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You know, I don’t think there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to read a book. Of course, one can draw more from some given works by contextualising them, or by having shared references, etc. But at the end of the day, and especially with poetry, it either resonates with you or it doesn’t. It might just, at one point—you’ll change and your reading eye will too. But don’t beat yourself up because you’re not enjoying it as much as you think you ought.

If that’s any consolation, I didn’t think War of The Foxes was on par with Crush either. It’s not that it felt lesser, really, but I was… aware of being sidelined by it? I thought War of The Foxes was much more controlled than Crush (which, in its rawness, also has its clumsiness—both of them interesting, though), but much less textured, too. Sometimes it… grazes… something? But it rarely ever conveys it fully, to me at least.

I’ve wondered too if it’s something to do with maturity (mine)—I felt the same when comparing Autobiography of Red, which I love, then its sequel, Red Doc>, which was published 10 years later or so. Like War of The Foxes, Red Doc> left me with an off-feeling, or, because it came after Autobiography of Red and Crush respectively, a sense of the former work being slightly… tainted? Stifled? by the neutral passivity and detachment of its successor. Bittersweetness at the strange lapse between the two. But in both cases, their authors had grown more mature (in years and in writing) in the interval, and outgrown the described turmoil, and were writing after coming to terms with it. Writing about that very detachment I was grudging them. So, yeah. I’m not dismissing the possibility that maybe, those will be for me (and for you?) not now, but a little later?

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Greg Nicotero, The Talking Dead

image
These masks are hot.  We shoot in Atlanta in summer time.  So I was like, ‘Dude, this is gonna be hot and we gotta figure out how to make it cool for you.’  But, Jeff came up with this carved Joker smile; one of the things that he texted me at 2 in the morning, ‘What if we do this?’  We actually used a clay press of Norman’s face.
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Hey! I’m switching to English just in case this ends up being useful for anyone else, but, first things first, your French rocks! It’s a hell of a language, so props to you—though you can totally use the familiar “tu” with me, you know.

As for how I knew the translator career was for me, hm… The difficulty is, my experience is not guaranteed to be very helpful to you, in the sense that there are loads of different kinds of translation work, translators, translation fields, and translation jobs. For example, I’m free-lance and literary and working as a translator among other things. And that’s definitely not the experience of the majority—you could just as well be working on science, on marketing, on business, on law, for a company, in an agency, etc. And even studying translation doesn’t mean that you have to become a translator proper: it teaches you language, writing, communication, and negotiation skills that could lead you to another job entirely (a lot of my fellow students from BA and MSc are now working in something other than translation, in language or communication-adjacent positions). 

So, basically, going into translation studies isn’t really locking you down: don’t put too much pressure on yourself or on this one choice. If you’re attracted to the field but not sure of your decision, know that you’ll still have a lot of doors opened, and a lot of space for compromise and redirection; specialising comes later, too.

Anyway. I personally knew I wanted to pursue translation because there was something that resonated and beaconed from the English language and because I had an affinity and a facility for the literary, the analytical and the textual. It was the compromise I needed between delving deeper inside language, not letting go of literature, and adding a creative component—not merely commentary and analysis, but writing. 

So, yeah… Definitely not a universal experience, and definitely not the only (or the necessary) qualities you need to go into translation. There’s a myriad of ways to approach translation work. Being detail-oriented or analytical, to a certain extent, does help, because there’s an interpreting-and-conveying dynamic at play, whatever the field and the format. But other than that, your guess is as good as mine. 

If you’re hesitant about the work itself, I do recommend just practicing the actual exercise: choose a French text that engages you, and try to translate it in your mothertongue. See if you like the mind gymnastics of it. See if you’re having fun, if it makes you think and puzzle, and, I don’t know, cogitate. Even with the most ridiculous, most boring text, time just slips between my fingers when I translate. My brain is all crackle, you know? Personal writing flows, but translation feels like a Rubik’s-cube first, and only afterwards do you get to meld, mould, shape and turn the text supple. 

I don’t know. Does that… answer your question? Well, if you need more information anyway, don’t hesitate to write!

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No, I think that’s bullshit. I’ve mentioned this somewhere… And addressed the same issue on romance. Basically, YA is not even a full-fledged genre, which are already arbitrary enough. It’s a marketing denomination designed by publishing houses for its targeted audience. It certainly doesn’t impact a book’s simplicity or complexity, and even less its quality. It’s mainly based on the fact that the protagonist themself is, among other things, a young adult, and that’s not something uncommon to find in other, less stigmatised genres. 

Genre should just be neutral categorisation, umbrella terms used to group stories by format or similarities or objectives. They’re not, of course, because elitism and sexism and ageism, etc—but there are “good” and “bad” books in every category, and even “good” and “bad” means nothing in itself—what matters is, did this author manage to pull off what they wanted? Did this given reader find what they wanted (or something more, or different!), were they entertained, did they enjoy it, did they learn something, were they touched, in one way or another, by what the author left behind? I feel like I’m making less and less sense but what I mean is—quality should be a one-on-one thing. A conversation. Something that is yours and that can and will evolve and fluctuate with you and that is steeped in subjectivity; not a game of societal taste. 

YA books can be as good or as bad as any other work, and as groundbreaking, and as meaningful (I still think about Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and it’s been… seven years?), and really, do your thing and read what engages you and if people give you shit for that, ask them why and let them stew in the realisation that they don’t have much to show for their judgement, except a cookie-cutter preconception.

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Oh yes. They were recommended to me often as a pinnacle of, you know—woman writing, complex women characters, The woman experience and True friendship and groundbreaking yada yada, which is rather pernicious, considering.

(It’s a frequent assumption though, that complexity goes hand in hand with grittiness and honesty with cruelty.)

Anyway! You are not alone.

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Well—it didn’t really stick, to be honest, and I stopped halfway through the second book (wait… I think?), so I don’t have a lengthy review to give you. The first word that comes to my mind is petty? I disliked the characters, their relationship to each other, the overall meanness. The writing bored me, Lenù’s voice fell very short, and I remember finding all the “romantic” entanglements and the jealousy and competitiveness over terrible men very off-putting. The social aspect was the most interesting about it? Maybe? It was a bit drowned by the pseudo-brilliant-but-very-awful friendship, though.

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Hi! There’s a book recs masterpost with a few geographical-based recs. Here’s the direct link to the modern Italian lit post. To these I’d of course add Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy and Petrarch’s Canzoniere, but I’m afraid I haven’t tried much more (though I should read Boccaccio.) I didn’t enjoy Elena Ferrante myself, but a lot, and I mean a lot of people would recommend that, so maybe check it out too?

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Also I find myself so attracted to both the characters (Henry and Michael) due to their intensity and intelligence. And their ability to do what is necessary, adhere to ideals that the modern world seems to have no interest in. Perhaps I just have a fondness for intj’s.

Uh-uh, well. Sounds to me like you’re more interested in Hubris (a pride so acute that the characters feel it gives them the right to elevate themselves above others—to see themselves as Gods, which eventually leads to their downfall) rather than Tragedy proper (which doesn’t necessarily require a fatal flaw to trigger inevitable Fate.)

Now, before we get to it, a quick note—of course Hubris is a fascinating concept and of course, fictional hubristic characters can be compelling, but—the fact that you’re using a word like “ability”, which is a partial word, a positive word, a word that implies admiration and the desire to emulate… makes me tick. I don’t mean to be patronising, and maybe you didn’t mean this at all, but I’ll just throw this out there, because I know (from experience) it can be difficult to deconstruct these ideas in a society that is build on and glorifies them:

Elitism, social darwinism, meritocracy and their by-products? They’re not cool. “Doing what’s necessary” by curtailing someone else’s liberty? Definitely a euphemism for “being an elitist and egotist trashbag”. As for the ideals of yore, please pick and choose wisely which ideals you mean. A majority of them were shit, pure and simple.

Take hubris stories for what they are: cautionary tales. Yeah? Okay. End of this uh, impromptu speech nobody asked for.

I think you’d really enjoy Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies / The Mirror and The Light, actually; throughout the three volumes, rises and falls multiply, in different forms and with different characters, and you can see them develop before your eyes (the heights; the inevitable decadence; the scrambling to escape). Then of course, there’s Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, and my personal favourite, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment; in terms of rising through the ranks, Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami, Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men, and Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards could be right up your alley. He’s not the main character, but also check out the fate of Lord Asriel in His Dark Materials; Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea is a story of Hubris punished and redeemed; Jeannette Winterson’s Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles; Choderlos de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, and maybe Daphné du Maurier’s Hungry Hill too, though it’s less solid than the others. Enjoy!

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Hi! Sorry for my late reply—as you might have noticed, thrillers (especially fast-paced ones) are neither my forte nor my cup of tea (I prefer horror, in the sense that the not-knowing is more interesting to me than the post-elucidating), so… I’m afraid I’m going to be useless on this one. Those I could think of and liked are listed here, but since you jumped back on In Cold Blood I’m guessing you’re aware of them already, and there’s also Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and Prague Cemetery, which are not fast-paced (it’s Eco) exactly, but really cool. Would The Shining qualify? And maybe Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman? Oh, and Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island is great.

EDIT: but check the notes for other people’s suggestions!

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I haven’t! As far as Brontë biographies go, my soul was sold to Juliet Barker long ago. Though I do intend on reading Gaskell’s Charlotte Brontë, but just to be appalled by the fictionalisation & dramatisation.

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I have not—I haven’t read more than a few excerpts from García Márquez. His writing is so heady and balmy that I’ve side-eyed it warily and haven’t picked it up, not really. I’d have to brace myself to ‘stay’ in something so sweltering and delusive, if that makes sense? I’m interested in his handling of subjectivity / reality, though.

(No relation whatsoever but Ms. Pauline makes me feel like the second daughter of a modestly well-off Regency family and what a thrill, should I just go for it & bully my students into calling me that next semester? I think it’s essential that I do, yes.)

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Oh, anon, you’re so lovely to have come back and told me about it! I’m happy your efforts were rewarded by actual enjoyment and admiration. Melville does sound like a cool cat, doesn’t he? Even if he seems to talk way too much about, huh… rigging? Fish oil? (I don’t know what whale hunt and metaphorical Gods entail, obviously). Anyway, you rock and so does your resilience.

And damnit, you’re tempting me to move Moby Dick from my “no thanks” list to the “should I?…” one. Well played.

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It is very sad for the public space she had created and for the many people who found a lot of joy in it—most of all, it’s very sad that her experience was spoiled by negativity and bullying and the whiplash of popularity. That being said, I’m happy she didn’t feel pressured to stay for others and did what felt right for her; I hope she’s feeling better about all of it already. Sometimes, you can shift the weight and breadth of negativity and toxicity just by leaving the space that’s choked with it. That’s the good thing about digital, hm?

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