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New Review of Minimize Considered… and All I Want for Christmas Is…

November 5, 2019

If you think a screenshot from Amazon is a boring thing to post, you clearly are not an author (editor/translator/contributor to/publisher of) a book listed on Amazon.  Your life, then, lacks the ultimate thrill of having a reader post a review of your book!  Trust me, it is the best!

Of course, I am very happy that Michael enjoyed my book — I am supremely grateful for his attention to my work. Beyond that, however, the review is the ultimate (more-or-less) material gift a reader can give. It’s evidence of things we writers don’t see — and therefore, magic.

Which brings me to my Christmas wish: If you have read any of my work, anywhere, please leave a review :)  If you have not, but you’ve read someone else’s work–please leave a review for them! It is a wonderful gift.

Also – Yours Truly in a Documentary

November 3, 2019


Those of you who’ve been following my adventures closely may recall it’s been a while since yours truly served in a NATO country.

The screenshot is from the documentary American Diplomatsproduced by the Foreign Policy Association and available for screening via Vimeo.  It is a good and thoughtful film. The producers put out a call to the rank and file to contribute stills and video from our personal archives, so I did. The photo above was taken in Lithuania, by the wonderful Egle Ciuoderiene.  And no, I did not plan for my scarf to match the color of the NATO flag. But it did. Because that’s just how we roll.

Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize – Spreading the Word

October 21, 2019

This is what happens when you go to Kentucky—you meet people, and sometimes, these are the people who also run a poetry contest to honor a former Poet Laureate of their state, and they also publish, chapbooks, and a literary magazine The Heartland Review. These folks are truly committed. How do I know? At the book festival, they got a 12-year-old to do a reading—he’d won a young writers’ prize. So, please, do check this out here.


Frankfurt Book Fair–It Takes a Village

October 16, 2019

Ok, maybe less than a village, but definitely a small encampment of very determined women of which I am privileged to be a member.  Meet TAULT, the brain child of Zenia Tompkins.

Eventually, I will do a full-length interview with Zenia, but that’ll have to wait, because she is at the Frankfurt Book fair launching the next era of Ukrainian translation.  If this sounds like a big deal, it is.

Zenia marshaled a group of translators spread out across many time zones, life stages, and states of engagement in the translation business to produce nothing less that the Ukrainian catalog for the book fair.  Here’s a snapshot:


Every entry includes a sample from the book, the author’s bio, and the book’s synopsis. Sales of English, and other language translation rights will be made based on what’s in this catalog.

And yet, most of this work has been done on spec, because that’s how the industry operates, and that’s why TAULT exists: translators find themselves doing the work of agenting for the books they want to translate. Conversely, I also know some agents in the international trade who end up working as translators to produce samples of the books they represent.

Zenia’s genius is in seeing both sides and looking for a structure that can remove the burden of agenting from translators, and the burden of translation from the agent. We are not there yet, but when TAULT gets there, it will have agents who handle rights for both translators and authors, and translators who have a steady flow of fairly compensated work.  And the life of acquiring editors will improve so dramatically that they will no longer consider books in translation more burdensome than non-translated titles.

It is a beautiful thing! Stay tuned for what happens next.

Translation Day, Week, Month… Life

October 14, 2019

In case you missed it (and I don’t blame you), September 30th marked the International Day of Translation, an occasion on which translators and their friends hold conferences, workshops, and other gatherings to bemoan the dearth of books being translated into the U.S. market.  Sometimes, they also rehearse–or appear to rehearse–the old binary argument: should a translation “nativize” the original text until it feels as if it had been written in the target language, or “foreignize” the target language’s references enough to accommodate a different cultural reality?

The truth, of course, is out there, and no translator is ideologically pure enough to stick to the same choice through the myriad small decisions that constitute the process of translating. It’s, if I may be permitted, a quantum process, with the work existing simultaneously in its original language, being read by a member of the original intended audience, and in a new language, being written and read by the translator as a member of the new intended audience.  We should put Schrodinger’s cat on T-shirts next year. Read more…

Review: Silvia Federici, “Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women.”

October 8, 2019

Federici, Silvia. “Witches, Witch-Hunting, and Women.” PM Press, 2018. 120 pages.

I’m not sure how exactly I managed to remain unfamiliar with Silivia Federici’s writing, beyond what I’ve seen referenced by other writers, but here I was—at the Montana Book Festival, overwhelmed by the extraordinary collection that is PM Press’s list. Life will never be the same, that’s for sure.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a review copy of this particular book gratis. I hope it is the first of many: PM carries an abundance of titles that belong in our international affairs-themed libraries and on the reading lists for diplomats and students of the interconnected world.

This is no exception. While not all arguments are equally well made in this book, it is sure to make the reader think, both about the ideas collected in this slim volume and the limitations of an argument overly reliant on a particular ideology.

39090931 Ms. Federici’s central thesis contends that the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th century Europe were a direct outcome of the process of early capital accumulation.  In her interpretation, older, widowed women, who retained rights to communal lands and/or inherited their husbands’ property, at one point became an obstacle to the emergent needs of a newly capitalist state and targets of the correlated rise in the misogynist sentiment.  The second half of the book applies this insight to the contemporary conditions in the global South, where Ms. Federici observes an alarming rise in incidents of witch-hunting as a particular form of violence against women (and not only women) that she believes is far from incidental.

Whatever the explicating potential of her argument—and in this reader’s assessment, it is tremendous and most welcome, feminist theory being in short supply in the long, dull-walled corridors of policy-making—Ms. Federici’s commitment to what I can only see as a set of facile liberal shibboleths undermines the power of her insight. Read more…

Ink: A Personal Revolution

October 2, 2019

I am of a generation that has lived through the end of the Soviet era.

In our Euroatlantic world-view, that’s a big thing. I do realize, of course, that eras end all the time, all over the world, with a whisper rather than a bang, and thousands of people live through the end of things as they’d known them.

This is the end of an era I remember. It’s a shared experience–and it’s being relived, remembered, re-covered, and otherwise processed right now. For some, that time ended in joyful chaos, with the crowds taking down the Berlin wall with their hands. For others, it ended on a clear breezy day when two million people held hands to form a human chain between Vilnius and Tallinn. For others, it ended in the rubble of a Chernobyl reactor (shout-out to HBO for bringing it back in full color).  For me, it ended with ink.

Read my essay, “Ink” here: