Tag Archives: reading

#GloPoWriMo 2017 8 – in una capanna di bambù sulla riva di una spiaggia

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Lui le lesse ‘The Moor’ di Russell Banks.
Non fu la storia, anche se la storia è bella,
e non fu il modo in cui la lesse. L’accento
scozzese non riuscì a prendere gli americanismi.
I ‘sure’ e ‘yeah’ divennero parodie che
diedero ilarità ad una bellezza che non ne aveva bisogno.
Fu il fatto che lei si sdraiò con la sua testa
sul suo petto e lui sentì il rombo della propria
voce e una vibrazione di parole precedenti.
La storia che lesse finisce nella neve, e loro
rimangono immobili, ma cosa fare? Quanto possono
rimanere lì? Allore lui traccia disegni sulla
pelle di lei con le dita. E i disegni divennero
cerchi e i cerchi divennero parole e
queste azioni hanno la tendenza a progredire.
Le sollevò la maglietta oltre le spalle e
sappiamo tutti il resto. Ci sono corpi di ogni tipo.
Se siete fortunati troverete qualcuno la cui pelle
è una tela per la storia della vostra vita.
Scrivete bene. Prendetevi cura del battito sottostante.

[Originale in inglese di William Letford, ‘in a bamboo shack on the edge of a beach’]

On Finishing Things

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On Finishing Things

or, What I Think I Learned from Moving to a Different Country to Go To University

Be selfish. Because it won’t be enough to remember to take care of yourself. But also connect, to friends, to students, to colleagues, to staff, to people living around you. Be thankful for them, for their help, for their presence. Be thankful to your closest supporters, to your steam valves. Be kind. A little goes a long way, and you will feel much better for it.

Watch Liberal Arts, and prepare to scoff – but even so. Watch Whiplash and prepare to shudder – but even then. Watch Community, season one episode one, season five episodes one and two – watch it all, in fact. Watch Monsters University, despite it not being as good as Inc, and watch Inside Out [I’ll come back to emotions later, too]. Watch Dead Poets Society, if you feel you should, I suppose.

Learn to meditate, and breathe, and sleep. Learn to read as much as you want of anything you want, and that it’s ok to abandon it for a year if something else comes along. Learn to bingewatch with other people, and bingewatch alone. Learn to listen, but also to talk, and it doesn’t always have to be about that much.

Read Ali Smith’s Artful and Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know. Read William Letford’s Bevel and Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness. Read Vaughan and Staples’ Saga and Luiselli and McSweeney’s Sidewalks. Read Comme un Roman, by Daniel Pennac (or by Sarah Ardizzone), or maybe Journal d’un Corps (or Diary of a Body, by Alison Waters). It helps to know your limits, of the page, of the body, and others have explored those edges. Read Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, too, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Read Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked and the Divine and Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona.

Find something to become passionate about, and abolish the guilt from the pleasure. [Mine is Transformers, but you already knew that.] Be aware of what is flawed about your interests, do your best to come to terms with it and try changing it where possible. Learn from the mistakes it makes. This also applies to yourself.

Because what you must remember, what you need to make sure you never forget, is to have ambition (cue Atanas Valkov). To be curious (cue Melodysheep). To remember that emotions are allowed, they are natural, they are yours. Because being strong can be a weakness, and showing weakness can definitely be a strength. Accept both. Allow both. Get angry. Make it count (cue A Monster Calls).

You will cry. You will laugh. Sometimes there will be little difference between the two. You will feel lost as everyone is younger than you or looks trapped too early. You will meet people and they will leave, and you won’t. And then you will, too.

So take time to say goodbye. To say thank you. To say sorry.
And do it all with a smile, where you can.

Don’t Fear the Reaper

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‘You could say to the universe, this is not fair. And the universe would say: Oh, isn’t it? Sorry.’
(Soul Music, 347)

Terry Pratchett died today, at the age of 66, at over 70 books, at eight years of struggle with his Embuggerance, at home.

You can find multiple obituaries all over the internet as I type this, and I am not about to attempt another. No, this post is a way for me to process my own thoughts about Terry Pratchett and his writing, his world, and his impact on me as a reader. And to say thank you.

I never met him in person. I always managed to miss events close-by, and was unable to make the further away ones. The closest I ever got was researching his life and works for my first contributions to the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature. Daniel Hahn – the author/editor – was, in fact, the person who told me the news.

I only met his books, and some of my favourite people through of them. Almost all of his books, at this point.
Starting with a badly received The Carpet People in Italian translation (by Angela Ragusa) at the age of 8, in primary school.
Ignoring them for a long while after that – only to discover Peter Gabriel’s Genesis The Carpet Crawlers, and thinking they were linked.
Being handed the English copy of Pyramids by ‘Auntie Penny’ for the length of a read around the age of 12, and falling, inevitably with a Thud!, into Pratchett’s books and the Discworld , and the world of reading, in English, harder than before. Or at least, that is how I remember it.
Rediscovering the series as I arrived in the UK at the age of 19, staying with Penny and Allan and Pen’s collection, via Reaper Man.
Re-rediscovering Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum at the University of Leeds, with now Japan-bound Maria, who shared my raised eyebrow at the live-action adaptations of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic.
Seeing the first theatrical adaptation of The Truth, a book that I never thought could be adapted, in Oxford, at the age of 20.
Retracing the pineapple on pizza footnote from The Last Continent for a seminar in my first year of teaching, at the age of 24, while also developing the idea of the T-Space for the British Centre of Literary Translation; an obvious rip-off and homage to the L-Space and its genteel Black Holes.

Softly, silently crumbling, at the age of 26, at the news of Terry Pratchett’s passing.

My enabler, Penny, told me to ‘remember what a legacy he left us all. He wasn’t afraid of dying, just very pissed off. A very sad day indeed, but for all the right reasons.’ She is right. As Neil Gaiman pointed out, he was angry. He was spurred on by fury, in his writing as in his living. And we should learn from that. We should channel that.

Given the equation (that camels also know):

Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass

we all carry part of the L-Space and of its ideator’s fierce, furious power within us.

Time to also pick up our pens, and start to write.

Tens of books

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There is a current trend on social media, mostly Facebook, that challenges people to come up with a list of ten books that have somehow influenced, stuck and hold a special place with them. A friend of mine, Hazel, included me in it, but as I am not usually willing to adhere to ‘chains’, I decided to update the lonely, dusty blog instead.

To actually force myself to provide something meatier, however, I’ve tried to track down the origin of the books too, and therefore to whom I am grateful for the suggestion or gift. So thank you, various people who enabled my reading. It paid off, a bit.

In no particular order:

The Giver (1993), by Lois Lowry. Given to me by my mum, part of a postal reading subscription. Fairly simple, heavily criticised, still to the point (and I am dreading the film adaptation). What if we all were the same, and the price was that we forget our past, for better or worse? And what if you and you alone were forced to remember for everyone?

Blankets (2003), by Craig Thompson. Part of an Italian series that came with a newspaper, introducing to graphic novels from around the world; this version was by Elena Fattoretto (2004). Growing up in a not-officially-Catholic-but-who-are-we-kidding country, the book screamed at me with Craig’s struggle with his belief, relationship to his family, and absolutely stunning artwork. The first book that I remember making me cry.

Comme un Roman (1992), by Daniel Pennac. First read in Yasmina Melaouah’s (1993) Italian translation. A gift from my dad, after I stole most of his Pennac books. A non-fictional essay by a reader for readers about reading, and the source of the excellent Rights of the Reader (also the title of Sarah Adams’ translation), made into a poster by Quentin Blake.

A Monster Calls (2011), by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay, based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd. Suggested by BJ Epstein, my academic supervisor, for a reading group. I fell in love with it, I cried, I was terrified of going to sleep, I found my displaced anger in the boy and the monster, and felt ashamed of it all, and loved it even more.

The Incredible Hulk #377 (1991), by Peter David, Dale Keown, Bob McLeod, Glynis Oliver. No idea where I first read this one, but I’ve been searching a copy as far as I can remember, and finally obtained one this year. How to control and convert multiple angry, out-of-control personalities into one complete (green) being.

Baol. Una tranquilla notte di regime (1990), by Stefano Benni. Probably also a gift from my dad, as I also stole all his Benni books. One of the most surreal, caustic, irreverent, profane, political works by Benni, and a really short read that has yet to make it into English. But it travels with me whenever I move house, and I have been compared to the main character by some of my friends in the past. For yet unexplained reasons.

Hyperion (1989), by Dan Simmons. Recommended by an Italian writer friend, who specifically asked me not to read the translation. I devoured this one and its three sequels over a summer, and I was brought back into sci-fi literature, reminded of what it can really do with notions of genre, canon and technology. And the horror of the Shrike.

L’Allegria (1931), by Giuseppe Ungaretti. Cultural baggage, Ungaretti permeates Italian literary education. One of my favourite collections of Italian poetry, and the first venture into literary translation as part of my undergraduate dissertation. War poetry, but not quite. Hermetic poetry, but not quite. Resonant poetry – quite.

Written on the Body (1993), by Jeanette Winterson. My first purchase in English that was not via my mum or aunt. I cried on the plane back to Italy during a school trip reading it. Poetry based on medical language, my introduction to queer literature and a tagline that still makes me shiver: why is the measure of love loss?

W;t (1995), by Margaret Edson. Part of a module about teachers and teaching I took at the University of Leeds, by Denis Flannery. A one-act play dealing with words, language, poetry, literature, life, death and punctuation, as Professor Vivian Bearing deals with ovarian cancer and the joys of healthcare and John Donne. Emma Thompson’s TV movie rendition is devastating, too.

Honourable mentions: Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Mike Carey, Peter Gross et al’s Lucifer and The Unwritten, Deborah Levy’s Things I don’t want to know, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bà’s Daytripper, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses.

Now, what does this tell me? I wasn’t exposed to or sought out enough diversity (gender, ethnicity, you name it) growing up, and much of what I did read then did not make as big an impact as what I was immersed in during my university years. I have been addressing the issue, especially of recent with the ReadWomen2014 and WomenInTranslation initiatives, and several translations I read of some of the books above were indeed by women. I am part of the Readers Circle in Norwich, which seeks out the best new books available over the course of a year, and pushes us beyond our comfort reading zones. I am translating a series of poems by Italian women poets for The Norwich Radical, to bring more of their writing into English, and research the field more myself. I am following Malorie Blackman’s work on diversity in YA, and wholeheartedly support it.

But those are the ten books so far. Any further recommendations, as always, are more than welcome.

Drifting

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Time and space don’t matter
here, as she walks along the brink
cautiously slipping into
and onto the shimmering page.

Time and space don’t bother
her, she looks upon the spine
slicing through light and beams
as the universe supports her.

Time does not envelop her
as she finds her space
an innermost inch, a room
to call her own, at last.

Space does not contain her
for yes, there will be time
reflected and refracted through
the chapters in her life.

Time flows and space constricts
but she, modern Promethea,
is unbound, the fallen chains
spark on weatherworn rock.

Space is fluid and time congealed
as an ice-cube washed ashore
that she may or may not pick up
take home and place on a pile

of unread pages, unfinished sketches
of a blind seer’s book.
As she steps out back into the cold
she’ll forget about it. It will melt.
Become one with the books
bleed into pages, blur the images
blend the lines, push the boundaries
and time and space won’t matter.

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NaPoWriMo 3 – New Comic Book Day

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What will it be this time?
As you trundle down the streets
you hold tight onto the change
you fought so long to have:
dishes were washed,
rubbish carried out,
rooms tidied and cleaned,
you even looked after your sister.
Small prices to pay for the prize.

What will it be this time?
As you trundle down the streets
you mentally check the pile
it took so long to have:
hiding, under the bed,
number after number,
in a bag, in a box,
away from your sister.
A small but prized possession.

What will it be this time?
The King will send you
on journeys through galaxies
and titans, worlds of wonder.
The Man will send you
on truly believable adventures
in cities full of problems.
The Mage will send you
to the realm of dreams
and creatures and things.

What will it be this time?
Your mind swarms
with caped crusaders and men of steel
Amazonian princesses and walking dreams
mutants and spiders and lightning
robots and monsters and aliens
…almost giddy, you open the door.

What will it be this time?
Bell rings, smile on your face,
you walk by the wall of wonders,
and stop at the counter almost too tall
for your arms to reach.

‘Sorry kid, shipment’s late.
Try this time next week.’