My little genius bounds up the
stairs at 7 a.m. yesterday, and while Mike steps into the shower, Leo and I
cuddle on the bed, which spurs him to say: “I dreamed about dreams. What did
you dream about?”
This one little sentence, for me,
tells a long story. A beautiful and complex story. Not only is Leo smart enough
to talk about dreams, and to either recognize the themes of his dreams or
realize it’s tricky to suggest one could dream about dreams, but he’s also learned to
ask other people their opinions.
He wants to dialogue with others. He doesn’t
simply want to talk about himself. Swooning.
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
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.
One way to consider the end of the year is to think about holiday parties and shopping.
But writers (and other creative people) have to also think about what they can finish (and possibly submit) in the final weeks of the year.
Yes, now's the time to think about this!
Take a look at your goals for the year. How are you doing? You don't need to grade too hard -- things change. Look at me.
My original goals for the year were:
*Publish a work of fiction somewhere (Ha ha!!!! Did not happen)
*Establish a regular exercise routine (not so much)
*Get a byline in a major national magazine (Still working on that one)
Then halfway through the year, I invented some other goals -- really I suppose replacement goals. And I'm doing pretty good on that front:
*Begin translating in earnest (I submitted my first translation to a literary magazine so I will check this one off)
*Find a regular editing gig (I'm now a contract editor, working part-time, at CNN so I will also check this off)
*Blog regularly for a literary magazine (I've developed a good relationship withAsymptote Journal, a wonderful online literary mag that celebrates writing in translation and world literature -- so that gets crossed off, too! Woot!)
But there's still more work to be done. Here's what I hope to do before Dec. 31, 2016:
*Finish translating the first half of an Italian novel I've been working on this year
*Submit something to a literary magazine before the end of the year -- in my case, probably a story from my Bennington thesis
*Finish the short autobiographical essay for a reach publication (reach!)
*Capitalize on the success of my New York Times essay by submitting another essay about parenting (possibly to the Washington Post)
I would love to hear from others (writers but also other creatives) about how you're mapping out the final leg of the year.
I will always get a thrill from seeing a mass of Italian magazines, newspapers, coffee containers, biscotti packages and other sundry items from Il Bel Paese -- especially if it's all for me!
In fact, this phenomenon of Christmas in October (or July or March) is the basis for an essay I wrote for Catapult that you can find here.
Basic summary: Mike has just returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy and now he's hauling back treats for not one Italophile, but two (hard not to love Italian things when your name is Leonardo).
I'm in magazine heaven, biscotti heaven, southern Italian coffee heaven, etc. And I have a new t-shirt! Not as good as Mike's, though, which actually features a shark plane dropping cannoli out of its cargo hold. Ahhh....Sicily!
Il sole quando sorge, Sorge piano E poi la luce si diffonde Tutto intorno a noi Le ombre ed i fantasmi della notte Sono alberi e cespugli Ancora in fiore Sono gli occhi di una donna Ancora piena d'amore. (il mitico Lucio Battisti)
Dante's Inferno (opening verses)
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita. * Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte che nel pensier rinova la paura! * Tant' è amara che poco è più morte; ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai, dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.
CANTO I, 1-9
Beach parking lot -- Peschici (FG), Puglia
Few things make me laugh as much as the sign on this building.