Literature


Excerpts from a recent email inviting me to join a literary trip to Cuba led by Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Nonfiction magazine:

CubaCreativeNonfiction

I am writing to invite you to take part in the precedent-breaking workshop I will be teaching this winter in the enigmatic country where Ernest Hemingway wrote his most inspired books: Cuba.

What makes a country enigmatic?! And is Cuba only mysterious to you because you’ve never been there?

Afternoons and evenings, we’ll explore the city, the countryside, museums, markets, sporting events, and cafes, interviewing and observing the Cuban people and learning about the diversity that makes them unique.

Sounds like visiting a zoo.

If you click through for more information, it doesn’t get any better:

To enable you to become a better writer and truly begin to understand this enigmatic country, the spirited and gracious Cuban people are the focus of this program.

The $3,695 trip is sold out, but you can join the waiting list here. Or just poke fun at this on the internet. 😁

I was humored and humbled when Columbia University asked me to be on this panel:LATMFA

Very much looking forward to reading, to hearing the work of my fellow alums, and to seeing anyone in NYC who is able to come!

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Columbia Selects: MFA Alumni Readings
Thursday, March 5 @ 7 pm
KGB Bar 85 E. 4th St
F Train to 2nd Ave

What is Columbia Selects?  The first Thursday of each month, the Columbia MFA program hosts a reading series featuring Writing Program alumni. These fresh talents are finished with or near to finished with their first books, but do not yet have a book contract and/or an agent. In recent years, many of our featured writers have achieved critical and commercial success. This is your chance to glimpse who you’ll be reading in 2016!

Join us Thursday, March 5th, at 7 pm, for our stellar March lineup! Selected by the Columbia Writing Program, our readers are sure to dazzle and delight.

Our lineup this month:

Tanya Paperny is an essayist, translator, and editor based (mostly) out of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in Pacific Standard, VICE, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, The Literary Review, and in many other fine journals and magazines. Her collection entitled “Short-Shorts” was a semifinalist in the Gazing Grain Press 2014 Poetry Chapbook Contest. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and OMI International Arts Center, and she is at work on a collection of essays about violence, trauma, and resilience.

Elysha Chang is a writer from Virginia who lives in Brooklyn. Her short fiction has appeared in Bodega Magazine, The Literarian, and Park Slope Reader. She is an Emerging Writer Fellow at The Center for Fiction where she is at work on her first novel.

Andrew Eisenman is a writer and editor in New York. He’s a former assistant fiction editor of The American Reader and, before that, an editor at NOON. A 2012 teaching fellow at Columbia, he’s currently a senior editor of Kindle Singles. Andrew is working on a novel about the unraveling of a wealthy Ohio family.

Columbia Selects is curated by Bryan VanDyke and Emily Austin.

A few exciting updates:

  • My collection of poems entitled “Short-Shorts” was named a semi-finalist in the Gazing Grain Press Feminist Poetry Chapbook contest. I’d been feeling insecure about the work–it’s the most unusual thing I’ve ever written–but now that the collection of prose poems/flash nonfiction (or whatever you want to call it) has been honored in this way, I’m excited to keep sending it out. More information on the winners and the Press here.
  • I’ve become a contributor to the Washington City Paper. You can read my latest book review, about a former Washington Post reporter who covered D.C.’s crack epidemic while himself addicted to crack. This review is probably the first and last time I’ll ever get paid for a piece containing the words “blow job” (you’ll have to read the whole thing to find that), but an excerpt is below:

A new memoir by former WashingtonPost reporter Ruben Castaneda replays some of the lowest points in D.C.’s recent history: a time in the 1990s when cops couldn’t seem to do anything about gun violence, when drug-related turf wars led to scores of innocent victims and intimidation killings of witnesses, when my neighborhood of Edgewood was known as “Little Beirut,” and when some children in particularly stricken neighborhoods avoided gunfire by sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

Expect more from me in the City Paper over the next couple of months, and hopefully I’ll have more good news to share on the essay/poem front.

xo,

TP

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed

Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

I heard this quote last night during a performance by Carlos Parada Ayala at this amazing event. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A Facebook friend who’d moved to the U.S. from St. Petersburg in his thirties recently posted a frustrated status update in which he complained about a younger writer. This writer had immigrated from Russia as a child, and now wrote an overwrought (in my friend’s opinion) essay about her conflicted identity. His basic point was that since she’d grown up in America, she was essentially American. Her memories of the old country were childish and vague or, perhaps, even second-hand, based on photographs and stories. Not only did she speak English without an accent, she was more comfortable expressing herself in English than in her first language. The only experience of adulthood she’d had was an American experience. Most importantly, Americans didn’t perceive her as “other.” Because of this, my friend said, her identity issues, if not entirely made up for the sake of her readers, were greatly exaggerated. She didn’t face the daily oppression of being treated like a foreigner, of having to distinguish herself from a stereotype that rose like a wall in people’s minds whenever they heard accented speech. She didn’t experience the difficulty of navigating around cultural knowledge gaps that persisted in older immigrants long after they mastered the vernacular of everyday life. So why, my friend wondered, why was she being such drama queen about the difficulty of her bifurcated identity? My friend found it unseemly. Nabokov, he argued, had never made a peep about his identity troubles.

Above quote from Anya Ulinich, in her introduction to Karolina Waclawiak’s novel How to Get Into the Twin Palms (bolding my own).

If her friend is right, I guess I should just stop writing. All my stuff is about complicated identities, but as an American-born daughter of Soviet immigrants, I suppose I have no real reasons to feel such complications. LOL.

Poet and novelist Alejandro Zambra on “Silence and Silencing,” via BombBlog (via Montana Ray):

The language of parents, the silence of our parents: sometimes we didn’t even know their position on what was happening in Chile. It was a way of protecting us. This was a very common sentence: we don’t talk politics in this house. Because it was understood that politics divided families, and because speaking was dangerous in itself. It was especially dangerous to speak about these topics with the neighbors. Television, as such, concealed reality with immense effectiveness, thoroughly compromised with the repressive apparatus. Nor did we know if our parents were the way they were owing to fear and repression or simply because that’s how adults always were. What were the differences between being an adult and being an adult under a dictatorship? I tended to think that grown-ups were boring, gray, stingy: only two or three adults seemed amusing or luminous to me. And what was the difference between silence and silencing? Or between being a child and being a child under a dictatorship?

Read the whole article here.

Besos y abrazos,

TP

My dear friend Yardenne Greenspan just had her translation of Israeli fiction published by New Vessel Press last week (congrats!). World Literature Today ran an interview with her, where she says some really smart things about translation:

There are so many interesting theories on translation, and many of them focus on the question of foreign-ness versus seamlessness; how natural do you want the translation to sound in English versus how much of an “exotic” feel do you want to preserve. I think a good balance is necessary. You don’t want readers to have to pause and scratch their heads at weird sentence structures or grammatical awkwardness, but on the other hand, you want to give them that little something, that curiosity that comes with reading something set in a new place, where people speak differently and joke differently and love differently.

Read the full interview here, and buy Yardenne’s translation of Some Day by Shemi Zarhin here (e-book or print).

 

Screen Capture of "Russian Roller-Coaster" at VICE.com

My translation of this wonderfully crazy short story by Andrei Krasnyashykh was just published at VICE magazine, as part of their ongoing VICE Reader series that features literary fiction and other literary snippets.

An excerpt of my translation:

It’s so simple, after all. God is everywhere. A shirt button fell off because God. They were showing a movie on TV because God. I got hungry because God. Women put on makeup because God. My neighbor’s dog got lost because God, because I poisoned it, because God wanted it this way, so I, so it wouldn’t bark at me.

God knows everything I don’t know. Like, I don’t know who lives in Brazil, but God knows. I don’t know why salt is white, like sugar, but not tasty, but God knows.

Sometimes I act like a mouse, because suddenly God thinks I’m a mouse. Then I think, and then suddenly God thinks I’m not a mouse, and I start to fly, because God suddenly thinks I’m a bird. And they say: you’re flying because you know how to fly, and maybe God doesn’t even know you know how to fly. I say: if God didn’t know that I know how to fly, then I’d be swimming, and God would have known I swim.

And they say: but we swim when God doesn’t know we swim. I say: And your tail and fins, where are they? Who swims without fins? Without fins shit swims. And when God knows I can swim, I swim with fins and a tail. Like you’re supposed to.

Read the whole story here. Read other entries in the VICE Reader series here.

Ack. I love Daniil Kharms, especially when he’s translated by Matvei Yankelevich.

There lived a redheaded man who had no eyes or ears. He didn’t have hair either, so he was called a redhead arbitrarily. He couldn’t talk because he had no mouth. He had no nose either. He didn’t even have arms or legs. He had no stomach, he had no back, he had no spine, and he had no innards at all. He didn’t have anything. So we don’t even know who we’re talking about. It’s better that we don’t talk about him any more.

From Ugly Duckling Presse.

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