Geez, worst I ever do is grab a Big Turk without telling my wife

You know the impulse items at the checkout? What if one of them was a bookstore? This woman is interviewed about her split second decision to buy an entire bookstore after hearing Tracy K Smith speak on the radio. (Thanks, Tipster Art!)

Buried deep within the alluvial silt of Twitter’s great and brackish tidal id one discovers, every now and then, a gem pure and bright. So it was I came across this thread from Bayfield, Wisconsin resident Julie Buckles, telling the story of her impulse buy (!?) of used bookstore, What Goes Round, after hearing Tracy K. Smith on the radio. And instead of just embedding all her tweets (some of which you can read below), I got in touch with Julie to find out what the hell, exactly, transpired that night.

Who's your translator?

Because Tacitus was done by Elizabeth I. That’s right, the stern monarch shrink-wrapped in brocade with the giant forehead and frilled dinosaur fringe around her neck who would probably stalk you carefully through the jungles of Costa Rica before spitting acidic poison in your face and gorging on your intestines. Cool. Wait. Where was I? Oh, right: Lizzy was a translator.

As well as composing an impressive range of original works in verse and prose, Elizabeth I was an enthusiastic translator. Whether engaging foreign visitors in multilingual conversation or delivering withering ripostes in Latin to impertinent ambassadors, Elizabeth was celebrated for her linguistic abilities even in her own lifetime. Particularly strong in French, Italian, and Latin, she was also proficient in Spanish and Greek, whose alphabet would eventually pepper her everyday handwriting (in later years, she used “φ” for “ph”). She undertook translations of Jean Calvin, Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, Horace and Boethius, all of which survive today. Elizabeth’s perennial favourite, Henry Savile, produced a translation of Tacitus in 1591, which he dedicated to the queen, drawing particular attention to her “most rare and excellent translations of Histories”. John Clapham, another of Elizabeth’s contemporaries, refers to her translation of “some part of Tacitus’ Annals” in his history of the queen’s reign, which he composed with the help of the courtier Robert Cecil. Clapham mentions Elizabeth’s Tacitus first and foremost among the queen’s translations, which “she herself turned into English for her private exercise”. Though the other translations which Clapham mentions have since been accounted for, the Tacitus translation has thus far remained elusive.

NYer on William Gibson

Did you see how sick that segue was?? I’m telling you. Anyway, one of my first more literary loves, Mr. Gibson, gets a pretty decent piece of press in the New Yorker. Neuromancer BLEW MY 14-YEAR-OLD MIND in 1985. I read everything up until Pattern Recognition when it started to feel a little toooooo…. now. Which is what this article is mostly praising. Maybe I should let old George have a new crack at those titles? Do I need to read them in a particular order?

“Neuromancer” was science fiction for the modern age. The novel’s influence has increased with time, establishing Gibson as an authority on the world to come.

The ten novels that Gibson has written since have slid steadily closer to the present. In the nineties, he wrote a trilogy set in the two-thousands. The novels he published in 2003, 2007, and 2010 were set in the year before their publication. (Only the inevitable delays of the publishing process prevented them from taking place in the years when they were written.) Many works of literary fiction claim to be set in the present day. In fact, they take place in the recent past, conjuring a world that feels real because it’s familiar, and therefore out of date. Gibson’s strategy of extreme presentness reflects his belief that the current moment is itself science-fictional. “The future is already here,” he has said. “It’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Happy Tuesday: Everything is peachy

There’s an erratic sociopathic narcissist at the button, emaciated polar bears are headed south like an army of teeth, and Chinese librarians are burning books under state supervision. Sounds like a William Gibson novel.

In a photo that circulated on Chinese social media on the weekend, workers at a library located in Zhenyuan county in north-central Gansu province were shown burning books in an act the library described (link in Chinese) as a “quick and comprehensive” filtering and destruction of “illegal” publications, including books related to religion. The library said it wanted to enhance its function as a major propaganda tool in terms of promoting mainstream Chinese values. The post, which was originally published on Oct. 22, has since been deleted.

Literary Chicago

Chicago is one of my top three US cities (along with my old home in NYC and San Francisco), and whenever I go there I think, “Oh, so THIS is how Toronto could have been if it hadn’t fucked everything up…” I spend a lot of time at the Art Institute when there–but this LitHub article is about how wring all you can of the literary dishrag there over a long weekend.

When you think of Chicago, what writers come to mind? Algren, Sandberg, Bellow? While Barack Obama—or if you prefer, Michelle—has supplanted Al Capone as Chicago’s most famous citizen, outsiders’ awareness of the literary history of Chicago has yet to be updated.

If you ask locals, though, it is continually evolving—Congress Parkway was just renamed for pioneering journalist Ida B. Wells, and Gwendolyn Brooks now has a sculpture honoring her (one of only two women so honored in the city). While Chicago honors its past, it refuses to get stuck in it, continuing to produce great writers—so many that we have instituted multiple city-wide awards to honor them.

Hit them where they live

Teaching kids Ojibway verb conjugation with a card game about farts. Genius.

She said the best thing about the book and card game is that it teaches language learners of any skill level how to think quickly in the language and how to conjugate verbs. The game can teach learners over 100 variations of passing wind in a sentence, such as using past and future tenses and negatives.