morning 03.15.17

Norman Thomas di Giovanni obituary. I feel inadequate to write anything substantial about his passing.

Discovery of widespread platinum may help solve Clovis people mystery. The relatively high concentrations of platinum at sites 12,800 years ago could be from a strike by an asteroid two-thirds of a mile across that would have triggered the Younger-Dryas period. No impact crater can be identified but the asteroid could have exploded in the atmosphere or struck the glacial ice sheet.

Silk Road was shaped by ancient nomads and their herds 4,000 years ago. Well, duh. 4,000 years is a conservative estimate.

Did ISIS inadvertently uncover the secret to the “lost” Hanging Gardens of Babylon? The Hanging Gardens of Nineveh, build by Assyrian King Sennacherib.

There is no such thing as western civilisation. Somebody tell that rotted pigheaded freak Bannon or that Nazi bootlick Gorka.

Steve Bannon in College: Grateful Dead Fan, ‘Jerry Brown Liberal,’ ‘Ladies Man’. When I started college in 1989, every single Deadhead I met drove a BMW and was an unrepentant racist. We traveled in the same circles because many of my friends smoked pot. Those were the first modern “libertarians” I met.1 I’ve lost track of most of them as they were all cretins and louts, but I’ve no doubt they’re now establishment conservatives who stroke themselves at the thought of a race war or a clash of civilizations. Have I mentioned that I never could get into the Grateful Dead?

American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone. Yes, yes- but here’s the point that people need to wrap their heads around.

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

This increase happened under Obama. That said, at current rate of 2017, the Trump administration will more than double the 2016 number.

Sunday I picked up used vinyl of Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians’ Element of Light. It’s never been one of my favorites of his, always liked and enjoyed, but not loved. Checking eBay, it turns out that it’s a pretty common record that I might have found even a dollar or two cheaper. It’s by far the most available Hitchcock vinyl on there. I’ve already played it at least six times. I already own most everything Hitchcock did until around 1995 on CD (and 1996’s Mossy Liquor on vinyl,) but I pay more attention when I have to flip the record. As many others have insisted, it’s less a format fetish than a listening ritual. This shouldn’t be another tangent I wander down, but it probably will.

Shannon Hurd Got a Life Sentence for Stealing $14. Then He Died in Prison from Untreated Cancer. Evil. This is evil. Jefferson Parish in Louisiana.

Liberals and diversity. Matt Bruenig.

Report: Trump voters in Michigan like economically populist Democrats. This plus Bernie’s town hall in West Virgina on Monday night should tell the Democratic Party something. No. They’ll keep pushing shit about Putin, the emoluments clause, and chasing tax returns.

Sunday Comics (A riff on FX’s show Legion). Legion is better than it has any right to be.


  1. I had an old school, hardline civil libertarian guy as a teach for 6th through 8th grade. He was eccentric, but I still remember him fondly because he taught the Louisiana Reconstruction era very critically and would urge everyone to join the ACLU in the early ’80s, holding up his membership card in a classroom of kids with parents in the KKK. []

“In that delicate duel…

…there were neither defeats nor victories nor even an open encounter…”

For the sake of proportion, I will post the response of one N.T. di Giovanni to this post, in which I quoted a portion of a letter Marian Skedgell (who is now or once was apparently an editor at Dutton) wrote to the Atlantic.  Ms. Skedgell asserted, among other things, that Maria Kodama “now regards Di Giovanni as a thief who stole thousands of dollars from her estate.”  Given that that bit was front-paged here, I think it is only right to front-page the response:

I had never before seen Marian Skedgell’s Atlantic letter. I had never before known that Maria Kodama thinks I stole money from Borges or from her. Talk of throwing the stone and hiding the hand. I am sorry to say that Kodama is ignorant of all that took place between others and Borges before she came along. By sheer coincidence, just this morning I came across some old correspondence dealing with the royalty divisions of The Book of Imaginary Beings. Among the vast library of things that Kodama does not know is that I doubled Dutton’s original offer for the book back in 1968. At the time, Borges was so uninterested in money that he did not even bother to tell me what his financial relations were with his co-author Margarita Guerrero. There is far more to tell, all documented, but I have miles to go before I sleep.

New (Old) Borges Translations on the ‘nets, with Strife!

(via RSB)

Norman Thomas di Giovanni, one of the finest translators of Borges, has posted several translations up on his website.  There was some grumbling about the translations in the Borges “Collected and Selected” volumes that came out a few years ago (item:  “Funes, His Memory” vs. “Funes the Memorious”).  Di Giovanni, whose talent and proximity to the master made him an ideal candidate for Chief Borges Translator, was apparently frozen out by Maria Kodama, a situation I was hipped to in the letter pages of the once-decent Atlantic:

As executor of Borges’s literary estate she has exhibited unparalleled power—power enough to delete an entire decade (1969—1979) from the story of his life.

In this decade the publisher E. P. Dutton published ten books by or about Borges, among them The Aleph and Other Stories 1933—1969. I served throughout this decade as Borges’s editor.

You will find these books, if you find them at all, in secondhand bookshops. Kodama has repeatedly refused to allow reprints of any of them, for the single reason that Norman Thomas di Giovanni had a hand in translating or editing the text. Their feud has its origin in the contract Dutton signed with Di Giovanni in 1969 for his translation of the first book, The Book of Imaginary Beings, and his work as translator for all the books to come. The contract, inexplicably, gave the author a smaller share of the royalties than the translator. Kodama now regards Di Giovanni as a thief who stole thousands of dollars from her estate. No reconciliation is in sight. Meanwhile, any biographical information she gave to Williamson must be regarded as unreliable.

This from one Marian Skedgell of Roxbury, Conn.

More here:

Translators are normally either paid a set, small fee by the publisher for their work, or, less commonly, a very low percentage of royalties. Borges had hit upon a generous and highly unusual agreement with di Giovanni that saw them split royalties equally.

For the Borges estate, this arrangement meant a 50 per cent reduction in its income from English language editions of some of his main works.

In the mid-1990s Kodama had a New York agent negotiate a lucrative new English-language deal, selling the English translation rights to Borges’s complete Spanish works. These would be the official English language editions, authorised by Borges’s estate, rendering the work by Borges and di Giovanni redundant and unpublishable, and giving Maria Kodama full copyright and the Borges estate 100 per cent of English royalties.

Bizarrely, in the name of Borges, this was condemning to obscurity those very works Borges had co-authored in English.

Di Giovanni’s story, which is implicit but never told in this odd volume, is of a loyal friend whose most significant work has been largely lost – hopefully not permanently – due to the woman Borges loved expressing her respect for her dead husband by managing his literary estate with a strong hand. Literature does not lend itself to the pathos of such a story, because love always plays better between the clapboards than friendship.

Perhaps this is why, finally, we recognise Borges less in di Giovanni’s pages than we do in Borges’s own, and why we feel we come closest to Borges in his own writings when he speaks of his love for other writers’ books; not in such works’ triumph over death, but in their transcendence of the individual soul.

Yes indeed.  Read the stories:

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote

The Approach to al-Mu’tasim