Are There Words with That? and Turning off the Like Button

Unlikely though it might seem, I have become an aficionado of the Book in a Box.

It started this spring when I bought a used copy of the 1975 Folio Society edition of Rosemary Edmonds’s translation of War and Peace.

David Bellos Is That a Fish in Your Ear 11431000I became interested in Edmonds during my reading of David Bellos’s stunning book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?:  Translation and the Meaning of Everything.  He quotes a passage from Edmonds’s translation of War and Peace to illustrate how Tolstoy links “the force of an utterance…to the identity of the speaker”…

The excerpt was so direct and simple that I wondered if Edmonds might be the bridge between the “Victorian-novel” elegance of Aylmer and Louise Maude  and the roughness of  Pevear and Volokhonsky.  And so I ordered the 1997 Folio Society reprint of Edmonds’s translation, which she originally did for Penguin.

Frontispiece of the Folio Society edition, 1997 reprint. Edmonds translation

Frontispiece of the Folio Society edition, 1997 reprint, Edmonds translation

My experience with classics has taught me that English translations rarely capture the unique style and structure of foreign languages:  the English translations of Catullus, the most sinuous, sensuous of poets who sometimes translated Sappho,  are very stilted , with the exception of David Ferry, who reworks the poems so that they are far from  literal translations.  We are completely dependent on the translator if we do not know the language. I certainly do not know Russian.  The elegant Maude translation has been imprinted on my brain, but Edmonds’s smartness and lucidity are equally striking.

Right now I am reading Edmonds’ translation of  Anna Karenina.  I bought yet another beautiful book in a box–the 1975 Folio Scoiety edition–which has illustrations by Dodie Masterman.

My husband wants to know, “Are there words with that?”

I think the illustrations add something to the text.:)


I disapprove of social media.

It is lazy.  It is dull.

It is panem et circenses 

Facebook  is an advertising and surveillance network, Twitter (ditto),  Goodreads (ditto), Shelfari (ditto), etc.

And here at WordPress I practice the craft of blogging, i.e., posting diary entries on the internet instead of in the pages of my orange leatherette  diary (from Target, the fun, stylish box store).  My blog is very fast–draft and post in a few hours–unlike the crisp writing I did for money at my old job.  It is social media!

There is a superabundance of social media on the internet.  Very little of it has value.  But I understand it will last forever, like atomic waste.

In 2012 several male critics  attacked  blogs and social media. It was  male networking at its finest.  Editors, critics, computer guys–you name it, they were gathering at their clubs. I expected them to read Robert Bly and go camping in the woods and howl.  They complained that social media were destroying book and film criticism.  Social media are too “nice,” or was it “too mean?”  I thought they sounded like a ridiculously whiny out-of-date Greek chorus.  The internet has ruined not just criticism–it has ruined everything!  Don’t they get it?  Are they not on this planet?  No more letters, no more bookstores, no more music stores, live-streaming of this and that (and I just got used to my DVD player and CD player and I don’t think my 15-year-old TV is capable of live-streaming), no more writing (try not to say more than a sentence or two and use a lot of emoticons and abbreviations like u for you), no more newspapers (they’re dying), no more post office (it is cutting back hours), no more pay phones, no more ozone layer (well, I can’t blame that on the internet).   They’re just hoping the damned cloud with our information will stay up because we’re going to spend a lot of time indoors.

Oh, and just so you know:  I turned off the like button.  Likes were starting to make sense:  that’s why I had to pull the plug.  Because a like button is the la-a-a-a-a-z-z-z-z-iest communication on earth

4 thoughts on “Are There Words with That? and Turning off the Like Button

  1. Fair point – although the like button is useful if you’ve read and enjoyed a post, but don’t feel you have anything meaningful to say about it. You’re kind of acknowledging the author’s work even though you don’t want to comment. As for books in a box – the Folio editions are lovely and I often wish I had the money and space for more of them. Glad to hear your recommendations of Edmonds – I shall look out for her translations!


    • You’re one of the really kind people who bother to like and comment! I do want to be “liked,” but the social media “like” affirmation gets a little manic. It’s pre-verbal or something. I found myself “liking” a bunch of blog posts the other day and thought, No, no, words or nothing! And the words do not always come!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have that feeling with the like button sometimes- there’s a few people who I feel don’t even open blog posts and read them, they just like everything and hope you visit their blogs… I do use the like button for two purposes, as the person above said, when I’ve read something and liked it but can’t add anything to the conversation and more likely, when I’m reading blog posts on my phone, can’t reply to the post then, but wish to view it later, I will like the post and go use that as a bookmark later. Sometimes I’d comment, sometimes not. But sometimes, I’m lazy using it.


    • I should count myself lucky there’s not a “dislike” button. Sometimes i go on a rant. I found myself clicking the like button at blogs and thought, No, I don’t want to go that route. But you’re right: there are uses for it.


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