Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Year-End Housework

No, I'm not posting my ten-best list. Those of you who are frequent readers know that I won't do that until just before the Ira Awards, so you'll probably be waiting for a few months. Same thing with my ten-best films of 2009. Courage.

But I do want to draw your attention to a couple of non-film items of interest. As regular readers know, I am a firm believer in and on-line champion of non-English literature in translation. Of course language in translation accounts for about three percent of the American book market, which is why any sign of movement in a positive direction is cause for celebration. I have frequently drawn your attention to Words Without Borders, which does a splendid job of disseminating new writing from around the world. I want to add a few more webpages to your bookmarks/favorites file on the subject before the year ends:

The Literary Saloon --a literary blog attached to the excellent Complete Review website. Both are excellent sources of information and reviews on contemporary writing in translation from just about anywhere you can imagine. As a clearinghouse alone, Saloon is an absolute necessity.

Open Letter Books -- a new publishing venture supported by the University of Rochester, specializing in literature in translation. There's a nicely judged piece on the press by Larry Rohter of the New York Times that sets the tone. Open Letter's subscription plan is an innovative way of selling their wonderfully variegated list, too. They also have a blog, Three Percent.

African Writing Online -- a web journal of new writing from a region that has yet to experience a much-deserved and -needed equivalent of the Latin American "boom" of the 1970s. Covers the whole impressively wide range of African literary writing and darned well. Issue 8 is currently up.

Now, goddamit, go buy some books for the new calendar year. Buy 'em from an indie bookstore near you.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

From Israel, With Tsuris

. . . which can be loosely translated as agita for all you non-Jews-or-New-Yorkers out there. (Hey, as Lenny Bruce said, if you're from New York you're Jewish even if you're goyish, if you're from Montana you're goyish even if you're Jewish.)

Actually, this year's Israel Film Festival, which kicks off on the 5th, is the usual mixed bag, as festivals of new film generally are. The good seems to outweigh the bad -- hey, I didn't see everything they're showing -- but that is to be expected in these halcyon days for Israeli film. So there really isn't much tsuris, except of course for the constant low-level aggravation that comes from living in the midst of an embattled place like the Middle East. At any rate, you can find my two pieces on the Festival in Jewish Week, here and here.

Incidentally, one of the most exciting prospects from the festival, a three-hour documentary History of Israeli Cinema by the excellent Raphael Nadjari (director of Tehillim and Avanim, two terrific films) isn't reviewed in those two articles; the only screeners available didn't have subtitles. I hope to add something on that and two other films from the event that arrived the day after my deadline in the next few days right here. (And that was the tsuris, entirely mine and I'm not passing it along, you should only live and be well, dah-link. But why don't you call more often?)