A Book Talk in Budapest and More

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This picture is from an evening bike ride along the Zagyva river–a ride I take almost every day, at different times of day, but do not take for granted. I have been here for over a year now, and I still look forward to the rides–the tumbling through fog, the low-hanging birches, the sounds of breeze and bricks.

I have been thinking about Robert Frost’s poem “Birches,” which I brought to some of my classes last week. It has been translated into Hungarian by Ernő Hárs and Illés Fehér (and maybe others). On a first reading, I prefer Hárs’s for its rhythm and Fehér’s (sometimes) for its accuracy–but I need to take more time with them, over time.

Tomorrow evening I will give my first book reading in Hungary–actually, my first book event outside the U.S.–at Massolit Books in Budapest. I look forward to seeing how it turns out. The book has been meeting with good response so far: thoughtful reviews in Quartz (by Ephrat Livni), Publishers Weekly, and Amazon (by Dana Mackenzie), and a few comments from individuals (one reader called it a “treasure chest of words”). There are some dismissive reactions too (on Goodreads), but I don’t consider them reviews, since they say nothing about the book. Reviews, even negative ones, require perception. A true reviewer does not tell people what to think, but instead points out things to see and hear. The reviewer’s final assessment, while important, relies on those observations. Like a bike ride along the Zagyva, like a book talk in Budapest, a perceptive review is not to be taken for granted. I see all of these as gifts, but from where, and to whom? Those questions have no perfect answer.

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I added to this piece and revised it in places after posting it.

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