The Art of Flight Is a Masterful Rendering of Sergio Pitol's Mosaic Reflections

Categories: Books


Picture with me, for a moment, a hypothetical. You're nearing the end of your life, a fabulously intellectual life. A life people will want to read about (like I said, this is purely a hypothetical). It's rapidly becoming apparent that you're going to have to write about it, since people want to read about it and everything. And say, maybe, you don't like reading diaries. They're boring, occasionally pedantic and inevitably long-winded. You will definitively not be publishing your diary. As a result you contemplate endlessly the options you have to make the story of your life read like something you would actually want to read. Something intellectually stimulating, meditative and infinitely insightful. And, of course, something which will weave together all the fragments of your life you believe to have been vital to its course.

I like to imagine Sergio Pitol's mind followed a train of thought similar, although infinitely more complex, than the one above, as he sat down to write his "Trilogy of Memory," the first book of which, The Art of Flight, was recently published by Dallas' own Deep Vellum Publishing. The publication is remarkably the first time Pitol, a legendary Mexican author, has been translated into English. George Henson, a professor and recent doctoral recipient in the University of Texas at Dallas' translation program, has masterfully rendered Pitol's thoughts and words from his native language into our own.

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George Henson on the Linguistic Puzzle of Translating Sergio Pitol's The Art of Flight

Categories: Books

Deep Vellum Publishing

George Henson first heard rumors of a man interested in starting a translation publishing house in Dallas about two years ago. Henson was teaching Spanish at the University of Texas at Dallas and working toward a PhD in Humanities with an emphasis on literary and translation studies. He reached out to Open Letter Books, where this alleged language-maniac was apprenticing and he found an ambitious, mustachioed man by the name of Will Evans. Henson pitched Evans the idea to publish the long overdue translation of Mexican author Sergio Pitol's The Art of Flight. Evans said yes on the spot. Of course, Deep Vellum Publishing didn't launch until a year or so later and the book didn't hit shelves until, well, yesterday, March 17, 2015.

The Art of Flight (or El Arte de la Fuga), Pitol's first book to make it into English, is far from his freshman novel. A recipient of the prestigious Cervantes Prize in 2005, Pitol is one of the country's greatest living authors. This a series of essays that serves as a sort of experimental memoir. (It's the first in a trilogy, all of which Deep Vellum is committed to publishing with Henson as translator.) An author known for questioning the limitations of language, Pitol uses The Art of Flight to chronicle his young life, offering critical analysis along the way of the books that have affected his life. He swirls together memories with poetic reflection, in a way that feels at home in America's memoir culture, but without this obsession with nonfiction. Pitol seems far more interested in playing with language and metaphor, the boundaries of fiction and nonfiction, which is where Henson's role becomes pivotal. We chatted with Henson about translation, language and Pitol.

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In Mary Helen Specht's Elegiac Migratory Animals, College Friends Encounter Adulthood

Categories: Books

Thumbnail image for maryhelen.jpg
Erica Nix

One of the most striking passages of Mary Helen Specht's debut novel Migratory Animals comes in the final pages. After hundreds of pages in which she weaves together a story of friendships, family, love and loss, the novel's protagonist, Flannery, reflects on her attitude arriving in Nigeria as a scientist, and as Specht describes the scene in her elegiac style, she writes of her character that "She'd forgotten to expect joy."

The book pulsates with this wistful, hopeful feeling as it describes a group of college friends entering middle age. Although Flannery's story serves as the cornerstone of the novel, the wide-eyed narration spends time with every character in the book. From the young mother who feels disconnected from her children, to the architects whose young company is struggling through the recession, to Flannery's younger sister who's showing early signs of a disease that killed their mother, each character is fully sewn and then stitched into the book's story about a support system that's slowly unraveling.

"I always thought the book was a book about friendship and how it changes over time, but friendship is hard to write about," says Specht, who will be at The Wild Detectives in Dallas at 7 p.m. Thursday to read from her book. "I really wanted to explore a group of lives together."

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Dallas-based Nathan Nipper Details Soccer-Obsession in Award-Winning Book

Categories: Books, Media

Nathan Nipper Twitter
Screenwriter-Turned-Soccer Coach-Turned-Author Nathan Nipper.

Between 1987 and 1989, Nathan Nipper, the Bedford-based author of Dallas 'Til I Cry: Learning to Love Major League Soccer, was a soccer-obsessed 12 year-old son of missionary parents on the go. In those two impactful years, the Nippers moved from Rose Bud, Arkansas (population 202 at that time), to Fort Worth for a few months, then to Tours, France for another short stint where the parents attended language school, eventually landing in Dakar, Senegal, where they would remain for four years until moving back to the States in 1993. The map-dotting journey served as a mechanism which enabled Nipper to morph from a simple soccer kid into a full-fledged football fanatic.

In the late 1980's, Nipper was an active youth player with an insatiable thirst for soccer. At an age when many boys in America shed their soccer cleats for football cleats, Nipper's love for the Beautiful Game only grew. Seeing the Tatu-led Dallas Sidekicks play as north Texas was enraptured in the mania surrounding the MISL team's thrilling, seven game triumph for the Championship in May of 1987, aided his addiction, as did the family move to soccer-friendly France and Senegal. During his time in each foreign port, Nipper relished the manner in which his favorite game was also everyone else's, which was the opposite of what it had been in White County of northeast Arkansas.

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Luke Goebel, Known in Tyler as 'That Creative Writing Guy,' On Debut Novel Fourteen Stories

Categories: Books

Luke Goebel has something of a reputation in Tyler, Texas. When he goes for a haircut, say, the barber is likely to know him, even if they haven't met. Word of the eccentric writer spreads throughout the smallish East Texas town via the parents of his students. "People go, 'Oh, you're that creative writing guy," he says. Goebel is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at The University of Texas at Tyler. He left the University of Massachusetts -- the school that conferred his MFA -- to accept that position in 2011.

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Why Are Rush Limbaugh Supporters Verbally Abusing Local Author Merritt Tierce?

Categories: Books

via Merritt Tierce
Local author Merritt Tierce is quite the media darling these days. After publishing her debut novel Love Me Back, Tierce has made the rounds on TV, been compared to Joan Didion by one critic, and perhaps most famously, told The Dallas Morning News about the time she donated Rush Limbaugh's extravagant tips to an abortion fund. After the DMN published the story, it quickly went viral, and was picked up by outlets like Gawker, Newsweek and Cosmopolitan.

Soon after her revelation, fans of Limbaugh came after Tierce with a vengeance. Her personal and public Facebook pages were inundated with hate mail, much of which was extremely violent. "You do realize that once a body as a beating heart, it's called murder right?" wrote one grammatically challenged commenter. "Better yet, someone should just murder you. I mean shit seriously." According to Tierce, Facebook refused to remove the post because it didn't violate their list of community standards, which supposedly exist to protect the platform's users against threats of violence.

"I suppose I should have seen it coming," says Tierce. "[Rush Limbaugh's] fans are legion, and they are people who are exceptionally responsive to the fomenting of ​hate." And the hate was certainly fomented. Moving beyond Facebook, Limbaugh fans took to and Barnes and Noble's website to spit their vitriol in the form of "reviews" of Love Me Back.

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Where Is Dallas' Iconic Bookstore?

Movilius In Mobili
Portland has Powell's. Dallas has ... not much.
In downtown Portland, Powell's Books stretches the length of a city block. Inside, hundreds of wooden bookshelves stuffed to the brim with everything from classic literature to engineering manuals keep crowds of regulars and tourists engrossed. When you go to Portland, you have to go to Powell's.

Even readers who haven't been to Oregon have probably heard of the store. Like Seattle's Elliot Bay Book Company or San Francisco's City Lights, Powell's is a national landmark, one of a handful of bookstores that help define the characters and cultures of their hometowns. Los Angeles has Vroman's and The Last Bookstore, New York has The Strand and Book Culture. They're both cultural centers for locals and regular stops for tourists, who are as likely to walk away from these stores with T-shirts as they are copies of the latest best-seller.

"If you haven't been to Powell's, you haven't seen something," says Miriam Sontz, CEO of Powell's Books. "It's one of the top things to do in Portland, and when visitors come, they want to take something with them as a souvenir of their trip."

You won't see anyone wandering the streets of Portland wearing a T-shirt with the logo of Dallas' own iconic bookstore, because we don't have one. It's an odd missing piece in a city that has dedicated huge resources into reshaping its downtown into a nationally recognized center for the arts. We've invested millions in building what the city proudly calls the nation's biggest dedicated arts district, with homes for opera, theater, the symphony, painting and sculpture.

The literary arts, meanwhile, have been all but ignored in Dallas' top-down planning for igniting its cultural life. You want to find a book downtown? Try the public library, if it's open ... and it's probably not.

Which is a shame, because bubbling away outside the official boundaries of "art" is a small, devoted literary scene that's beginning to show new signs of life. The question is, can we cultivate the love of books without a central outpost? Or to put it in words Dallas will understand: What kind of world class city doesn't have its own damn Powell's?

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Merritt Tierce Finds Ingredients for Her First Novel, Love Me Back, in a Dallas Steakhouse

Categories: Books


Merritt Tierce spent her mid-twenties waiting tables at a Dallas steakhouse. She was a writer, sure, but she spent most of her days serving the elite and struggling toward 30. That this experience would serve as formative life experience and become fodder for her first novel, Love Me Back surprises no one more than Tierce.

"It wasn't like I would go home and take notes like I thought I would write a book about it someday. I didn't even think of myself as a writer, at least not professionally," Tierce says, sipping an Americano at Oak Lawn Coffee, just "around the corner" from the unnamed inspirational steakhouse. "I see now that your twenties are about floundering and fucking everything up."

Love Me Back hits bookstores September 16, and while it isn't about real life Tierce, the Dallas-based author put a lot of her own story into the protagonist, Marie.

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Hear Audioplay of Local Author Darin Bradley's Chimpanzee at Dan's Silverleaf Tonight

Categories: Books


Tonight in Denton at Dan's Silverleaf local author Darin Bradley will officially release his second novel Chimpanzee complete with a live rendition of the audioplay of the novel. Bradley released his first novel, Noise, through Random House in 2010 while he was still working as a lead video game writer for id Software. Since then he's moved on to an editor position with Resurrection House publishing, the same publisher who bought Chimpanzee. We talked to Bradley about his novel, his job move, and how exactly he managed to put together a audioplay using all local talent.

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Deep Vellum Publishing Launches With Party at Wild Detectives Monday Night

Categories: Books

Will Evans
Books have always been cool. They, like, make you smarter.

Let's say you took a six-month-long apprenticeship as a publisher with Open Letter Books -- a small independent publishing house at The University of Rochester in New York, dedicated to bringing great works from around the world to the English-speaking world. Now let's say you move to Dallas in 2013, a city that until recently didn't even have an indie book scene, and start your very own publishing company. How hard do you think it would be to convince some of the very best writers in the world to sign on the dotted line?

Well if your name is Will Evans, executive director of Deep Vellum Publishing, the answer to that is "easier than you would have thought."

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