Browsing the blog archives for February, 2009.

Free Sanskrit translation

blogs & sites

sanskrit-eternityIf you have up to three English words you’d like to have rendered in Sanskrit, Kiran Paranjape - an orthopedic surgeon in India - will do it for you for free, and very quickly. Go to his blog and scroll down a little until you see the form to email him for instructions.

He’ll also translate one to three words into other languages, including Bengali, Japanese, Chinese, and Hebrew.

You might not even need to submit, since he’s already translated thousands of words, phrases, and names, which he posts. “Love” and “peace” are pretty popular. And there’s “sister,” “know thyself,” “no regrets,” “forgiveness,” “strength,” “honor,” “thank you,” “Be the change,”  etc. People have paid a little more for longer phrases like “Live and let live,” “Faith justifies neither violence nor ignorance,” and “Enveloped in rich mysterious flesh.”

Graphics/comics goodies


the-beats-pekar* Two new titles from Harvey Pekar due soon:

The Beats: A Graphic History

Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation

* Also arriving in the near future:

Best Erotic Comics 2009, edited by Greta Christina

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman

Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? by Alan Moore

Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly

* And who could resist Wilde About Holmes by Milo Yelesiyevich, based on the description?

Sherlock Holmes, in the absence of Dr. Watson presses Oscar Wilde into his service to help protect candidate Grover Cleveland from a sexual scandal in the 1884 U.S. presidential election, but everything goes wrong.

books of the day > Oxford Books of Death & Dreams



The Oxford Book of Death, edited by D. J. Enright (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Amazon | excerpt

From the publisher:

The inescapable reality of death has given rise to much of literature’s most profound and moving work. D.J. Enright’s wonderfully eclectic selection presents the words of poet and novelist, scientist and philosopher, mystic and sceptic. And alongside these “professional” writers, he allows the voices of ordinary people to be heard; for this is a subject on which there are no real experts and wisdom lies in many unexpected places.

Also: The Oxford Book of Dreams:

In this rich anthology, Stephen Brook has collected hundreds of dreams recorded by authors, poets, psychologists, and everyday dreamers since pre-Christian days. Ranging from Artemidorus’s crude, 2nd-century analysis to Freud and Jung’s dream psychology, and including works by Coleridge, Yeats, Tolstoy, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Heller, and many other authors, The Oxford Book of Dreams offers an intriguing and varied sampling of humanity’s collective unconscious. It explores the inexhaustible fascination of dreams and their power as a great source of literary inspiration.

Craigslist Missed Connection ad from 1748


Missed Connections” personal ads were around before Craigslist made them so popular, but they go back even further than you might think. From the General Advertiser of London, March 30, 1748:

Whereas, on Saturday last, a lady, genteely dressed, was seen to lead a string of beautiful stone horses through Edmonton, Tottenham, and Newington - this is to acquaint her, that if she is disengaged and inclinable to marry, a gentleman who was on that occasion is desirous of making honorable proposals to her; in which state if he be not so happy as to please, he will readily purchase the whole string for her satisfaction.

Reprinted in Lapham’s Quarterly, winter 2009 (the “Eros” issue).

Dante’s Inferno: the video game


Wired’s Nate Ralph got to play an early build of Dante’s Inferno, an Electronic Arts video game that’s at least a year away from release.

EA’s take still features Dante as the protagonist, but the poet-philosopher is now a hulking veteran of the Crusades. He returns home from war to find Beatrice, the subject of his love and admiration, murdered. When her soul is “kidnapped” by Lucifer himself, Dante dives down to the very depths of hell, armed with Death’s scythe, to win her back.

Hell, as described in The Divine Comedy, is a nasty place. The development team at EA, fresh off their last game, Dead Space, is hard at work re-creating the nine circles in all their glory. The backgrounds are teeming with life (of sorts). Countless souls spew from demonic fountains, or shuffle about through Limbo, waiting to be judged.

Much of the concept art and monster designs are the work of Wayne Barlowe, who is credited with working on the Hellboy and Harry Potter movies. An unannounced Academy Award–winning writer will assist in penning the game’s script, and many of the lines and characters — including cameo appearances by Pontius Pilate and Pope Celestine V — will be lifted directly from The Divine Comedy.

Bolaño on dreams, death, Huck, Dick, and favorite books

fiction, poetry, the "on" series, writers' lives

bolanoBelow are extracts from “The Savage Detective,” a long look at Roberto Bolaño by his friend, the Argentine writer Rodrigo Fresán. Published in The Believer, March 07 (only a small portion is available online). Translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer.

“Then what is quality writing? The same thing it’s always been: knowing how to stick your head into the dark, knowing how to leap into the void, knowing that literature is basically a dangerous profession.”

“Writers are worthless. Literature is worthless. Literature only exists for literature’s sake. That’s enough for me.”

“Dreams are like psychiatrists, curing you every night.”

“I’d rather not die, of course. But sooner or later the great lady comes. The problem is that sometimes she’s no lady, never mind great, but a hot slut, as the poet Nicanor Parra says, which is enough to make even the bravest man’s teeth chatter.”

[O]ne of his recurring ideas was his suspicion that he had died ten years earlier, in a hospital in Gerona, where he was diagnosed with a severe case of pancreatitis, and that everything that had happened to him in the last decade - children and wife and books - was just his final hallucination, the merciful prolongation of the last seconds of a dying man. On more than one occasion, Bolaño confessed that he wished he were “a fantasy writer, like Philip K. Dick.” And it’s clear that Bolaño’s foremention obsession is an obviously and perfectly Dickian obsession.

Bolaño himself thought of The Savage Detectives as belonging to the genre of roman-fleuve and wrote, “I think I see it as yet another reading of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, one of the many that have followed in its wake; the Mississippi of The Savage Detectives is the flow of voices in the second part of the novel.”

Fresán also relates Bolaño’s favorite books:


Don Quixote

Satyricon (Petronius)

“the complete works of Borges”

A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)

Life: A User’s Manual (Perec)

The Trial and The Castle (Kafka)

Hopscotch (Cortázar)

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Wittgenstein)

the works of Philip K. Dick, especially Dr. Bloodmoney, Or How We Got Along After the Bomb

book of the day > The 27s

art/graphics, book of the day, music


The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll, written by Eric Segalstad, illustrated by Josh Hunter (North Atlantic Books, 2009)

Amazon | publisher’s page

From North Atlantic Books:

Excess and tragedy are the stuff of music legend, but it is only with hindsight that deeper patterns emerge. None of these is more striking than the deaths at age 27 of some of the greatest musicians of our time.

Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Brian Jones. Kurt Cobain. Founding bluesman Robert Johnson. All died at 27. Their stories, as well as those of ill-fated members of the Grateful Dead, The Stooges, Badfinger, Big Star, Minutemen, Echo & the Bunnymen, and The Mars Volta, are here presented for the first time as a profound and interlocking web that reaches beyond coincidence to the roots of artistic causality and fate.

The 27s is the first comprehensive account of the lives and legacies of the thirty-four musicians who make up (to date) rock’s most notorious myth. It is also a capsule history of rock & roll, twisting and turning through decades and genres, unfurling layers of numerology, philosophy, and astrology along the way. The text is complemented by compelling and multifaceted artwork that brings a nonlinear graphic-novel edge to this major contribution to the study of rock culture.

Index Librorum Prohibitorum roll call

free speech & censorship, history, religion

So, what works were on the Catholic Church’s infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum? Wikipedia has the answers.

The final version (1948) contained around 4,000 works, most of which are extremely obscure. Among the the well-known writers with at least some forbidden works: Pascal, Voltaire, Rousseau, Casanova, Sade, Flaubert, Hugo, Zola,Rabelais, Sartre, Beauvoir, Copernicus, Defoe, Milton, Graham Greene, and Swift. (Obviously, the odds were stacked against the French.)

More surprising are those whoese works who never appeared on the lists: Marx, Darwin, Hitler, Aristophanes, James Joyce, DH Lawrence.

book of the day > Divas of San Francisco

photography, sex


Divas of San Francisco: Portraits of Transsexual Women by David Steinberg (Red Alder Books, 2008)

David writes:

People who want to buy the book can get it at Amazon, or can send a check for $25 (half price plus postage) made out to me at:

David Steinberg
Red Alder Books
PO Box 641312
San Francisco, CA 94164


All images copyright 2007 by David Steinberg

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War of the Worlds images motherlode

archives, art/graphics, canon, science fiction

war-of-the-worlds-coverThis site displays the covers of 355 editions of Wells’ War of the Worlds, from 1898 to 2008, in English, German, Hebrew, Catalan, Chinese, Turkish, etc.


Another page on the same site has dozens of images from illustrated editions, graphic novels, and comic adaptaions through the decades.

And don’t miss the third page, showing miscellaneous imagery related to audio, video, models, fan art, etc.

Scientology bookshelf


Operation Clambake has an illustrated, annotated listing of pretty much every unauthorized book about Scientology ever published in English. They host or link to the full text of many of these books, including all the most important ones.

See also: The Secret Library of Scientology

book of the day > Peace: A World History

book of the day, war


Peace: A World History by Antony Adolf (Polity Books, 2009)

From the publisher:

How peace has been made and maintained, experienced and imagined is not only a matter of historical interest, but also of pressing concern. Peace: A World History is the first study to explore the full spectrum of peace and peacemaking from prehistoric to contemporary times in a single volume aimed at improving their prospects.

By focusing on key periods, events, people, ideas and texts, Antony Adolf shows how the inspiring possibilities and pragmatic limits of peace and peacemaking were shaped by their cultural contexts and, in turn, shaped local and global histories. Diplomatic, pacifist, legal, transformative non-violent and anti-war movements are just a few prominent examples.

Proposed and performed in socio-economic, political, religious, philosophical and other ways, Adolf’s presentation of the diversity of peace and peacemaking challenges the notions that peace is solely the absence of war, that this negation is the only task of peacemakers, and that history is exclusively written by military victors. “Without the victories of peacemakers and the resourcefulness of the peaceful,” he contends, “there would be no history to write.”

James Joyce’s lust letters

sex, writers' lives

I’m not sure how long they’ve been online, but James Joyce’s lust letters have recently been getting some notice in the blogosphere.

I wrote about them in my book The Disinformation Book of Lists: Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-fire Format, specifically in the list “12 Erotic Works by Well-Known Writers”:


Although his works stirred up trouble because of some racy passages, it’s his letters to his common-law wife Nora Barnacle that are downright filthy. So filthy, in fact, that Joyce’s literary estate has sworn that they will never again be published. But they were published around 40 ago in The Selected Letters of James Joyce. If you can get your hands on a copy, you’ll read things like “my dirty little fuckbird!” “pull out my mickey and suck it like a teat,” “I would love to be whipped by you,” “the heavy smell of your behind,” and “a little brown stain on the seat of your white drawers.” Yep, Joyce reveled in the sound and smell of Nora’s farts and turds. “I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere,” he wrote on December 8, 1909. “I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women.”

On December 2, 1909, he explained to Nora the twin feelings of love that he has for her—the spiritual side and the earthy, physical side:

It allows me to burst into tears of pity and love at some slight word, to tremble with love for you at the sounding of some chord or cadence of music or to lie heads and tales with you feeling your fingers fondling and tickling my ballocks or stuck up in my behind and your hot lips sucking off my cock while my head is wedged in between your fat thighs, my hands clutching the round cushions of your bum and my tongue licking ravenously up your rank red cunt.

These gloriously filthy, unashamed missives are truly some of the best erotic writing I’ve ever read. Joyce’s literary genius, his raging horniness, and his devotion to Nora are a combination that can never be beat. It’s a crying shame that his heirs now deprive the world of such high-caliber smut.


O’Connor on poets

canon, poetry, the "on" series

From the New York Times review of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor:

She propelled herself to both the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at times when life at both places was eventful, but she managed to steer clear of trouble. When her friend Robert Lowell began exhibiting extreme behavior at Yaddo, she recalled: “I was too inexperienced to know he was mad, I just thought that was the way poets acted.”

Translating the ancient badboys

canon, free speech & censorship, sex

The scholarly book Translation and the Classic: Identity as Change in the History of Culture includes the fascinating article “Translation and the ‘Surreptitious Classic’: Obscenity and Translatability” by Deborah H. Roberts, Chair of Classics at Haverford College:

Euphemism by generalization seems to be particularly common in translations of Martial, where the frequency of obscenity poses a particular challenge to those who aim at complete editions. So, for Martial’s ‘cunnum Charinus lingit et tamen pallet’ (1.77.6, Charinus licks cunt and is still pale) Bohn’s version has ‘Charinus indulges in infamous debauchery - and yet he is pale’ and the Pott/Wright versified translation has ‘And e’en his vices do not make him blush.’ Similarly, where Martial has ‘Pedicatur Eroc, fellat Linus’ (7.10.1, Eros gets buggered, Linus sucks), we find ‘Eros has one filthy vice, Linus has another’, and ‘Eros and Linus are debauched, you say.’ …

We find similar vagueness in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, in the passage in which Lysistrata draws the other women’s attention to the absence of any source of sexual satisfaction (107-110):

[Greek text omitted]

“Not even s spark of a lover is left.
And ever since the Milesians betrayed us,
I haven’t seen a dildo eight fingers long

Which might have been a leather source of help.”

A number of stranslators omit the dildo altogether, but Rogers’s translation offers a kind of place-holder for the unnamed object:

“No husbands now, no sparks, no anything.
For ever since Miletus played us false,
We’ve had no joy, no solace, none at all.”

Lest you think that wimpy translations of Martial are relics of the prudish past, Joseph S. Salemi’s accurate, unblushing translations stirred things up in 1990:

Responses were predictable: after reading some of my Martial translations in public, I was excoriated by the usual contingent of born-again Christians and militant feminists. Some academic careerists quietly urged me to drop the project of translating so repellent an author, lest I offend those inscrutable forces that dole out promotion and tenure. Editors showed even less spine; only six American journals out of fifty-four would publish selections from Martial–and this from a literary establishment that proclaims itself a defender of artistic freedom against Senator Helms. Typical was the comment of one trendy New York editor: “I enjoyed your translations immensely, but I could never print them.”

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