I only asked for one book this year, and I ended up with seven. So bookworms, here’s my 2017 Holiday Book Haul:
This 1947 treasury came from my mother-in-law. It has many authors I’ve heard of and a few that I haven’t. Broken into 19th century Europe and America and “Our Time” Europe and America, I feel like some of these authors aren’t known to me not due solely to my ignorance (though some undoubtedly are) but because we simply don’t read them anymore. I like the fact that this book is compiled by a woman, as most of my anthology collections with a single compiler have a male selecting the stories. I’m hoping I’ll find some unique stories in this little book.
I read Robert Fagles translation of the Odyssey a little over a year ago. While I own the Samuel Butler translation and do want to read Robert Fitzgerald’s translation, I’m curious what I’ll find in the first ever female translation of Odysseus’s journey home.
Here’s the first line(s) from Emily Wilson’s translation: Tell me about a complicated man. Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy.
Compare that to the Butler translation: Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he sacked the famous town of Troy.
And the Fagles translation: Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.
In truth, while I’m only working with first lines, I’m in love with the imagery of the Fagles translation. Wilson’s is the second best, and maybe more “correct” or accurate. But the more truthful hero is not the ingenious one, nor the complicated one (though Odysseus is both ingenious and unarguably complicated), but he is the man of twists and turns. I’ll enjoy the Wilson translation, I’m sure, but hopefully she doesn’t sacrifice too much of the poetic for the sake of accuracy in translation.
Destiny and Desire by Carlos Fuentes was the sole book on my wishlist this year. I heard about it on Michael Silverblatt’s Bookworm radio show. Fun fact: it’s narrated by a decapitated head floating in the ocean. My besite, Mike, bought this baby for me.
My bestie also bought me Le Morte D’arthur by Sir Thomas Malory with original spellings! Seriously, probably my favorite surprise book this Christmas. I can’t wait to jump into it sometime this year.
Here’s a sample from “How Uther Pendragon Gate Kyng Arthur”: Whan hit was delyverde to thes kynges, Ban and Bors, they gaff the godis as frely to theire knyghtes as hit was gevyn to them. Than Merlion toke hys leve of Kynge Arthure and the two kyngis, for to go se hys mayster Bloyse that dwelled in Northhumbirlonde. And so he departed and com to hys mayster, that was passynge glad of hys commynge. And there he tolde how Arthure and two kynges had spedde at the grete batayle, and how hyt was endyd, and tolde the namys of every kynge and knyght of worship that was there. And so Bloyse wrote the batayle worde by worde as Merlion tolde hym, how hit began and by whom, and in lyke wyse how hit was ended and who had the worst.
And you thought you had the worst spelling day ever? It just goes to show that spelling standards do change, so it’s okay if you make a typo or misspell a word or two now and again. In a few hundred years everything you’ve written will look an awful lot like a misspelling or a typo to readers anyway.
LitMag, a new literary magazine. This is their inaugural issue. My lovely wife gave me this book. The picture is a wee bit blurry, so here’s just a few of the famous authors they’re publishing: William H. Gass, Harold Bloom, John Ashberry, and Kelly Cherry. I didn’t check, but I believe they rejected a short story of mine that I submitted at some point in 2016. The wife didn’t know, but that’s okay; it’s not like a rejection would keep me from buying or subscribing myself! I’m taking this magazine to read in my downtime at work.
Old issues of the Iowa Review hold some of my favorite writings. Even long before I lived in Iowa, this was a review I turned too for good prose. And now that I’ve lived in Iowa for a couple of years, it’s about time I picked up this review again. This issue was also a present from my wife.
This last one is also from Libby. No, we don’t have any kids yet, but we hope we will, and the wife wants to make sure I know my colors for when the baby comes. This year I’ll be spending many hours studying how blue is the color of sky and blueberries, how green is the color of peas and frogs, and so on and so forth. I’m just glad she got me a book and not a doll with a changeable diaper, which is just one of many baby-related skills I’ve yet to try my hand at, let alone master.
Let me know what was in your holiday book haul in the comments below. Have a happy new year.