George W. Bush Comments on My Spots Article

George W. Bush

“[A] bone to pick, some grizzle to chew”—nice!

Richard Pevear is a grown-up. He’s well known as the translator, with his wife Larissa Volokonsky, of a big bunch of Russian books. Thirty years ago he published two books of poems: Night Talk and Other Poems, and Exchanges. This is from Exchanges:

“In folk tales, what we’ve come to consider the human world, the REAL real world, is the animal realm, the fox-world. The fox-world is the world of the arbitrary, of appetite, greed and envy, of eat-and-be-eaten, of physiological fate, of business and power—in other words, the order of nature. (Why the “fox-world”? Not only because tricks are played in it, but because it is itself a trick, as the Fox occasionally admits.) The human world in folk tales is expanded to include the magical, the demonic, the supernatural, the monsters of evil and fear, the little agents of good (the singing tree, the talking bird, the water of life). And there are some absolutes: faithfulness, courage, intelligence.”


Indeed, it’s a jungle “out there”. Children’s stories are so powerful, folk tales only more so…Thank you for this beautiful quote. Did you ever read Borges’ “Pierre Menard autor del Quijote”, where Pierre Menard rewrites the Quijote but it means something different altogether. Here I tried to rewrite “Put me in the zoo’, in a perfect world I would have just paraphrased it letter by letter, and it would have been a different story altogether…all the same and all different! Spot on Richard Pevear!

George W. Bush

You might want to reread Borges’s story. For one thing, it’s just a wonderful story. For another, you’ll note that Menard only rewrites the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of chapter twenty-two. Only an American conceptual artist would rewrite the whole Don Quixote. And what you’ve done is braver. Your writing is full of foolishness, open to ridicule–but it’s alive–and there are one or two good things in there. Joseph McElroy, the truly great American writer, once told me this: “Keep writing. You’ll learn what you have to say AND what you are saying.” Of course I immediately stopped writing. (Then I became President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world!) You’re smarter than I am. Take Joe’s advice.

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