On Translators

I’ve read a fair number of books, and I don’t mind thinking about them critically, be it Twilight or David Foster Wallace, but sometimes I like to go behind the scenes a bit, to delve into the things we don’t often think about when it comes to literature.  I’ve touched on reading speeds,  reliance on the internet and social media, and the mechanics of the Villanelle.

And now I want to talk about translators.

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Thrifty Thursday (2/18)

Yes…I’m back. Work, life, family…things get hectic sometimes, but there’s always time for books.


thrifty thursday

(Graphic made by Julianne @ Outlandish Lit)


Hello everyone, and welcome back to Thrifty Thursdays!

The rules are simple and are as follows:

1. Each week’s link-up will be posted on Thursday.

2. Post or talk about a book you found used (preferably in a book store or thrift shop).

3. The book must cost less than $5.

4. Return for the link-up!


Ideally, we all would be exploring authors, books, and genres that we never would have considered otherwise. Some of us may find new favorites. Others may just find some laughs. Either way, we’d be supporting independent booksellers who are the backbone of what we do as bloggers. Of course, these books cost money, and posting each week isn’t required, though you’re certainly welcome to do so.

My pick for this week?

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Cost: $3.97

Total saved thus far compared to new prices: $77.03

Where did I get it? Everything has been eBay lately…low prices are very easy to find, and I still feel okay knowing I’m keeping books out of landfills, offsetting carbon footprints in shipping, and contributing to world literacy through Better World Books. Their prices are good, and they typically have a buy 3, get 1 free deal. I’ve been looking into them more and more, and I suppose they’re something of a polarizing company, but I’ve never had a problem, personally speaking.


The Book: I was never too big on horror movies, but a film-student-friend from Russia recommended that I watch The Silence of the Lambs as well as the other films in the Hannibal Lecter series. The Silence of the Lambs was a movie I enjoyed. Of course it’s dark, violent, and pretty damn twisted, but the psychological processes explored really added to the atmosphere and made it a thriller. I wasn’t as big on Hannibal or Hannibal Rising. Those really upped the gore factor in the Hollywood way, and it took a lot away from both the development of the character and the films themselves. Red Dragon, based on Thomas Harris’ first Hannibal Lecter novel, seemed like a return to the psychological aspects behind The Silence of the Lambs, and, being the first novel in the series, seems like the logical novel to start with. I’ve heard good things about it, so I’m excited to really dig into the prose.

As usual, we’ll take a look at the Amazon description for the gist. Per Amazon:


Lying on a cot in his cell with Alexandre Dumas’s Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine open on his chest, Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter makes his debut in this legendary horror novel, which is even better than its sequel, The Silence of the Lambs. As in Silence, the pulse-pounding suspense plot involves a hypersensitive FBI sleuth who consults psycho psychiatrist Lecter for clues to catching a killer on the loose.

The sleuth, Will Graham, actually quit the FBI after nearly getting killed by Lecter while nabbing him, but fear isn’t what bugs him about crime busting. It’s just too creepy to get inside a killer’s twisted mind. But he comes back to stop a madman who’s been butchering entire families. The FBI needs Graham’s insight, and Graham needs Lecter’s genius. But Lecter is a clever fiend, and he manipulates both Graham and the killer at large from his cell.

That killer, Francis Dolarhyde, works in a film lab, where he picks his victims by studying their home movies. He’s obsessed with William Blake’s bizarre painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, believing there’s a red dragon within him, the personification of his demonic drives. Flashbacks to Dolarhyde’s terrifying childhood and superb stream-of-consciousness prose get us right there inside his head. When Dolarhyde does weird things, we understand why. We sympathize when the voice of the cruel dead grandma who raised and crazed him urges him to mayhem–she’s way scarier than that old bat in Psycho. When he falls in love with a blind girl at the lab, we hope he doesn’t give in to Grandma’s violent advice.

This book is awesomely detailed, ingeniously plotted, judiciously gory, and fantastically imagined. If you haven’t read it, you’ve never had the creeps.

Even though I’ve already seen the film, it’s the prose and the subtleties that I’m excited to get in on.

What have you picked up on the cheap lately?

Review: Inherited Disorders

cover81317-medium.pngNote: A review copy of Inherited Disorders was provided to me free of charge by the publisher through the NetGalley system for an unbiased review.

Adam Sachs’ Inherited Disorders is build around a very simple idea–father and son relationships. The idea is simple, but the reality is anything but clear-cut.

In over one hundred different ways, Sachs examines the ways in which fathers and sons relate to one another–in terms of personality, genetics, and the idea of an “inheritance.” Some argue over their physical inheritance of wealth. Some struggle with legacy, either to carry it on or to ultimately fulfill it. In one instance, a father literally removes his skin for his son to wear.

Hilarious and undeniably original, Adam Sachs circles around the idea of father-son relationships again and again. Inherited Disorders was a quick and enjoyable read, but it can get a little repetitive. Of course, this is somewhat the point. In each story, I was looking forward to the twist that Sachs would put on the story. In my opinion, the most memorable instance occurs when a son talks to his father’s frozen head while asking a friend to read a screenplay that his father never approved of.

Sachs looks at the father-son dynamic in interesting ways, but I can’t help feel that I can relate to Inherited Disorders as a male reader. I would be interested to see how a female reader responds to the text. In some ways, mother-daughter relationships are no different, undeniably, but in terms of more “classic” expectations of what we can likely admit is a patriarchal society, these relationships can be quite different.

Needless to say, as a fan of unconventional literature, I’m looking forward to Sachs’ future work.

Cover Lust Friday (1/29)

I’m back with Cover Lust Friday, hosted by Alice @ AliceReeds. The meme itself is pretty simple.

Cover Lust Friday is a weekly meme that’s all about covers. Pick a cover that stands out to you, add your reason why you’ve chosen that particular one or what you like about it. Let’s have fun with it and share the love for our favorite covers.

Covers can get me before I even read the title or a description. Here we go…

The Cover:

9781940430768The Secret Birds by Tony Fitzpatrick

Published: May 2016 by Curbside Splendor

Pages: 300

Series: No

The Secret Birds, named for his series of drawings by the same name, is Tony Fitzpatrick’s iconic exhibition of artwork, poetry, and ephemera that examine life, mortality, and the pursuit of a life spent collecting, traveling, creating, and telling stories.




The Reason:

Alright, well, this isn’t a novel in the typical sense of the word, but that cover is a really intriguing collage. Just look at it. The price tag ($50) and my budget ($0) scares me off from this one, but I’ll be on the lookout for a used copy because it just looks damn interesting. I had always wished I was more artistically inclined when it came to drawing, creating collages, or painting, but the best I could settle for was tracing and accidentally abstract art, so things like this always intrigue me. Life…mortality…a life spent collecting, creating…? Did I write this in my spare time?

Thrifty Thursday (1/28)

thrifty thursday

(Graphic made by Julianne @ Outlandish Lit)


Hello everyone, and welcome back to Thrifty Thursdays!

The rules are simple and are as follows:

1. Each week’s link-up will be posted on Thursday.

2. Post or talk about a book you found used (preferably in a book store or thrift shop).

3. The book must cost less than $5.

4. Return for the link-up!


Ideally, we all would be exploring authors, books, and genres that we never would have considered otherwise. Some of us may find new favorites. Others may just find some laughs. Either way, we’d be supporting independent booksellers who are the backbone of what we do as bloggers. Of course, these books cost money, and posting each week isn’t required, though you’re certainly welcome to do so.

My pick for this week?

At Night We Walk in Circles coverAt Night We Walk In Circles by Daniel Alarcón

Cost: $3.99

Total saved thus far compared to new prices: $75.00

Where did I get it? Yes…I know..eBay again. Well, in my defense, the snow has made it difficult to get around, but I’m still trying to keep some independent booksellers going. Free State Books, an eBay seller with over 300,000 titles for sale, provided me with this week’s pick at a great price.

Daniel Alarcón’s books have been high on my to-read list since I had first read some of his short stories in a creative writing class way back in 2010, but I just haven’t gotten to some of them. The first full-length novel of his that I had read, Lost City Radio, was enjoyable albeit not a favorite, but we’ll see how At Night We Walk In Circles pans out. I know this one isn’t very weird, but we will try to get back to that next week.

Alarcón is a writer who really draws on his South American culture. Lost City Radio was a title that, I believe, drew from the idea of Los Desaparecidos, the practice of forced disappearance at the hands of different South American governments that took many from their families. In Lost City Radio, the novel is built around a radio station in a fiction South American locale that tries to reunite the disappeared with their families (if they survived at all) in a world in which the government has removed all traces of indigenous language and has replaced all town, village, and city names with numbers.

In any case, At Night We Walk in Circles is a little different. Per the Amazon description:


Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.

The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.

Nelson’s fate is slowly revealed through the investigation of the narrator, a young man obsessed with Nelson’s story—and perhaps closer to it than he lets on. In sharp, vivid, and beautiful prose, Alarcón delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.

We’ll see how this one turns out. It definitely sounds ambitious.


What have you picked up on the cheap lately?

Review: The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks Pt. II

the-ukrainian-and-russian-notebooks-9781451678871_hr In the second half of Igort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, Igort turns his attention to the more recent Chechen and Ukrainian conflicts as well as the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was a renowned journalist famous for speaking out against the second Chechen war, exposing human rights violations, and for criticizing Vladimir Putin. Ultimately, after years of death threats, Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment elevator. The Russian Notebooks section of this collection focuses on interviews with friends of Politkovskaya as well as looking at some of the atrocities, abuses, and practices of torture that the Russian government failed to censor because of Politkovskaya’s integrity.


The important thing here, in my estimation, is that Igort never criticizes the innocent populations. Too often, as citizens of the Western world, we see our neighbors in the East as being nothing like us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m hesitant to delve too far into politics here, but, suffice to say, both sides were guilty of a multitude of war crimes.  War drastically altered the minds of young soldiers on both sides, affecting daily life for millions of innocent citizens. Chechen separatists carried out attacks on Russian civilians (some of which may have involved Russian support to garner support for the war), and torture and murder at the hands of Russian soldiers in Chechnya was not uncommon. The information that Igort provides from interviews that detail these crimes is horrific and unsettling, raising many questions about the transparency of the Russian government.

It’s difficult to speak about things in such recent memory with many details still fuzzy and with both sides still pointing fingers. The most revealing aspect of this collection is Igort’s discussion of, as the title suggests, life and death under Soviet Rule. Regardless of the politics involved, The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks is a deeply unsettling work that tries to cast a light on things that many would like to censor. The humanity in this collection (and the ways in which it is so recklessly abused) when so little is known outside of the involved nations is what makes it such an important work.

Review: The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks Pt. I

the-ukrainian-and-russian-notebooks-9781451678871_hr.jpgIgort’s The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks exist in the same vein as Maus and Persepolis. All three are graphic novels that humanize humans rights struggles in the Ukraine and Russia, Europe during the Holocaust, and Iran, respectively.
Compared to Maus and Persepolis, Igort’s drawings in The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks are much more sparse, but, in my opinion, this lends an urgency to the story.
Much of the first section, The Ukrainian Notebooks, focus on the Holodomor. Prior to reading Igort’s work, I had never heard of the Holodomor, an event in which millions Ukrainians were killed by a man-made famine in the early 1930s under the Russian government as part of the larger famine of 1931-1933.
Before discussing the novel itself, a bit of a history lesson is required:
The issue  of the Holodomor is very complex, intertwined with the collectivization policies instituted by the Soviet government that allowed the appropriation of nearly everything that farmers owned, leaving them with little for survival and causing multiple revolts. Still, it was not just collectivization that caused the famine.
8/6/1934 edition of The Daily Express detailing the famine.
During the institution of Stalin’s Five Year Plan, implementation was, at best, incredibly haphazard causing vast amounts of grain to remain unharvested or lost in processing as farmers struggled to grow other crops as requested by the government. As a result, grain rations fell far belong expectations.
Death counts of ethnic Ukrainians vary widely from 1.8 to 12 million, though a Court of Appeals of Kiev ruling placed the number of ethnic Ukrainian deaths directly caused by famine at 3.9 million.  The Holodomor’s status as a genocide remains contested, as many point out that millions of non-Ukrainian Soviets died in addition to the millions of Ukrainians, though there is evidence to suggest that were specific laws or policies that caused far more lethality in Ukraine, suggesting a specific targeting by the Soviet government. Today, the number of nations that recognize the Holodomor as a genocide stands at 15, though others recognize it as a tragedy.
In addition to the historical setting that Igort details, the much more important aspect is

The Running Man by Kazimir Malevich. One interpretation is that of a peasant fleeing an abandoned landscape during the famine.

what we learn about life during the Holodomor.  Some victims of the famine became so desperate that they began to consume cats, dogs, horses, and even resorted to cannibalism (alive or dead).  Bodies were routinely buried in mass graves, ten to fifteen to a hole, and covered only by a few handfuls of dirt.  As horrible as the history is, Igort’s work humanizes as well as informs. In addition to providing insight towards historical documents as well his own firsthand experiences, we hear the stories from people who lived through the Holodomor, through Nazi occupation, and some of the worst periods in the history of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Notebooks speak to the resiliency and strength of the Ukrainian people, and it is a moving, albeit tragic, experience to read.

Note: The digital copy that I had through NetGalley was not without errors. Pages 39 and 46 end with hyphenated words that do not continue on the next page, and it was a bit maddening, since I felt like I was mixing out on pretty important moments. Grammatical errors were also present in bits of dialogue.