Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Around the World + Helping Prison Libraries in MD + Death of Fiction/Lit Mags + Translation Errors

The other day, in the midst of more hairpulling over the current US political paralysis and continuous series of bad choices that the administration and Congress keep making, as if they're trying to crash through a 2010 looking-glass version of 1994 but with potentially far more disastrous outcomes, I asked myself: what else is going on in the rest of the world, in addition to the terrible post-quake situation in Haiti, which has gotten a great deal of attention.I began to catalogue some of the things I was somewhat aware of, just off the top of my head, and am listing them here. What am I missing?

These were the first few news factlets that came to mind, and the situations in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, one of the US's major sources of oil, and the one from which the alleged recent airline bomb-plot participant came; and in Iraq, which the US is currently occupying and which the news media have all but disappeared, both really deserve far greater scrutiny. But then what's happening across the globe, including both in the US's front yards and far away, should receive far greater media and public exploration and discussion. What else am I missing?


From Reggie H, I received this appeal from a Maryland librarian who coordinates a program involving bringing books and other reading materials to incarcerated people. Their funding has just been slashed, so the library, Glennor Shirley, writes:
From: "Glennor Shirley" Sent: Tue 26/01/10 12:19 PM Subject:GED books and dictionariesCorrectional Education Libraries lost all their funding due to the state budget crisis. That has affected our ability to purchase materials for inmates who read a lot and who we are preparing to returning to society to be productive citizens. We will accept:
  • Reference materials no older than 2 years.
  • Current Non Fiction ( psychology, self help, self improvement, relationships, starting your own business, business plans, career, English language dictionaries, health information
  • Anything on the NYT and Washington Post Bestseller Lists
  • Popular authors, like Grisham, Ludlum, Patterson, Stephen King,
  • Alice Walker, Patricia Cornwell, Grafton, etc.
  • Mysteries, horror, romance, books by African-American writers.
  • GED Books,
  • English language dictionaries
Call or email me if you have any good offers. Read my vignette at: ALA: "Vignettes from a Prison Librarian"Glennor Shirley http://prisonlibrarian.blogspot.comLibrary CoordinatorCorrectional Education LibrariesBaltimore MD 21201email: gshirley@dllr.state.md.ushttp://www.dllr.state.md.us/ce/lib/

Someone is always figuratively announcing, proclaiming or predicting the death of one of the arts, or a sub-genre within them. Painting was dead 10 years ago, long live painting. The novel's utility long ago vanished, here come the novels. Video art was just a passing fad, but biennials can't get enough of video art. Etc. What is sometimes true is that the delivery systems by which we access certain types of art do change, thereby changing our experiences with and relationship to them. Drive-ins, those relics of an older, suburbanizing, car-focused culture, which were still around in my youth, are all but gone these days. But the arts aren't going away. Ted Genoways, editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, however, expounds in Mother Jones not only that American fiction is kaput and American poetry doesn't deal with the "big issues," but that literary journals are disappearing. Going, going, gone. Of course he extrapolates from a few anecdotes (one of them incorrect), providing no statistical data to back up his projections, nor does he seem to be aware of the increasing number of online journals, or the countless ones that have replaced the older formats (newspapers, general interest magazines, etc.) that he's citing. He isn't the first to bemoan the parochialism of American literature, and won't be the last, but to leap from that critique to the death of lit mags is, to put it simply, pushing it. The story about the former Yale Review editor becoming a US Senator from Connecticut Senator is, if nothing else, inspiring, though, and I could even see a university--Yale?--adding this to its marketing materials: Students, there are many more things you can do with creative writing and literary and cultural studies than you might have imagined, including replacing those sorry excuses for legislators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman!


Did you see the translation of the Aimé Césaire (a Martinican and one of the great poets of the Caribbean and Francophone literature) poem in the recent issue of The New Yorker? You know, the issue with the paean to writer Neil Gaiman; the insightful as always discussion of memoir-writing, authenticity and truthfulness by Daniel Mendelsohn; and the "short story" by evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson? It was titled "Earthquake," and was translated by Paul Muldoon. A friend forwarded it and, for several different reasons, it rubbed me the wrong way. (Why not a poem by a Haitian or Haitian-American poet, like Frankétienne, Phébus Étienne, Paul Laraque, Georges Castera, Jean-Euphèle Milcé, Patrick Sylvain, Jacqueline Scott, René Philoctète, Danielle LeGros-Georges, Carlo Paul, Ella Turenne, or Gina Dorcely, just to name a few? When was the last time any Haitian or Haitian-American poets appeared in the pages of The New Yorker?) Little did I know.... (H/t Reggie H, Randall H)

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled on your blog while researching nervous conditions. It's awesome. I'm a Chicago-based writer/editor who's starting an online mag. We should talk.