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A Salute to SPANISH POETRY, by John Howard Reid

March 8, 2012 5 comments

A Salute to SPANISH POETRY

100 Masterpieces from Spain & Latin America

rendered into English verse by John Howard Reid

[This book has no back cover copy]

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 A Salute to Spanish Poetry: 100 Masterpieces from Spain & Latin America Rendered Into English Verse is an anthology of various Spanish poems: some hundreds of years old, others much more contemporary, and they’ve all been translated into English by John Howard Reid. I am a great lover of poetry: it provides an intense literary experience and at its best, poetry can inspire and enthral, but sadly this collection does neither.

Mr. Reid might well be a good speaker of Spanish; he might even be a good, if literal, translator. But he’s either no good at translating poetry; or he has picked some really bad stuff to translate.

The versions of the poems in this anthology are stodgy and dull; they’re full of clichés; they’re free from assonance, alliteration and rhythm; their meanings are often unclear, and despite each one being written by a different author there is little variation of voice or tone across the collection. This translator has neither a light nor a sensitive hand.

You have probably worked out by now that I am not terribly impressed by this book. These poems, read in this English form, lack all sense of grace and significance. But my main concern, when reading this collection, was one of copyright. While the bulk of the poems it contains are out of copyright a few of them were written more recently, which means that when this volume was published they were still protected by copyright and the permission of the authors, or their literary estates, would have been required to use them in this way. And yet there are no acknowledgements in this book; there is no attribution of where the poems were first published. But there is statement which reads “text and photographs copyright 2010 by John Howard Reid”.

Mr. Reid does not have the right to claim that copyright as the work is not primarily his: what he’s done, in putting his own copyright onto this edition in this way, is to imply that he not only translated these poems from the Spanish but that he also wrote those first Spanish texts.

As I see it, Mr. Reid has very few options open to him. He must seek written permission from the literary estates which he has exploited in publishing this book, and if such permissions are not forthcoming he must remove the appropriate pieces from his next edition; and while he’s waiting for such permissions to be granted he must withdraw this edition from sale.

If he does have the permissions required to use these works in this way then he must indicate that in all further copies of this book, and ensure that he acknowledges the authors of these poems appropriately in all future editions of this work, and in all other translations he has published.

Of course, I could be wrong: Mr. Reid might well have reached an agreement with the authors and literary estates concerned that it was fine for him to claim copyright and to use these works without proper attribution: if that’s the case then I apologise unreservedly to him for the comments I’ve made regarding copyright in this review. But I do not apologise for my comments regarding the flat and uninspiring nature of his translations. I read five of this book’s one hundred and forty eight pages, skimmed through a few more, and felt extremely reluctant to read any more of it.

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Ordeal: T K Varenko

November 11, 2010 2 comments

It is a verse-ornated story
About love, betrayal, wrath
Royal vampires’ bliss and glory
Bringing them straight to their death.

Luella, fierce, strong vampire,
Falls for a pretty human catch
Sent on her fiancé’s desire
To celebrate they are engaged.

This unexpected turnabout
Is doomed to come to a dead end:
Her human sweetheart’s dead to shroud:
Her fiancé’s avenged for that.

And she is punished for blood treason,
Banished into a mortal child,
Whose human body is a prison
For all her powers to bind.

Her memories obliterated,
She is to find her love at last
Who proves to be too much related
To the misfortunes from her past.

Ordeal is a vampire story written completely in verse, which follows a simple A – B – A – B four line form. It’s a relatively easy form to write if you have a good awareness of rhythm and rhyme; sadly the author of this book appears to have neither.

His lines don’t scan, his rhymes often don’t actually rhyme; he uses words which almost sound good but don’t mean what he seems to think they mean; and several of his verses make no sense at all.

He has forgotten to put his own name on the front cover of his own book; the cover image he has chosen is extremely unappealing, and brings to mind the inside of a mouldy eyeball, complete with blood vessels; the back cover copy is almost illegible as the font used is over-fancy and out of focus; and the book has no copyright page.

The writing is quite astonishingly bad: this verse reads as though it has been dragged backwards and forwards through Babel Fish a few times. I read five and a half pages out of two hundred and twelve despite ignoring several of the author’s less significant lapses, and I strongly urge this writer to put in a lot more work on his craft before he even considers publishing anything else.

The Genius of the Metropolis: Ronnie Lee

January 14, 2010 Comments off

Philosophy & Social Aspects

WHEN THE MATERIAL WORLD ENCOUNTERS THE SPIRITUAL REALM

This book is meant to show you,
Some connections between money,
Politics, economics and business,
To spirituality, morality and philosophy.

Much theory has been understood,
Regarding monetary policy,
But this book is meant to just remind us,
How this material World,
Interacts with our spiritual,
And moral compass…

The Genius of the Metropolis: Spiritual Economics and General Philosophy is the fifth volume of philosophy and poetry written by well-renowned author Ronnie Ka Ching Lee. In this latest work, Lee takes a holistic approach to the study of economics, approaching it with the heart of a poet in order to better understand the true nature of business. The Genius of the Metropolis analyses good and evil, social problems, duty, and work, and offers the reader ways to adapt and win at what he calls “the metropolitan life.”

Lee has lived and studied in the United Kingdom, and now dwells in Hong Kong. His previous works for Outskirts Press include The Book of Life, the Meaning of Life, The Philosophy of Life, and Poems of Life: Inspirational Knowledge for Life.

There’s a good reason why few commercial publishers publish poetry: even the best collections sell in very small numbers and just aren’t commercially viable. Mr. Lee would have done well to consider that before publishing The Genius of the Metropolis: Spiritual Economics and General Philosophy: not only is it a collection of poems, it’s a big book; it runs to 638 pages and weighs over two pounds.

I am not convinced that poetry—which is a traditionally unpopular form, much as I love it—is the best form for Lee to use to reveal the complexities of his own very personal philosophy of how economics and spirituality intertwine. Despite poetry’s brevity and apparent simplicity it’s a very difficult form to get right. It requires really stringent revision and editing, and depends on a clarity and depth of meaning which is completely lacking from Mr. Lee’s work.

The poems in this book are full of unnecessary repetition, their meanings are rarely clear, and the author’s logic is often completely out of kilter with the real world. On several occasions I found myself having to stop and re-read in an attempt to unravel the meanings behind Mr. Lee’s completed prose, and more than once I failed completely on that front.

This book would gain a lot by being edited strongly and cut by at least half; and if the author would learn about logic and fallacy before attempting those tasks, he would do himself, and his future readers, a great favour. I read just five pages, I’m afraid.

A Different Kind Of Sentinel: Sir E J Drury II

October 8, 2009 Comments off

Personal Memoir

Having grown up in eastern Missouri, Sir E. J. entered the Navy after a brief stint at the US Naval Academy. For two long years did he struggle, in and out of sleep, with the true enemy of mankind — the Beast. And for the past twenty has he struggled to give form to this book, that you, the reader, might decide to join the fray and save humanity from its self and the destructive side of its animal nature.

A TREK THROUGH THE DARK SIDE IN SEARCH OF SOUL AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

“…a truly remarkable memoir that is as much about the author as it is about the soul and their eventual reunion…”

“Haven’t you heard? The Beast has been unleashed.”
“What beast?” you ask.
“Why that part of Nature which still defies Consciousness.”
“I don’t understand,” you exclaim.
“You will by the time you finish reading this story. Trust me.”
“Why should I?” You inquire.
“You have your soul to free and heaven to gain, and little time for either.”

“Once I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. You go where no one has ever dared. And for that you are to be commended.” David Stewart, Stewart Publishing

“It may very well go on to become the book of the century, or for that matter, the book of the millennium.” Harold Terbrock, Retired Carpenter

Sir E. J. Drury II (who is credited as the author of A Different Kind of Sentinel) has a pretty good grasp of punctuation overall, although he uses far too many commas which has the effect of stopping the flow of his words and giving his whole text a choppy, staccato beat. And this over-use of commas is part of a much larger problem: the style that this writer favours.

He habitually inverts his sentences and uses a dated and particular vocabulary. These two stylistic quirks combine to give his writing a dialect-like air, and the closest I can get to describing the origins of that dialect is to suggest that it’s a sort of pidgin-Biblical. It’s nowhere near as rich, textural or magnificent as the text of the King James version, though, and rather than accentuating and emphasising Drury’s text, these linguistic quirks of his only serve to knock his many writerly failures into sharper focus.

Drury’s uncomfortable style, his frequent and perplexing changes of tense, the many nonsensical sentences that I found, and his insistence on recounting great swathes of his own dreams within the text, meant that I read just five of this book’s two hundred and eighty six pages. Sadly, this is another self-published book which fails to please.

al-Qaeda Strikes Again

June 11, 2009 Comments off

Bill Binkley:

Has taken his first excursion into fiction with this fast-paced and exciting book about international terrorists.

al-Qaeda Strikes Again

The inexplicable suicide of a female passenger at JFK International Airport and a secret list discovered by authorities in Pakistan set the stage for a diabolical and deadly a-Qaeda plot involving simultaneous and catastrophic acts of terrorism across the United States. In a race against time, the only question is whether Terrorism Task Force Leader, Wayne Kirby, and his Rambo-like girlfriend, Rennie Jordan, will live long enough to unravel the details, find the terrorists and put a stop to their deadly jihad.

A few months after OJ Simpson’s murder trial a flood of novels about celebrities who had got away with something appeared on editors’ desks. The ones I saw offered nothing new and were, on the whole, barely-disguised retellings of OJ’s tale.

A similar influx of derivative works arrived after 9/11, only this time they had a far more sinister edge. Stories in which the bad guys were bad guys simply because they were Muslims, or Foreign, littered the slush-piles. Most paid little attention to developing a believable plot or creating compelling characters: simply showing (or more usually, telling) that a character was somehow Other was considered enough to establish him or her as a potential terrorist. It is a deeply racist approach, and one which the author of al-Qaeda Strikes Again relies upon to tell his story.

The book begins with a woman flying into America and dying soon after she arrives at the airport. Right from the start she is suspected of being a terrorist despite there being no evidence of that apart from her name: Safia Makhdoom.

Luckily, this story is told so very badly that I didn’t have to read much of it is to find my fifteen errors. The book contains a fair scattering of punctuation problems (hyphens are commonly used when dashes should appear; comma-splices abound), a couple of spelling mistakes, and numerous nameless characters which are indistinguishable from one another. The one exception is an “officer” (of what, I’m not quite sure) who is distinguished from his colleagues by the “epaulets” [sic] he wears. Whole weeks are lost in time-slips; characters disappear on trips which should be mysterious, considering how little reason or excuse is given for them: instead they are simply dull absences of dull characters in a book which you’d be better off avoiding.

I read five pages of this one, and suggest that you don’t even consider trying it.