May 2012

My collection of Pevear / Volokhonsky translations.

When I began these For Love of Books posts, I began them with a specific purpose.  Because I love books.  Not just the words inside, but books themselves.  And I hate the Kindle.  I don’t hate all E-readers, and I can understand why people flock to them on some level.  But for me, they will never replace books.  My specific hatred of the Kindle stems partially from the concept, but mostly from the fact that Amazon has replaced Microsoft in my Holy Trinity of Wrong (it now sits alongside Walmart and the Yankees).

I bring this all up here, because this specific post deals with books that you can buy as opposed to e-books that you can get for free.  My guess is that it is relatively easy to get the great Russian novels – the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov – for free.  They were almost all written in the nineteenth century and even the English language translations have long since passed out of copyright protection.

But, those free novels that you’re getting aren’t the whole piece of the puzzle.  Certainly they are worthy of reading and you will experience, through one literary vision, the great Russian works.  My guess is that that vision is the vision of Constance Garnett.  Garnett translated 71 Russian works over the course of her career and we should be thankful for how much we can read in English thanks to her.

But, they are no longer the last word.  They are no longer the best translations out there, as is made obvious with every new release.  Granted, I have no knowledge of the Russian language.  But I know the English language and I know literature.  And there’s a magical world available to us now, thanks to the work in the last 25 years of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.  They are the husband and wife team that has brought out new translations of the best works in Russian literature (excepting Fathers and Sons). (more…)

Posters pasted up in Seattle in the fall of 1999


  • Author:  George Orwell  (1903  –  1950)
  • Rank:  #17
  • Published:  1949
  • Publisher:  Secker and Warburg
  • Pages:  268
  • First Line:  “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
  • Last Lines:  “He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.”
  • ML Edition:  none – the Modern Library must have had problems with licensing Orwell because 1984 and Animal Farm are the two most conspicuous omissions from the old Modern Library
  • Acclaim:  Modern Library Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century – #13; All-TIME 100 Novels
  • Film:  1956  (**.5); 1984  (***.5)
  • First Read:  Fall, 1989


A shot that kind of sums up the greatness and problems of Chicago (2002).

The 75th annual Academy Awards, for the film year 2002.  The nominations were announced on February 11, 2003 and the awards were held on March 23, 2003.

Best Picture:  Chicago

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Gangs of New York
  • The Hours
  • The Pianist

Most Surprising Omission:  Adaptation

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  Spirited Away

Best Eligible English-Language Film Not Nominated:  Minority Report

Rank (out of 84) Among Best Picture Years:  #1 (more…)

The talent from down under shines in The Two Towers: David Wenham, Karl Urban and, of course, Miranda Otto.

My Top 20:

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  2. Gangs of New York
  3. Spirited Away
  4. The Hours
  5. The Pianist
  6. Talk to Her
  7. Minority Report
  8. Y tu mamá también
  9. Chicago
  10. Adaptation
  11. Solaris
  12. Road to Perdition
  13. The Quiet American
  14. Catch Me If You Can
  15. Lilo & Stitch
  16. Heaven
  17. 8 Women
  18. 24 Hour Party People
  19. Sunshine State
  20. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones


the 1st Edition cover of John Steinbeck’s immortal The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath

  • Author:  John Steinbeck  (1902  –  1968)
  • Rank:  #18
  • Published:  1939
  • Publisher:  Viking
  • Pages:  581  (Penguin paperback)
  • First Line:  “To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”
  • Last Lines:  “Her hand moved behind his head and supported it.  Her fingers moved gently in his hair.  She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously.”
  • ML Edition:  #148  (1941)
  • Acclaim:  Pulitzer Prize, Modern Library Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century  –  #10, All-TIME 100 Novels
  • Film:  1940  (****, dir. John Ford  –  #1 film of 1940)
  • Read:  Summer, 1996 (more…)