Sunday, June 08, 2008

In praise of Doctor Zhivago

On NPR, Ursula K. Le Guin recommends Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I second that, as if she (or, for that matter, the Nobel committee) needed a second.

I know that Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are responsible for a number of recent acclaimed English translations of classic Russian novels, but have there been more recent English translations of Zhivago than the 1958 edition that so many millions of us are familiar with?

And yes, I'm fond of the David Lean movie, too. As a friend pointed out when we saw it on the big screen in Chapel Hill, N.C. (during the 25th anniversary re-release in 1990): If you must look at 40-foot-high close-ups of an actor and actress, you could do a lot worse than Omar Sharif and Julie Christie circa 1965.

Questions? Talk to the monkey

The fine fiction writer Michael Martone, who did a stint as chair of creative writing while I was a graduate student at the University of Alabama, once explained to me that administration, especially higher-ed administration, is all about the distribution of monkeys.

"You sit at your desk," Michael said, "and someone walks in the door with a monkey. That person's goal is to hand you her monkey. Your goal is to make sure that she not only leaves with that same monkey, but takes one of your monkeys with her when she goes. You want to go home at the end of the day with no net gain of monkeys."

I thought of this when I read that the new chairman of a business school in Uttar Pradesh is Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god:
"When we were looking for a chairman for our institution, we scanned many big names in the field of technology and management. Ultimately, we settled for Lord Hanuman, as none was bigger than him."

Alabama news from Alabama

According to the AP, the other members of the country group Alabama (a.k.a. "Group Alabama Inc.") have filed suit against their fourth member, drummer Mark Herndon, charging he was overpaid.

In high school, when Barry Johnson, Scott Frye and I considered Alabama to be the McDonald's of country music, we thought all the members were overpaid. But I'm more kindly disposed toward them these days, considering the state of country radio in the 21st century.

I'd like to see the new Alabama statues in Fort Payne, too.