Thursday, December 4, 2008

Translation of the blurb advertising Vampiri + Razumni recnik

The new novel by the most famous tandem of Serbian-American literature, a four-handed intimate artistic witness to the worlds we no longer belong to and to which we never belonged, to being foreign, and to the power of creative friendship in the work of interpreting a real and historical space that we understand less and less the closer we are. Undertake an exploratory journey through the para-regions of the literature of Peter Handke, through the labyrinths of translated originals and of original translations, through the realms of thought whose borders are the Rocky Mountains, Visegrad, Cologne, and Belgrade; allow this two-seater without steering to show you these borders in a way only you can experience!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Vampires -- A Reasonable Dictionary

u prodaji, broširani povez, 222 strane, 21 cm, latinica
Tiraž: 1000
UDK: 821.163.41-94 
Beograd 2008. 
1. izdanje
ISBN 978-86-7979-244-0

Vampiri - Razumni rečnik
Autor: Radaković ŽarkoAbot Skot;

Cena: 600.00 din.

Ovaj naslov možete nabaviti: 
Izdavac: Stubovi kulture ; Internet: 

Novi roman najčuvenijeg tandema srpsko-američke književnosti, u četiri ruke ispisano artističko i intimno svedočanstvo o svetovima kojima više ne pripadamo i o svetovima čiji deo nikada nismo bili, o stranstvovanju koje se odlikuje svežinom pogleda i dubinom razumevanja, i o snazi kreativnog prijateljstva na poslu osvajanja i interpretiranja stvarnosnih i istorijskih prostora koje utoliko manje istinski razumevamo ukoliko su nam bliži. Po?ite u istraživačku šetnju paraprostorima Handkeove literature, lavirintima prevedenih originala i originalnih prevoda, duhovnim prostranstvima oivičenim Stenovitim planinama i Višegradom, Kelnom i Beogradom; dozvolite ovom književnom dvojcu bez kormilara da vam ih pokažu na način kako su ih jedino oni mogli doživeti!

November 13, 2008 Looking northeast, then southwest

November 6, 2008 Looking south and then west

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elderberry Mead

A couple of years ago (five years? ten? time flies!), when Sam Rushforth and I were riding the Great Western Trail every day and writing about the rides for Catalyst Magazine, we watched a bush of elderberrys grow ripe next to the trail just inside Provo Canyon. The day we were planning to pick them they disappeared -- food for a ground squirrel that had been watching them even more carefully than we.

We were interested because the year before we had brought a load of them down to the city in our shirtfronts and with the LDS food-storage honey Sam and Nancy had been hording for decades, brewed a savory mead, the bitter elderberries a perfect match for the sweet honey.

This morning, Blue and I came down off the mountain where we had been hiking and ran across more elderberries, and I brought them home to eat with yogurt and with fond memories.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

*sta- Understanding the Standing Metaphor

Early in our class on "Language, most dangerous of possessions" (Hölderlin), we read Rousseau and Herder, two eighteenth-century writers who were disgusted with what they saw as the arbitrary and abstracted conventions of French and German civilization. One of their contentions was that civilized and civilizing language develops in its citizens increasing distance from the body. 

Writing in the early twentieth century, the German poet Rilke said that he wanted to read the entire historical dictionary started a century earlier by the Grimm brothers (of fairy tale fame). That would take him back to the origins of words, to the "word kernels," to the metaphorical roots that are lost with time and use.

There are advantages to abstraction, I guess, to shifting meanings and new contexts, to abstract thinking.

But every time I want to understand an idea better, I turn first to the underlying metaphors, reach for the Grimm's dictionary or to the OED, and more often than I would have ever thought possible, the root of an important word comes from our sense for ourselves as upright, standing beings. For years I've been trying to sort out this one root, and here's a bit of what I've come up with:

It is at least as old as the Sphinx’s riddle:


What being, with only one voice, has sometimes two feet, sometimes three, sometimes four, and is weakest when it has the most?

Man, Oedipus answered, because he crawls on all fours as an infant, stands firmly on his two feet in his youth, and leans upon a staff in his old age. [Robert Graves, The Greek Myths: 2 (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1955) 10.]


We call ourselves wise (homo sapiens) and argue that our language differentiates us from other species of animals. But even more substantially, we define ourselves by our ancestors’ revolutionary achievement of a standing posture (homo erectus). We became human, in one sense, because we stood up. In another sense, we are who we are because of what that physical act has been made to stand for. Reflecting the substantial nature of that original erection, our languages and cultures constantly, insistently, even obstinately establish superstitions and understandings related to the constituative circumstances of our existence by systematic reference to our station and stature as standing beings, as static and ecstatic beings whose destiny is to cause things to stand. As these words based on the *stā root illustrate, metaphors of standing determine our conceptions of time and space; they shape our understanding of existence and ecstacy; they are the tools and the subject of philosophy and painting, poetry and fiction, sculpture and law, history and psychology, anthropology and linguistics, archaelogy and teleology.  Wherever, in short, humans have payed scientific or artistic attention to our status as human beings, we have done so through metaphors of standing.

And what is reflected and/or established in language is equally the case visually. Take this ancient Greek statue of a powerfully standing woman/goddess, her erect strength heightened by wings:

Or think about depictions of the crucifixion of Christ, which emphasize the destruction of his ability to stand (and about pictures of the resurrection, which show him upright again, no longer tied to the earth; the German word for resurrection, "Auferstehung," means "standing up again).

Or smile at Niki de St. Phalle's sculpture, with it's evocation of paradoxical lightness.

Homo erectus, indeed. In fact and metaphorically. Imagine our vocabulary if we were four-legged beings.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Families and Weddings

I'm just back from Connecticut, where my son Tom married his partner in life and in jazz, Kelsey Merrow. Here's a picture of my seven children: Joe, Maren, Tom, Nate, Ben, Sam, and Tim. They look great; and the photo reminds me that as I battle my various personal demons, and as they battle theirs, we're family.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Photos and Identity

For a book coming out in Belgrade in late October, the editor of Stubovi Kulture asked for a photograph of me to pair with a photo he had of my co-author Zarko Radakovic. I sent him several photos, each worse than the last; and after the email with attachments had been sent, I was left wondering, again, about photos and identity.

Today in Alex's and my class on language, we discussed a section of Michel Foucault's book "The Order of Things" in which he noted that a mirror image is a natural sign. It made sense in his context, but in the context of these photos, which one is a representation of the natural "me"?

None of them, of course, even touches who I am. They get at my grey hair and aging skin and show me in different poses. But I am as much psychological turmoil as I am a physical body and only a physiognomist with the Swiss pastor Lavater's insight could pair the two.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Related views.
Same night.
Same camera.
The pleasures of repetition.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Interdisciplinarity and Language Evolution

Near the end of her book "The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language," Christine Kenneally writes the following:

"It's clear by now that the problem of language evolution is completely intractable when you approach it from the perspective of a single discipline. For all the salient questions to be answered, the multidisciplinary nature of the field will have to become even more so. So far, it has taken years for individuals in different departments to start talking, to develop research questions that make sense for more than one narrow line of inquiry, and to start talking, to develop research questions that make sense for more than one narrow line of inquiry, and to start to understand one another's points of view. The field of language evolution needs students who can synthesize information from neuroscience, psychology, computer modeling, genetics and linguistics. The more this happens, the richer and wider the field will become, instead of devolving around one or two theoretical issues."

The book as a whole is a fascinating exercise in just this kind of synthesizing, and the author is a prime example of someone who understands and relays information from a variety of fields.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Integrated Studies Space

Architects and Freemasons share the view that we're different persons as we inhabit different buildings. The spaces we live in, in other words, influence who we are.

Since late July, the Program in Integrated Studies is located on the fifth floor of the new library, on the north end of that floor. From our respective ofices, we look out at Cascade Mountain to the east, Timpanogos to the north, and Utah Lake and Lake Mountain to the west. For the first time, we're gathered together, with space for a receptionist and lots of space for students to study and relax and read IS theses from 1999 to the present.

And that, in many ways, changes and influences who we are.

Come by and see us.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Father's Thoughts on Higher Education

This week my sons Tim and Sam start college, Tim after graduating from Orem High and working for his brother-in-law as a construction laborer and Sam after two years as a Mormon missionary in India.

As their father, I've got a lot of regrets and lots of good memories, and, naturally, I worry about my boys and have high hopes for them.

To assuage some of those worries, I'll do what parents often do when they're left with few options: give advice.

So then, thoughts on higher education:

1. Read. I don't mean your textbooks. You'll have to buy those big and expensive books anyway, and week by week your German and math and biology professors will guide you through them. You'll read them slowly and repeatedly and beat your heads against them before exams. And then you'll sell them for half price before they lose their value entirely. So I don't mean your textbooks. Read for pleasure. Read because you want to know things. Read to expand your inner life. Read to figure out who you are and the possibilities for who you might become. Read to learn new words and to meet new characters. I'm packing a couple of books for you, meant to augment your personal libraries. Tim, here's John Berger's and Jean Mohr's "At the Edge of the World," good words and good photos. Sam, for you Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses," a playful and troubling addition to all the sights and smells and accents and personalities and economic circumstances you witnessed in India. Don't sell these books. Use them. And add books of your own choosing to the shelf. Come home with more books than you left with.

2. Be curious. Your university is like a Disneyland for the mind. Find the best rides. Stand in line for lectures and art shows and performances. See films and sign up for field trips. Hear live music and follow the arguments of fine historians. Pay attention to the architecture and to the sculptures in the courtyards. 

3. Ask questions. Educators are successful if their students learn. Professors are passionate about their subjects and like nothing better than answering good questions from curious students. Curiosity makes every question good. Do more than is required by the syllabus and then ask the professor to teach you beyond the class.

4. Go to class every day. Go to class every day after doing the homework. Go to class every day, not to get credit for being in class, but to learn the lessons of that day. Go to class every day. It adds up in good ways.

5. After you've gone to class every day, after you've done every day's homework, after all the work that will make you proud and smart, enjoy the people around you. . . . and here I'll slip away. Nothing quite so bad as a father giving social advice.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Monument, metaphors, interdisciplinary studies

Just down the hill from our house in Woodland Hills stands this fine piece of installation art. Or is it garden art? Or, as I've wondered more than once, is it a monument to interdisciplinary studies gone horribly wrong?

Well adorned with live and artificial flowers, guarded by a watchful plastic pig, fronted by plush rabbits and the proverbial pink flamingo, announcing that it's time to go back to school, the rusty green pickup stands (slumps) as a creative advertisement for the Hiatt Construction Company.

So far so good.

But as a monument for interdisciplinary work, it can only serve as a warning. 

Say you're working on a problem, like the question of how language both enables and disables us (the problem Alex Caldiero and I will address with a group of humanities and integrated studies and communications students this fall). If you think the problem additively (which is the methodology of the pigflamingoflowerrabbittruck) you'll end up with a hodgepodge, unfocused and superficial and unsatisfying. We're nervous about this and are working hard to use the tools we jointly have to get at the basic problem without slipping away toward yard art. Linguistics and poetry, literary criticism and history, anthropology and religious studies will all play parts in our investigations, and if we use the tools of these disciplines skillfully, we'll know a lot more about how we speak language and how it speaks us than we did when we started.

If the piggydodge is the anti-image, perhaps these photos of sunflowers are better indications of how good interdisciplinary work proceeds. Different views, different focal lengths, different sunflowers -- and the same question: sunflowers and light?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beauty, Browsing, Hunting, and Writing

In the late evening yesterday Lyn called me to the deck and together we watched this guy browse the oakbrush. He had two friends with him, one a three-point and the other a two-point. They browsed for a while, then stretched and lay down to ruminate a little and then stood back up to rip off a few more leaves. They didn't seem to mind us watching; and we surely didn't mind them browsing.

But while we watched, the thought was lurking back somewhere in our brains that this weekend bowhunting starts and that these fine young bucks, should they stray out of the protective confines of our fair city, will be fair game. And perhaps we've made them easier game by habituating them to human presence.

I used to hunt with my dad before I left home, and I admire people who know the habits and haunts of deer and elk and grouse. So it has been a pleasure  watching a fine hunter prepare for this year's hunt. Integrated Studies student Steve Taylor is writing a hunting blog for his senior thesis and it's chock full of detailed information and good stories. 

As I've read Steve's successive entries, I've thought how alike hunting and writing are. They both share a need for meticulous attention to detail. They require a thorough knowledge of the thing/topic/animal in question. They involve thinking and rethinking, finding creative solutions, following leads/trails. And so on.

Take a look at Steve's writing and hunting both at:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Still Photo, Moving Image

Still thinking about interdisciplinary work, I recorded the sunset a couple of nights ago in a still picture and then a moving image.

Same evening, same sunset, but the different modes of recording resulted in quite different views. 

The still photo is rich with information, and the visual stillness is easy on the psyche.

The movie with domestic sounds (the "Blue" in question is our dog, and the oddly wise and morally synesthetic comment "don't listen to bad behavior" is addressed to him), is rich in other ways and contains almost more information than my senses can focus on.

Like a problem approached from the vantage point of several disciplines, perhaps. 

In any case, ain't this valley pretty? 

Friday, July 4, 2008

Peter Handke's "The Moravian Night"

I just finished reading Peter Handke's "Erzählung" (story, narrative) and am filled with a wide range of emotions and thoughts. Peacefulness is the primary emotion, and a hightened awareness of the things around me -- my dog, the crackle of the buck's passage through scruboak outside my window, the rainsquall swooping down on the house from Loafer Mountain, the taste of the portobellos we just grilled.

The narrator of the story tells about a long journey through the Balkans, Spain, Germany, and Austria, a journey that brings him to places from Handke's life and into contact with characters from Handke's earlier works.

The story begins and ends on the Morava River just outside the town of Porodin in what is now Serbia. The narrator describes lambs grilled on spits -- and thus Thomas Deichmann's photo taken in Porodin, of Peter, Zarko, Zlatko's father who has grilled the lamb for us, and a younger me.

More about the ideas of the story another time.

What a pleasure it is to read.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Almost four years ago Janet Cooper and Renee Van Buren (botanists and neighbors) showed up at our front door with a big sack of seeds from their Palmer's penstemons. We planted them on the hill of dirt denuded of natural vegetation by building the house. And now you see their progeny.

Good neighbors.

Good plants.

And what a scent.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Vampires / A Reasonable Dictionary

An email today from my friend Zarko Radakovic. In April he was a featured reader at the International ProseFest in Novi Sad. Here's a page from the festival brochure (click on the photos to see larger versions).

Several other pages list his work -- translations (including the one I  wrote about earlier here, Peter Handke's "Loss of Images," with Serbian translation and visual translation by the artist Nina Pops), edited anthologies, and novels (one of which is our "Repetitions" -- for a good look at how Serbo-Croatian declines English nouns, take a look at the Serbian side of the brochure, where the translation of "along with Scott Abbott" turns me into "Scottom Abbottom").

Mark Twain once famously wrote that he would rather decline three German beers than one German noun.

And a third page with information about Zarko's other work (translation is not as easy as it seems!)

Finally, the email contained great news. After Zarko's reading from "Vampires" at the festival, he was approached by several publishers who wanted the book. So, in October of this year, Stubovi Kulture, the publisher of Zarko's earlier novel "Pogled" -- "Look," will publish our joint text: Zarko's fictional "Vampires" and my travel narrative "A Reasonable Dictionary," which serves as what Zarko calls "the real landscape" for his fiction.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Buck Snort

We're sitting on the deck watching the evening fade. A slight breeze picks up and the day's heat slips away. Hummingbirds jockey for a last feeding. Black-headed grosbeaks and lazuli buntings sing their final protestations of virility while there's still enough light for the females to admire them. A young buck, two years showing in a thick fork under velvet, browses through the yard, seemingly partial to the flax whose blue petals have fallen with the darkness. The blue will bloom again in the morning, except, of course, where the buck has eaten them short. Blue, our yellow lab, watches the deer with us, fascinated. A second buck follows, his rack almost three times the size of the first one's antlers. There will be four points when the velvet rakes off in the fall, and his body is bulkier. He's also more wary, and turns to face us when he hears a sound. He watches and sweeps his big ears back and forth. We don't move. And then he snorts. And slips into the scrub oak.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Broke the Block

So, as Saturday eased past I finished the new deck, worked hard on the new flagstone walkway, took some pictures (this one of Utah Valley some time after sunset), and wrote a good piece on my first experience in an art museum in Cologne, Germany.

Feels good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Michael Morrow complements me on the photos he figures I'm using as "filler" during the summer.

Au contraire, Michael. As I noted previously, I'm combating a fierce case of writer's block by producing pictures.

And waging battle against "performatives"!