Proofreading after the fact

It doesn’t work. It just makes you look like a donkey’s rear end. And about as intelligent as its front end.

Example 1:

"i" instead of "y", except after "Chr"...

“i” instead of “y”, except after “Chr”…

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a picture of the Chrysler Building, labeled “Chrisler Building.”

It was found in an exhibit called “New York, New York!” at a big expo just outside of Lyon, France. A French person’s take on New York City, if you will. So of course, it opened with a scale model of the Statue of Liberty’s torch — gotta highlight the ties between the two great nations! Then it continued on to the jazz era, stock market crash, taxicabs, etc. Including a large swath of skyscrapers.

But what’s even more adorable about this hilarious typo is that they actually tried to fix it after the fact. If you look closely, you’ll see a faint overlay of a slightly translucent “y” over the much clearer “i” in the picture.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there was an even bigger problem. In the same lineup of iconic New York City skyscrapers, we saw, proudly displayed, a picture of the Tribune Tower.

In Chicago.

I’m sure they meant the Tribune Building. But by then, I had lost all hope. Gave up. Too depressed to take a picture. Even though it was a hilarious picture, with the first part of the “Chicago Tribune” logo on the building next door still visible.

So what, though? Most French people won’t know the difference. And it’s not going to have any sort of detrimental effect on their daily lives.

But it’s still wrong. And there will be people who notice. Probably a couple of important people. Maybe even clients. Or potential clients. If I had any relevant power, I’d be firing (or not ever hiring) the people who created that exhibit.

In conclusion, please be careful. Like I was, reading over this post four times before sending it off into the ether.


Don’t complain. The tables will turn.

Every time I come to France, I struggle with the…well, what should we call it…the brash entitlement of customers in the face of stubborn bureaucracy of administrations. And it’s inbred. They’re born with it. Whereas Americans have online articles explaining how to complain about poor service, the French just naturally push back against authority. Maybe they have to, because of the ridiculous red tape here. But that’s another idea for another time.

So I take it in stride when we’re applying for my monthly bus pass and the woman hands over a protective plastic sleeve for my card, which my companion immediately also asks for, since she never got one. And another man storms over, out of turn, to demand his own, complaining about how damaged and worn out the cards get without one, and then you have to pay for a new one, and you’d think with all that money they’re getting, they could at least provide protective plastic sleeves for everyone…whew.

I also take it in stride that the biggest sporting goods store in the biggest mall in town would have two workers manning the four self-checkout registers, which only take credit cards, and one lone cashier for the 20-minute-long line of other customers waiting to pay with cash or check. And the mumbling and grumbling that everyone in line is doing. Including my companion. Including her son, whom the trip was for. And I take in stride that everyone, including my companion, will express their displeasure orally with the lone cashier, who I’m starting to pity. And that my companion will grumble even more when a manager is called for a price check, which takes another few minutes.

And all of this, after half an hour of being wonderfully helped by the staff on the floor. But nevermind that.

But the tables do turn sometimes. After all of that, and after ringing up a whole cart’s worth of goods…her wallet isn’t in her purse.

Panic. Ever so slightly. (We don’t have the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with us, of course. We might panic.)

But instead of turning their backs when the tables have turned, everyone in the store willingly and generously rallies to help. Team members are dispatched to the areas where we were, the cashier works with us to accept another method of payment, and the reception desk explains how to contact them if it’s discovered that her wallet isn’t at home.

Which of course it is. Sitting on the kitchen table.

We all thanked them profusely for their help.


(P.S. Seriously, thank you, Decathlon. You were very helpful.)

Where I stand on Bookish

or: I’m glad I don’t have to be an investigative journalist, when there’s plenty of other people who will happily do that for me

Everyone in the publishing industry has been hearing about Bookish for quite some time. It had gone through a lot of leadership changes (3 CEO’s before even launching?), but it finally went live a couple of months ago.

For the blissfully unaware, it was supposed to end up replacing Amazon and Goodreads, giving people a new/better/different/sparkling way to discover and share books. But it’s not homegrown or built around the community like Goodreads, and it’s nowhere near vast enough to rival Amazon’s scope.

Also, there’s a bigger problem that people have been complaining about: conflict of interest. Bookish’s editorial team is supposed to be completely neutral and open to anything, thus making it easy for people to discover books they otherwise wouldn’t. But Bookish is run by three of the Bix 6 publishers (the mega-houses that have all the books and all the clout): Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Penguin.

Peter Winkler started talking about it over at Huffington Post:

“The exclusive author content Bookish offers, consisting of canned interviews with authors, book excerpts, and short essays, which gets refreshed periodically, is invariably written by or about authors whose books are published by Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster, or one of their imprints.”

But the cooler part was when The Digital Reader picked it up. Winkler hopped over to thank them for picking up his story, but then Rebecca Wright showed up, and started defending Bookish. Which makes sense, because she’s their executive editor.

Go there, scroll down, and read the comment exchange. It’s pretty cordial, and she convinced me not to out and out hate Bookish.

I personally still won’t be using the site anytime soon — look, I just got on Twitter last autumn, and I’m barely on Goodreads yet; I can only do one social media site at a time — but if they actually manage to diversify their content, like Wright is claiming they already are, then it won’t be terrible. Benefit of the doubt, people.

Been rejected, and it feels so good!

Oh wait.

No, no it doesn’t, really.

Actually not that great.

Especially when it’s one of the coolest pieces you’ve worked on to date, and you had crafted it so lovingly, and you had really thought that it fit the magazine perfectly, and you even had a colleague introduce you to the editor-in-chief herself…nope.

Turns out, there’s no Magic Bullet to getting a story accepted. I mean, I knew that. But rejection still sucks.

So you keep working. There’s an editing job today, and one lined up for tomorrow. There are still several irons in the fire, other submissions that you’re waiting to hear back from. And this is only one in a long string of rejections that are bound to come. You’re a writer, after all. Writers, all writers, even very good writers, get rejected all the time. (Except for possibly Neil Gaiman.) It’s a ridiculously large percentage: 9 out of 10, or 99 out of 100, or maybe even 993 out of 1000 submissions will be rejected. You just have to keep plugging away.

Besides, it’s still a very good piece of writing, skillfully translated. There are other journals out there. Eventually, someone will bite.

They have to. Right?

Regarding “The End of the World for Translation as We Knew It”

Rob Vandenberg wrote an article on Wired, all about his predictions for the translation market in 2013 and about how if you don’t think about “Big Data and the cloud,” you’re screwed.

Look, I understand where he’s coming from. There are so many time- and money-saving tips and tricks and techniques that businesses and regular ol’ people can use to make translation easier. There’s the CAT tools. The globalization analytics. Online management systems (I think the acronym is WEM, for web experience management). Social media and crowdsourcing. Some of these things are good, some are, well, not so good, both for business and for the translators themselves.

There is a place for all of this. Projects with high repetition and consistency issues blossom with CAT tools. International companies can hit unprecedented numbers of markets with globalization analytics. All of this is great, and business is booming, so they say.

Yet it takes the focus off of the artistry of translation and shines the light squarely on commerce, efficiency, and money. Again, that’s fine, especially in the financial world, or the legal world, or the pharmaceutical world. But.


That is not what I love about translation.

And that is why I will endeavor to translate literature and other creative types of writing for as long as my brain keeps humming along.

Santa makes me happy.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. So he can make people happy.

As usual, half of the things on my Christmas list this year were books. (The other half was divided between music, knitting supplies, the odd gift card, and a new heavy winter coat — I live in upstate NY now). This is both because I love to read and because it’s my job to read and write. I buy lots of books for myself and frequent the library and read articles online, but Christmas always means that I get even more books than usual. Which I love.

So, without further ado, here are three of this year’s favorites:


This year, I even got something useful in my daily work: the Collins Robert French Dictionary. This thing is a bible, both in size and scope. It’s bilingual, and as close to comprehensive as a print dictionary can get in this digital world. It’s going to replace the pocket dictionary currently on my shelves.

But, you ask, why? Didn’t I just read that this is a digital world? Why is this necessary?

And that’s a valid question. For me, it’s a matter of variety and security. Different dictionaries tend to have slightly different definitions, and being able to research many options for one word can sometimes make the difference between an okay choice and the best contextual choice.

And as for security, well, I usually use lots of online dictionaries, both free and subscription-based (I’m currently on a test run of the Oxford Language Dictionary online) because they’re faster. But the Internet is a fickle creature, and can crash, disappear, or not be available on travels.


In October, I went to the ALTA Annual Conference in Rochester, and heard Marian Schwartz talk about her new book, Maidenhair. It’s “an instant classic of Russian literature,” and I am so very excited to sink my teeth into it. I’ll let it speak for itself:

“Day after day the Russian asylum-seekers sit across from the interpreter and Peter—the Swiss officers who guard the gates to paradise—and tell of the atrocities they’ve suffered, or that they’ve invented, or heard from someone else. These stories of escape, war, and violence intermingle with the interpreter’s own reading: a his­tory of an ancient Persian war; letters sent to his son “Nebuchadnezzasaurus,” ruler of a distant, imaginary childhood empire; and the diaries of a Russian singer who lived through Russia’s wars and revolutions in the early part of the twentieth century, and eventually saw the Soviet Union’s dissolution.”

So. Excited. And I even met the wonderful translator, because as it turns out, people in the literary translation industry are categorically wonderful!


Another wonderful translator, who I hope to meet someday, is Gregory Rabassa. He’s the only reason that any Americans have read Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is one of my favorite books. Rabassa wrote a memoir of translation in 2005 called If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents. Rabassa is one of those people whose life and work proves that translators are writers, too. He’s one of those people who makes my job awesome, because he’s made my job exist. And he wrote his own book eight years ago.

Yes, please.


So, all I have to do is finish sobbing through reading Stone Upon Stone, which is my current obsession. I should really stop reading it before bed, though; it’s messing with my dreams.

Happy 2013! I’m back! Plus: previews of upcoming things

The holidays have been very good to me. Moving was successful, family time was wonderful, relaxation was had, and I even got a few nice presents (more on that in a later post — some should be of interest to my dear readers!).

Professionally, I made a conscious choice not to accept any jobs between Christmas and New Year’s. Instead, I used the time to very leisurely work my way through a novel sample whose deadline is now approaching fast, retool my (and my family’s) finances, and get my work life in order for the new year. It was a nice week of spending time with the people I love, with a couple calm hours of work inserted whenever I felt like working.

This was a good choice. I feel so much better about diving back in to a normal schedule starting tomorrow.

At any rate, exciting things are happening, and I’ve got some good posts simmering in the back of my head to write over the next few days and weeks. Here’s what you can look forward to reading about soon:

  • a wonderful review of a recent choir concert that made use of supertitles translated by yours truly
  • previews of The Last Love of George Sand, the biography of the famous French writer that I translated from Evelyne Bloch-Dano’s original book, slated for publication by Skyhorse on February 6
  • possibly a book giveaway for said biography, because I think it’s a fantastic story
  • and the aforementioned Christmas haul, of course

Sound good? Awesome. 2013 is going to be a marvelous year.