Monday, November 21, 2016

The Reader's Lament

I’m in heaven and I’m in hell. And it’s a very specific form of heaven and hell.

What I mean is, my partner has just returned from Italy and he’s come back loaded down with every periodical known to man, specifically to Italian man (everyone but Nuovi Argomenti, that is, the one I asked for. Pazienza, he’s not a writer. He’s just an engineer.)

For someone who is a writer and an aspiring Italian translator such as myself, the bounty is Christmas-morning worthy. 

I now have the joy of looking forward to reading the Saturday editions of Il Corriere della Sera (with the culture section, yes!) and La Repubblica, plus a special edition of Bell’Italia (the most beautiful magazine I've ever seen, as I never tire to say) and a copy of Io Donna.

But mind you, a few weeks ago, I'd returned from ALTA (the American Literary Translators Association conference) where I snapped up a book of poetry by Eduardo Chirinos, a Patrick Modiano book and a literary travelogue of Mexico.

All of these reading materials arrived on top of reading I was already doing, including The Best American Short Stories of the last 100 years and E' Tutto Vita, a mass-market fiction book by the well-known Italian author (and TV personality!), Fabio Volo.

So what am I getting at?

Well, I want to dive right into the periodicals. I’m translating a book right now that is full of slang and I know that the magazines and newspapers will help me place certain expressions in the current moment of Italian popular culture.

It’s also just fun. Like an archeological dig for someone obsessed with the Italian language. I enjoy even reading captions of the articles on applying makeup and styling one’s hair (topics I normally have no interest in). Why? Because I love the otherness of Italy. I love the way they say “classe 1980” to indicate someone was born in 1980. In the class of 1980.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I have a lot of other reading to do. A lot. Like anyone who wants to translate, I’m constantly reading new Italian novels and perusing Web sites and lit mags for info on up and coming short story writers. (Finally finished Nadia Terranova's Gli Anni al Contrario).

I also have reading to do as an adjunct college professor. (I've assigned "Nickel And Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich to my Freshman composition students).

In other words, how does one balance all the reading one needs to do to remain in touch with his/her culture of obsession? (Or just one's intellectual obsession).

Does anyone have strategies to share? One that I often fail to adopt is to bring a book everywhere with me. I'd love to hear other ideas.

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