teaching writing, and directing the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of Michigan. Her advice to writers: Be bold.
“The first thing I love, when I read, is the language. I can’t read anything where I don’t like the voice. What else do I like? I like plot, I like setting, I like humor, I like boldness. I think part of it has to do with being female. No one ever told Philip Roth to be more timid or nice, to have nicer characters or less sex, to not be as broad. And when a woman tests boundaries, it’s seen as unbecoming. We’re supposed to write these quiet, domestic stories or novels. I’ve just never been one to do that.”
Few places are more evocative of mystery and the exotic than Casablanca. And anyone who has ever imagined its fragrances or color will recognize the setting of Laila Lalami’s second novel. But those who imagine Casablanca merely as a city of romance and North African charm may find themselves at a loss to reconcile the spices of their imagination with the brutal realities of poverty and the political and religious corruption Lalami portrays in Secret Son (Algonquin Books, April 2009).
Chloe Aridjis’s first novel, Book of Clouds (Black Cat, 2009), proves an immensely pleasurable and thought-provoking read. Tatiana, whose father owns the largest Jewish deli in Mexico City, finds herself still living in Berlin long after winning a year there from the Goethe Institute. As a self-professed “professional in lost time,” Tatiana may challenge writer-readers’ assumptions about good characterization. And yet the novel succeeds and keeps us engaged in not only Tatiana, but in the novel’s real main character: the city of Berlin.
At Sewanee everyone mingled with everyone else—poets with playwrights with fiction writers, famous and not, published and not, emerging or well established. It didn’t matter. Therefore, when it was Andrew Hudgins’ turn to give a craft lecture, I was one of the first to go, eager to absorb what I could smuggle back to those students in my undergraduate workshop who had more of an ear for poetry than me, their fiction-writing professor. I needed to be at that lecture for professional obligations; I wanted to be there for personal desires. But just as I was beginning to reach towards the trellises of poetic symmetry, grasping for that hanging fruit, I heard Hudgins say, a mocking lilt to his voice, “…and then he became a fiction writer, like all failed poets tend to do.”