Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jen’s Five Tales of the Fair Folk

Elves and fairies are often portrayed these days as small, cute, and, above all, safe. In light of our fairytale/superhero-movie-ticket book promotion this summer*, here are some excellent fairy tales in which -- while they may be funny (or worse, scathingly ironic!) -- the Folk are formidable friends...or formidable enemies...or both.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Random House, 3 vols, $7.99 each)
The elves of Middle Earth are, for me, the archetype of elves as keepers of wisdom and dignity. In 1953, Tolkien was appalled when an editor went through his manuscript and changed the word “elven” to “elfin” throughout. Wouldn’t that feel like a different story...?

[Note about the cover image: the LotR books we carry in the store are the standard three volume set, with their own titles on the cover -- so I've amused myself by finding a picture of the single-volume paperback (1076 pages!) that was the version I read as a kid.]

Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner (Random House, $10.99)
In the ‘80s and ‘90s came a flood of books from the Borderlands, the newly created edge -- and its floodplain -- between our world and that of Faerie; a place where both magic and technology work ... sometimes. Basically, if you're gonna ride a motorcycle, you want to have some good spells on hand for when the engine cuts out on you. And vice versa. Bordertown is where runaways from both sides of the border go to start a new life. Now the birthplace of urban fantasy is back, and newbies are always welcomed...

Changeling by Delia Sherman (Penguin, $8.99)
If you hang with the Fair Folk, you have to pay attention to the rules -- even the ones you don’t know. New York Between is the immigrant folklore overlay to Manhattan, and Neef is the mortal changeling of Central Park. Not only does she get herself an unwanted quest by breaking the rules, she also gets to spend it with her fairy twin -- the unsuspecting changeling kid who's growing up in her place.

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins, $7.99)
In the little kingdom of Lancre, everyone knows that there are no elves anymore, and that if they ever came back, they would be wonderful, beautiful, and, well, glamorous. Any stories to the contrary are just old wives’ tales. The witches of Lancre, on the other hand, aren’t Everyone, and they know what would really happen...

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (Penguin, $8.99)
So if you take the Ballad of Tam Lin, turn Carterhaugh into Carter Hall on a college campus, send a professor’s daughter there to study, throw in a bunch of literary allusions... It’s quite a story. Just keep an eye on the Classics department.

*Keep an eye out for similarly relevant lists throughout the summer...

June 2012, Jennifer Sheffield

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quote: Adrienne Cecile Rich

When Adrienne Rich died at the end of March this year, I delved into my college diaries to find out what I'd said about reading The Fact of a Doorframe in Intro to Literature, and what I'd said the first time I saw her read. What I found was a poem called "Bears," which I hadn't remembered copying in ... in fact, I hadn't remembered it at all until I reread it, and the words washed over me once more with power and longing and the memory of unknown losses.

At the store last week, I took The Fact of a Doorframe off the shelf to write this post, and I couldn't find the poem. I searched the pages, the table of contents, the index ... and finally I looked at the front cover and realised that this was not "Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984" but instead "Poems, 1950-2001". Reissued and revised to include the whole of her career to that point, and clearly not just expanded, but shuffled -- some poems in, some poems out.

So here is one of the poems now lost from the collection. Who keeps it now?


Wonderful bears that walked my room all night,
Where are you gone, your sleek and fairy fur,
Your eyes' veiled imperious light?

Brown bears as rich as mocha or as musk,
White opalescent bears whose fur stood out
Electric in the deepening dusk,

And great black bears who seemed more blue than black,
More violet than blue against the dark--
Where are you now? upon what track

Mutter your muffled paws, that used to tread
So softly, surely, up the creakless stair
While I lay listening in bed?

When did I lose you? whose have you become?
Why do I wait and wait and never hear
Your thick nocturnal pacing in my room?
My bears, who keeps you now, in pride and fear?

-- Adrienne Rich, The Fact of a Doorframe: New and Selected Poems, 1950-1984, originally from The Diamond Cutters, 1955

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cordelia’s Five Newbery Honor/Medal Winners Featuring Female Main Characters Who Overcome Parental Loss and Conflict in Unusual Ways

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Harper Trophy, $6.99)
1995 Newbery Winner.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, $6.99)
2011 Newbery Honor.

Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Atheneum, $6.99)
2007 Newbery Winner.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, $6.99)
2001 Newbery Honor.

Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool (Yearling, $7.99)
2011 Newbery Winner.

Click here for the list of all Newbery Medal and Honor books from 1922 to the present!

June 2012, Cordelia Jensen

Monday, June 18, 2012

Celebrating Translators – Elliott’s Five Favorites You Don’t Know You Already Know

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, translated by Mattias Ripa and Blake Ferris (Random House, $13.95)
Can you imagine not just translating the meaning, culture, and emotions of the text, but also making sure the words will fit in the captions and speech bubbles? This team of translators brought us a work that changed how we think about Iran, and was the first graphic memoir many of us fell in love with.

The Grimm Reader: The Classic Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Maria Tatar (Norton, $16.95)
Grimms' fairy tales are so deeply part of our culture that it’s easy to forget they are translated from German. Maria Tatar has made the stories fresh, and restored a cultural depth that has been lost in simplified, scrubbed, mass-media versions. Definitely a version for adults. (How did these become “children’s stories,” anyway? Read her intro to find out!)

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, translated by Richard Dixon (Houghton, $27.00)
Richard Dixon says that, including brief interruptions, translating Eco’s novel took eight months: “I worked fairly slowly on the first draft because there was a lot of research to do. That first draft is always the most important – it’s the stage when errors creep in. I then worked through another two drafts, trying each time to work on getting it to sound as natural and readable as possible, especially the dialogue. After the third draft I printed it all out, gave it a final read-through, made the last few changes and sent it to Eco and the publishers.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (Random House, $15.95)
Translator Steven Murray, who translates in UK English under the name Reg Keeland, has produced books which prove it DOES pay to translate crime. Only about 3% of all the books published in the U.S. each year are translations — but Murray’s English versions of Larsson’s Millennium Series may help change that.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim (Random House, $14.95)
Who would we be if we did not have access to other lives, other stories, other cultures? Without translators, there would be no Women of the World book club, no Homer, no Hans Christian Anderson, no Bible. Even though translators often work in anonymity, with their names appearing only in small print buried in a book’s front matter, they are no slouches. Chi-Young Kim has received the Man Asian Literary Prize (2011), the Korea Literature Translation Institute Translation Grant (2011), the Daesan Foundation Translation Grant (2008, 2005), and the 34th Modern Korean Literature Translation Award (2003).

June 2012, Elliott batTzedek