I had lunch recently with Uruguayan American writer Carolina de Robertis to talk about her excellent new novel, “Cantoras.” I found myself, instead, totally immersed in a conversation about literary translation. The writer of three previous novels and the collection “Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times,” de Robertis, who lives in Oakland, is also an award-winning translator of Latin American and Spanish literature.
I love to walk. It never fails to lift my spirits to get outside and put one foot in front of the other, whatever the season, urban or rural, early morning or evening, alone or with friends. Walking holds a special place in literature, both in novels where the characters themselves stroll, saunter, amble and drift, and in nonfiction books wherein some of our best writers muse about, theorize on and analyze the art of walking.
In our highly charged political world it seems everyone has a pet cause. It may be climate change, gun control or health care. Mine is immigration. In his first month in office, President Trump issued the first executive orders on immigration suspending visas, expanding the use of detention, limiting access to asylum, authorizing more aggressive ICE enforcement, banning Syrian refugees — the list goes on. Since then things have gone from bad to worse.
The other day, while listening to a podcast from “Selected Shorts,” the public radio program where actors read short fiction before a live audience, I caught Leonard Nimoy reading Raymond Carver’s dazzling, heartbreaking story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” The four characters sit around a kitchen table drinking endless glasses of gin and talking about love. And a lot more.
I love movies almost as much as I love books. Sitting in the dark, surrounded by strangers, with a bag of popcorn on my lap and lost in a story on the big screen, I’m in heaven. It’s right up there with curling up on a comfy couch with a soft fleece and a great novel.
The publishing industry classifies readers between the ages of 12 and 18 as “young adult,” or YA. When I was on the young end of that spectrum, one of my favorite books, I’m somewhat chagrined to admit, was “Seventeenth Summer,” a teenage romance written in 1942 (about 12 years before I discovered it) by Maureen Daly, herself a teenager at the time.
Sausalito is an easy target. All you have to do is stroll down Bridgeway Promenade any weekend afternoon and be engulfed in a stream of highly scented, unfortunately garbed, mimosa-swilling tourists shopping at the always-Christmas store or buying nautical-themed paperweights and you’ll have plenty of dissing material. Oh, I forgot the ice cream. Inexplicably, tourists always eat ginormous waffle ice cream cones, often at 10 in the morning.
I suck at poetry. I’m just no good at appreciating it. And I’ve always felt that’s a shameful character defect, especially for a voracious reader such as myself. So I recently set out on a self-designed poetry appreciation course. Naturally, I started with books to tell me how to fix the problem. And there are some excellent ones.
To some, armchair traveler is a derogatory phrase leveled at someone who learns about a place indirectly through books, movies and/or television without ever leaving home. Not me. I love being transported to a new world from the comfort of my couch, especially via beautifully crafted prose.
For Jack, the moment when he knew the long hours, the money woes, the countless details were all worthwhile came during the 2008 tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Tom Waits was onstage improvising music to “Coney Island of the Mind.” Marcus Shelby was playing bass. “It’s all downhill from here,” he thought.