Archive for December, 2009

We are blessed that occasionally a writer emerges who is large in ego and flashy in wit and style.  It almost seems rare.  So when Peter Ackroyd does a prose translation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales what is one to anticipate?  Well, the naysayers lose this time.

For all of us, and we are legion, who remain Chaucer-challenged from our morose high school experience with the Big C, this book is a blast and complete therapy.  Yes, he is worth the effort and now that you are of age you can read the adult version–the one where you need not struggle.  You will find Chaucer, in the words of my university colleague Art Barlow, a Ben Franklin kind of fellow.

This is officially The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer: A Retelling by Peter Ackroyd, Illustrated by Nick Bantock, an awkward title for a smooth book.  Dress up your guest room with your personal copy.  It may be lifted by your next guest.

If you like to wear your Chaucer then go to zappel.com for more than one selection.  If you want to drink your Chaucer you can shop for Chaucer’s California wines.  I tried ebay for a bobble-head or a porcelain figurine but with no luck.  Charles Marlin

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The World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 12 from Soul Sweetwater.

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The World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 11 from Stephanie Sawhney.

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If you have the opportunity to see The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500BC exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World up until April 25, 2010, do not miss it.  Every person of Eastern European heritage, regardless of citizenship, will feel enormous pride and joy in viewing the exhibition.  Every citizen, regardless of heritage, will be impressed and thrilled in viewing the exhibition.  The pottery, the fertility figurines, the copper and gold objects and tools, and the shell jewelry are all knockouts.

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World is a “discrete entity” within New  York University at 15 East 84th St, New York NY 10028.  “The location is on the upper east side of Manhattan, just a block from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There are many parking garages near the institute and the Subway is close by.”  For more information, google The Lost World of Old Europe.  Free admission and the hours are posted on the website.

To keep as your memento there is a grand coffee table book to accompany the exhibition, edited by David W. Anthony with Jennifer Y. Chi.  It lists for $49.95 but amazon.com now has it at $35.96  It is a bargain regardless.  You may want to get a copy ahead of your visit so that nothing escapes your attention.  Charles Marlin

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The Poetry of Birds, edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee, is a comfort book, one to keep within easy reach when you need a quiet moment to yourself away from family, work, and the ever present contact with others.  It is not a book to read cover to cover or rush through for that would be a foolish waste of time.  It is organized a bit like a field guide, so you know how to handle it.  Good luck.

When thinking of a title for this short post, the easy, first choice was Emily Dickinson “Hope” is the thing with feathers– but eventually it came down to two finalists.  I chose Mark Doty‘s line from Flit, but I want to close with the other finalist from Walt Whitman‘s The Dalliance of the Eagles She hers, he his, pursuing.  Charles Marlin

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When I read Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, published in 2004, sixty-two years after her death in Auschwitz, I was taken by its power and beauty.  When I found The Dogs and the Wolves, a fresh translation by Sandra Smith from the original Les Chiens et les Loups published in 1940, I looked forward to a repeat performance.  It did not happen.

The novel is premised on the kind of ant-semitic beliefs that sent her to Auschwitz.  You don’t make art out of that kind of stuff.  It is trash talk regardless who it comes from or who it targets.  Her tragic death proves it.  Charles Marlin

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A troll on the Bosphorus is not the pleasure a stroll along the Bosphorus must be.  What you get in Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence is a dreary, repetitious story about an unbelievable character who is never worth the effort.  He is neither good or bad, interesting or offensive because there is nothing there to engage the reader.

The style of writing is stilted and will influence a writer only as a negative example.  Turkey and the Noble Committee can keep him.  You can save the $16.92 amazon.com would have charged you.  Charles Marlin

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