Brain on Display


Deadlines! You guys, my deadlines are murdering me right now. I am working on a lot of really great things! That I can’t talk about yet! So you’ll just have to trust me when I say they are awesome and I am excited for you to get to read them. I’m also getting ready for my annual pilgrimage to the mecca of manga, which means I have even less time for chattering about all the books my brain is battling. (Don’t worry though, I always make time for my brain to actually battle the books. The books on the shelf of unread books won’t read themselves.) So why not listen to what my brain has to say about translating? I am “starring” in an interview over at Tofugu (and can I just say how much I love that title? It makes the whole thing sound super cute. Especially with the adorable illustration they did of me. Cute explosion!), so go read that. And hopefully, my brain will have new words about new books again next week.

Phantasm Japan: Nick Mamatas, Masumi Washington (eds.)


The thing I like about doing translations for short story collections is that when I get my comp copy, I actually want to read the book. I mean, I am honestly delighted each time I get a book I translated from the FedEx guy. He’s pretty nice and it is such a thrill to see the words I agonized over all tidied up and on the printed page. And I will never get tired of seeing my name in the back. But I never actually read the books. I have already read the words they contain far, far too many times. They are burned onto the backs of my eyelids.

Because when you translate a book, you don’t just read it and then you’re done. You read it, and you read it, and you read it again, and then maybe you skim it for a numbers check (always double check the numbers!!). And then you read it again. You maybe read the book more often and more deeply than its author did. Because the author knows what she meant. The translator has to discern this from nothing more than the words on the page. Continue reading

Wombs: Yumiko Shirai

Wombs I have a tendency not to read the backs of books or any summary blurbs on anything. They’re often written in a way that is totally off-putting to me (a perfect example of this is the first sentence from the back of my favourite movie Trust: “The film concerns the unusual romance/friendship between two young misfits wandering the same Long Island town.” Triple yawn!) and they usually give too much of the story away for my liking. I get that these blurbs are there to convince people to buy the book/movie, so you have to give the people something, but I much prefer walking into something totally blind. (This is also why I only read reviews once I’ve read/seen the work or for works I have no intention of ever reading/seeing.) So all I knew about Wombs before I started reading it was that it has a seemingly ridiculous title (which is actually a perfect title now that I’ve read it) and that it’s by Yumiko Shirai.

Yumiko Shirai! Remember her? I loved her debut work so, so much that I was pretty much willing to try anything else she wrote, even if it starred accountants doing tax returns for other accountants. Fortunately, she is not forcing us to read about accounting with Wombs. Instead, it is another war-related story, although this one takes place while the war is still ongoing. And I have to say, I’m pretty sure this is the weirdest premise for a story I’ve ever come across. Basically, women are impregnated with aliens so that they can teleport. For real. Continue reading

Sayonara Mina-san: Tsuchika Nishimura

Sayonara/Tsuchika_NishimuraAnd yet again, I have The Beguiling to thank for something fun to read. Perhaps a little indirectly since I did not pick this one up at the store (although they do have a selection of books in Japanese, this was not one of them), but rather owner Peter emailed me out of the blue one day to ask if I had read this. And I had not. And it looked pretty good. At the very least, I fell in love with the awkward bubble letters of the title on the cover; they just seemed to promise such good, somehow honest things inside. But maybe I am biased about awkward bubble letters since this is basically how I have always done them. I like the extra lines. It’s like seeing the guts of the letters somehow.

Plus what is even happening on the cover? Giant shadow person, enormous teddy bear, trees, trees, trees, random birds flapping by, high school girl ass over tea kettle. So yeah, not long after being asked if I had read it, I was busy ordering it and looking forward to figuring out what it all meant. Continue reading

No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!: Nico Tanigawa (Trans. Krista Shipley, Karie Shipley)

No MatterSo that is officially the longest title of any manga I have ever read or any book my brain has battled in these pages. And this is also the only manga I’ve ever read only in English on these pages, and possibly the only manga I’ve read only in English since I was a young monkey who had never been to Japan and actually wasn’t particularly interested in changing that. I only cared about Sailor Moon. The fact that she was Japanese was incidental and not all that interesting to me at the time. (Now, of course, I have many a thought about how connected Sailor Moon is in fact with Japanese culture and society, thoughts my brain and I may share one day!)

But if I hadn’t know that this was a Japanese comic, I would have assumed it was by an American (albeit with an unhealthy and obsessive interest in Japanese pop culture) because the English is so great! Honestly, this thing is so well written and natural sounding. Characters say things that actual native English-speaking humans would say, complete with the most effortless use of slang I’ve seen in ages. As I already mentioned, I haven’t read the Japanese, so I can’t testify to the accuracy, but this translation works as a final English text, and I would definitely recommend it to any baby translators out there looking to improve their game. The editor is not listed in the credits, as seems to be the norm for Yen Press books, but whoever you are, mystery editor, I extend my high fives for this work to you as well. As Editor Appreciation Day showed us so recently, our editors are who make our work great. Basically, everyone involved in the production of the English version of this manga, keep doing what you’re doing! (And you know, disclaimer: although I had nothing to do with this particular series, I do translate stuff for Yen Press, most recently this.) Continue reading

Kanpenkina Shiiku: Yuiji Aniya

Kanpekina Shiiku

Happy 801, ladies and gentlemen of the rotten persuasion! I hope you are spending this illicit holiday doing what you love best, reading smutty comics in which men enjoy the pleasure of other men. In case you were wondering what dirty little thing you should pick up on this day of days, I have some words about a particular dirty little thing for you. And it’s pretty dirty!

I actually came across Yuiji Aniya through her non-BL work when she was serialized in Erotics F and liked her style so much that I decided to go and check out what she does with the man love. And wow! She just jumps right in. The first story in this collection of various BL one-shots, “Toyed”, is all pumping and thrusting from the first page. So basically, if you are looking for the sensitive, relationship-type stuff that est em does so well, don’t bother with this one. And normally, I prefer those relationshippy, character-driven stories, but Aniya has such a great style and is not afraid to poke fun at things that I ended up really liking this volume. Continue reading

Out of Sheer Rage: Geoff Dyer


My love of D.H. Lawrence has been documented in these pages before. It is a weirdly powerful love similar to my love for filmmaker Hal Hartley, formed in my youth and thus completely impervious to all criticism or attempts at understanding. Just catching a glimpse of the weary spine of one of the copies of Women in Love on my shelf is enough to make me sigh dreamily. (The spine of the many versions of Trust I have had also make me swoon similarly.) 

And it is a love that grows and changes as I get older and see new things in the tattered pages of Lawrence’s many works, or when someone shows me new things to think about in relation to Lawrence. My aunt wrote her Master’s thesis on Lawrence, and sent me scrambling back to re-read everything he wrote in a new light. I have Anaïs Nin’s study of Lawrence waiting for the moment when I can devour it while, of course, re-reading everything Lawrence ever wrote. So it was a surprise to me to discover a book on Lawrence that I hadn’t read by an author whose work I really enjoy, Geoff Dyer. Once I learned of this slim volume, I naturally ordered it from my local independent bookseller (get out and support them, friends!) and eagerly awaited its arrival. And like nearly all books that I can hardly wait to get in my hot little hands, this one got set on the shelf since I was in the middle of reading something else. Oh, shelf of unread books! You defeat me! Continue reading