Nguyễn Hữu Lý: Quê hương qua thi ca Việt Nam

Hơn 100 bài thơ qua hơn 100 tác giả viết về quê hương Việt Nam, viết về những địa danh từ Bắc, Trung và Nam, và viết về nỗi nhớ cùng nỗi đau của những tâm hồn tha hương. Tất cả những bài thơ được ông Nguyễn Hữu Lý phiên dịch sang tiếng Anh. Tôi có ý định sau khi đọc xong sẽ tuyển ra một số bài để làm một dự án mẫu đưa vào Vietnamese Typography nhưng tôi không mấy hài lòng về phần tiếng Anh từ cách viết đến ngữ pháp.

James Edmondson: Some Tips on Drawing Type from A to Z (Reread)

Last November, I received a misprinted copy of this little book. Although Oh No had provided me the PDF version, I didn’t read it until I received the corrected print copy. It’s a short book with lots of illustrations and funny explanations to give readers some insights into the world of type design. For type design students, the details and nuances of each letter will serve as an invaluable reference. For typographers, the structure of the letterforms will help them make better type selections. James Edmondson should continue with numbers, punctuations, and diacritics. Just make sure the copies printed correctly before sending them out.

Tâm Minh: Mưa Xuân

Tập thơ gồm những tác phẩm từ những tác giả tên tuổi như Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, và William Shakespeare được dịch giả Tâm Minh chuyển sang ngữ Việt. Khi đọc tập thơ này tôi chỉ chăm chú vào tiếng Việt để xem ông Tâm Minh chuyển ngữ ra sao. Và ông đã dựa vào ý thơ để viết lại những câu thơ bằng tiếng Việt chứ ông không dịch xác nghĩa. Chẳng hạn như đoạn cuối của bài “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost viết như sau:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tâm Minh chuyển sang tiếng Việt như sau:

Mai này ta kể chuyện đời
Nơi miền đất lạ thở dài luyến thương:
Rừng kia chia cách đôi đường
Ta theo một ngả ít vương dấu giày
Đời ta từ đó đổi thay
Lá vàng theo gió cuốn bay cuối trời.

Không hiểu tại sao ông lại thêm câu cuối: “Lá vàng theo gió cuốn bay cuối trời”. Quyển sách này đã xuất bản vào năm vào năm 2001 tại tiểu bang Virginia, nơi tôi và dịch giả hiện cư ngụ. Nếu có dịp gặp mặt ông, tôi sẽ hỏi thử. Vì những bài chuyển ngữ của ông có chất thơ chứ không chỉ thông dịch nên đọc rất thú vị.

Trí C. Trần & Trâm Lê: Vietnamese Stories

I was looking forward to reading Vietnamese traditional folktales in English. Disappointedly, the English translations were so dense that the spellbinding essence of the folk stories didn’t come through. The English stories sounded foreign and stilted. For instance, the idiomatic expression of “Ăn chưa no, lo chưa tới” was translated simply as “carefree” or “Cái nết đánh chết cái đẹp” was translated as “Beauty is only skin-deep.” The literal translations would have been more helpful for language learners.

Geraldine Woods: 25 Great Sentences

Through her impressive collection, Geraldine Woods, a language enthusiast, shows us the power of the sentences. Drawing from a wide and diverse range of examples, from writers to poets to musicians to presidents, Woods digs deep into the intentions behind the sentences so that we can appreciate their greatness. An enlightening read.

Anthony Veasna So: Afterparties

A collection of personal stories that took readers into the Cambodian-American community. So was a gifted storyteller who didn’t shy away from sharing his sexuality. His stories were honest, heartfelt, and hilarious. Being a gay Cambodian American, So offered such a unique voice and perspective. My heart crushed to learn that he had died at the age of 28 due to an overdose.

45 Books Read in 2021

This year I only read 45 books, which was 12 books less than last year. In the last two months, my priorities have changed. I focused on editing our family stories, which took away my time from reading for almost four weeks. I used to spend my vacation time reading, but on the last trip to Conway, New Hampshire, I was too exhausted after a long day of skiing. Even in the evening relaxing, I blogged about my ski experience instead of reading.

In addition, I blogged much more this year. I churned out at least one blog post almost on a daily basis. I enjoyed writing, even just documenting my progressions in ice skating, rollerblading, and skiing. These blog posts might not be interesting to anyone, but I am now fully engaged in these three sports. I hope my kids will continue my journey with me.

As for my reading preference, I read more novels this year. Though I still tried to switch from fiction to nonfiction. I need to pick up more Vietnamese language books. The Fairfax public libraries had not acquired new Vietnamese books this year.

My goal for next year is to get above 50 books again. I am now reading three books at the same time and having a hard time finishing them. I should just focus on getting through one at a time.

Here’s my reading history.

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: Hạt muối rong chơi

Tôi không có hứng thú đọc sách du ký. Đơn giản là tôi muốn tự trải nghiệm chứ không muốn đọc những quan sát của người khác. Khi đọc Hạt muối rong chơi tôi chỉ chăm chú vào cách viết văn xuôi của tác giả Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. Tôi chú ý đến những cách dùng dấu phẩy, dấu chấm, và những từ ngữ thông dụng nhưng tôi ít dùng. Tôi hoàn toàn không để ý gì đến nội dung của những câu chuyện cũng như những chuyến đi của tác giả.

Fred D’Aguiar: Year of Plagues

In his memoir of 2020, D’Aguiar reveals in detail his battle against prostate cancer and the challenges he faced during the pandemic. Although his writing is engaging, entertaining, and enlightening, the book feels really long. Maybe I am more interested on cancer than other topics. Even when he waxes poetic prose on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, I just want to get back to the cancer result. It is definitely an informative book for me, God forbid, if I have to go through what he went through.

James Edmondson: Some Tips on Drawing Type from A to Z

Last Thursday my copy of James Edmondson’s Some Tips on Drawing Type from A to Z arrived in the mail and I read it immediately. The book is thin and beautifully typeset. James provides invaluable tips for anyone who is new at type design. As I reached page 8, which covered letters A and B, the book skipped to the letter F. I didn’t realize that the pages were also out of order; therefore, I continued to read from the letter F to letter J. Then the pages went back to the letter F. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. I had to flip back to make sure the pages were duplicated. The pages continued from F to T, but then went back to Q again. I contacted James immediately to notify the issues. I had not heard back from him. I am sure my copy wasn’t the only one misprinted.