A clear and comprehensive guide to a complex locale.

TAIWAN

FIFTY THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW

A brief but practical and thorough introduction to Taiwan.

Brooklyn-based writer and counselor Altman visited Taiwan for the first time in 1995 and was immediately enchanted by what he called a “place of extraordinary natural beauty.” He would return many times and developed a deep appreciation for Taiwan’s complex past and rich culture as well as the threatened democracy’s global importance. The author aims to deliver an “educational and entertaining” primer, and he largely succeeds, beginning with a brief but impressively synoptic history that includes the original settlement of the territory by people of Austronesian heritage tens of thousands of years ago. The book is as practical as it is whimsical; one learns practical tips, such as how to navigate the Taiwanese metro and shop for bubble tea, but also about the national dog and the ubiquity of musical garbage trucks. Altman also discusses Taiwan’s fraught political history with great clarity, particularly in relation to China, and concludes his book with an impassioned case for its independence: “As a democratic society, the Taiwanese people should be able to decide their own future in any way that they see fit.” For those with limited knowledge of Taiwan and especially for those planning to visit, this introduction is helpful and easy to digest. Altman’s style is lucidly informal, and he manages not only to prepare the first-time visitor for day-to-day aspects of a trip—for instance, there’s a lengthy discussion of the prevalence of Wi-Fi connections—but he also limns a vivid portrait of Taiwan’s national identity. The author clearly writes out of great personal affection for the area and its inhabitants, and, as such, his accounts can feel a touch rosy; one gets the impression it’s a place that’s rich in virtue and virtually free of vice. This minor quibble aside, it’s an easy, enjoyable and informative read.

A clear and comprehensive guide to a complex locale.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2021

ISBN: 979-8755698757

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Gaupo Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A scrupulously honest and consistently thoughtful love letter to “the most intense form of reading…there is.”

TRANSLATING MYSELF AND OTHERS

The acclaimed author and translator offers thoughts on the latter art and craft.

A Pulitzer Prize–winning author of fiction in English, Lahiri moved to Rome in 2012 to immerse herself in Italian. Since then, she has published both a memoir and fiction in Italian and translated several works from Italian to English. This volume collects several pieces written over the past seven years—her translators’ notes to the novels Ties (2017), Trick (2018), and Trust (2021) by Italian writer (and friend) Domenico Starnone; stand-alone essays; and lectures and addresses—as well as an original introduction and afterword. A few themes emerge: Lahiri frequently returns to Ovid and Metamorphoses, most notably in her lecture “In Praise of Echo” and her moving afterword, which recounts her process of translating Ovid as her mother declined and died; metaphors of immigration and migration—Lahiri is both the daughter of Bengali-speaking Indian immigrants and an immigrant herself, twice over—ground other musings. Possibly the most provocative piece is “Where I Find Myself”—on the process of translating her own novel Dove mi trovo, from the original Italian into English as Whereabouts (2021)—an essay that finds her first questioning the ethics of self-translation (probed with a surgical metaphor) and then impelled to make revisions for a second Italian edition. The weakest essay is “Traduzione (stra)ordinaria / (Extra)ordinary Translation,” an appreciation of Italian revolutionary and thinker Antonio Gramsci, whose Letters From Prison reveal a linguist as ferociously compelled to investigate the process of translation as Lahiri herself. Composed originally as remarks for a panel, it reads like an elegantly annotated list of bullet points that will have readers wishing Lahiri had revised it into a cohesive essay. Readers may also find themselves envious of the author’s students of translation at Princeton, but this sharp collection will have to do. Two essays originally composed in Italian are printed in the original in an appendix.

A scrupulously honest and consistently thoughtful love letter to “the most intense form of reading…there is.”

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-691-23116-7

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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