by Virgil, translated from the Latin by David Ferry
David Ferry’s previous outings with Virgil, in his matchless Eclogues and Georgics, had already convinced me that he has some sort of uncanny connection to the great poet. Especially when reading the Eclogues, one hears a new-old voice, as if Virgil had miraculously learned English and decided it might do as well as Latin. This kind of translation almost needs a new name, to distinguish it from all the other worthy efforts to bring the ancient poets to life: it is an iteration, another version, but also—perhaps, almost—the thing itself.
Some writers prompt us to respond in kind, to reply—speaking out loud to the page, or scribbling notes, or, if we are writers ourselves, riding the energy of the words we have read to make our own. Among poets, surely Walt Whitman has always been one of those prompters—for good …
Eloise, the children’s literature star—she of the Plaza, Paris, and Moscow—was born of Kay Thompson, not otherwise an author. There’s currently an Eloise revival, in the form of a new museum show emphasizing illustrator Hillary Knight’s contributions, now at the New-York Historical Society until October.
I usually have no patience for “happy family” literature, not to mention the contemporary habit of adults reading mediocre books for “young adults,” whoever they might be. But when I read Astrid Lindgren’s Seacrow Island (1964), for the first time this spring, I liked it so much that I consumed it slowly, like a savored cake. A month later I read it again, perhaps even more deliberately. It is a beautiful book, for adult readers as well as the children to whom it could be read.
The knowledge that I was only one of a crowd of children devoted to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of American pioneer life could not have altered the intensity of my personal attachment to the brave, and often surprisingly lonely, heroine, the girl Laura whose travels with her family take her from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Indian Territory (Kansas); then to Minnesota and, finally, Dakota Territory, in the years from 1869 to 1883. By fifteen, I was already nostalgic for Laura’s world and for my eight-year-old self who had first discovered it.