Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books II: Get Shorty-vich

Yuri's Sigh-beria

Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky may not be household names, yet, but they are the Nureyev & Fonteyn of Russian literature translation. Poor Constance Garnett!

The pair have made a new translation of the Pasternak modern classic, Dr. Zhivago. Some bookshops may need to re-inforce the shelves  to hold this tome,  and tree-planters better get busy in the forest. This text is not to be confused with the sentimental lightness of the unfortunate David Lean film. Oooh, Yuri....Ouch!

Santa is likely to bring a copy of the book to some unsuspecting Gen XorY-ovich in our house, but I wish that publishers would get back to giving Twitter-crazed readers a break by releasing long (450+ page works) in installments.

Konemann W&P, left
"Get back," you ask? Tolstoy's War & Peace was originally published in six separate parts. Dickens famously wrote in installments and received payment by the word. Dostoevsky? Same-ski. Yet, we send Beauregard and Elsie off to camp armed with thick David Copperfields for something we idiotically call "Summer Reading."

Newsflash: "Some Are Reading," but millions more are not, since they are overwhelmed by size and heft.

The new e-readers are clever contraptions, but those e-ditions require the same massive psychological leap for Texter-Tweeter readers, especially the young ones, that the hulking hardcopies do.

Literature profs will be offended by a suggestion that we "spoon-feed" great works, but the alternative is that people will only see literature as something they HAVE TO DO at school, in order to become a bond trader or founder of the next hipdip.com.

What we now call trade "paperbacks" cost about 3,000% more than volumes which  began life as "pocketbooks." Let's get back to that pocket-sized concept.

Mr. Penguin and Bill Murray (What about Bob?) had it right. Baby Steps.

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