Recently, while hanging out in Madison Square Park, I needed to pee. There was an APT (Automated Public Toilet) nearby. Unfortunately, it was out of order. No big deal – because of my privilege as a middle class, white person, I was able to use the toilet at a nearby bar instead.
I learned about APTs in In Lezlie Lowe’s new book, No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs. She writes about how crucial public toilets are, especially for those who can’t just walk into a privately-owned business bathroom, such as the homeless. The area around the broken public toilet in Madison Square Park smelled like urine, presumably because others had, lacking a place to go, urinated on the street instead.
Lezlie Lowe, a freelance journalist of over 15 years, has been covering public toilets for a long time. “I described public bathrooms as the itch I could never scratch,” Lowe said. She first became interested when her small children’s bathroom needs changed her relationship to her city. “But over time I kept on it,” Lowe said. “[Toilets are] the one thing I keep coming back to in my journalism practice. … There’s always great stories.”
Toilets also appealed to Lowe because she likes to write about the unnoticed parts of everyday life. “Public bathrooms were a good fit because you can’t find someone who doesn’t have some relationship with public bathrooms,” yet they’re frequently ignored or underappreciated in building design and public spaces.
We talked to Lezlie Lowe about toilets, feminism, and the process of working with a small press.
There’s a commonly held belief among academics that you should always read works in the original language. However, with over 3,000 languages in the world, that’s a damaging idea. Esther Allen, an award-winning translator and langauge educator at Baruch College, called that type of thinking “a pretext for not paying attention to the rest of the world.”
On Thursday, Gabriella Page-Fort, the editorial director of AmazonCrossing, joined in conversation with Elisabeth Jaquette, Executive Director of American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), and Esther Allen, at Book Expo America. They shared their insights about translation, including advice for anyone looking to enter the field. Continue reading
The Rocky Road of Moving Pens
by Janet Buck
I almost die, lose my pen, disappear, come back to life a little bit. Somehow, perhaps by the grace of persistent boredom and a two-minute glance at reality shows, I find that precious stick among tsunami-sized piles of dog hair and shredded Kleenex under the bed, and voilà, the writing world has changed its clothes. It’s been more than five years since I’ve written or published much at all, so I’m hungry for that feeling of putting together a poem without losing a piece of the puzzle to the puppy teeth of our new Yorkie. The Ars Poetica floating on the internet was always a pretty dicey glass, half-empty, half-full, but I was under the comfortable delusion I could hold the cup without it slipping from my hands.
The water is now on the floor, our puppy’s licking up the mess, and I am left in dizzyland. The pastures I’m familiar with have grown new grass and added weeds, thistled ones. Poetry is a slinky woman wearing a thong; editors want short and terse, nothing over 30 lines. A complete sentence in a poem is considered excess grit. The bulk of guidelines threaten me with: “Don’t do that, do this instead, we like this, we don’t like that, we hate the part of reading fifty pounds of subs—and e-mails are a presence that will get you shot, or hanging upside down in the town square, with people throwing rocks at you. We don’t pay you; you pay us. But please submit; we want your work.” I fall for it like a three-scoop ice cream cone in my favorite flavor.
Fairly early on in the game, I was smart enough to realize that getting paid to expose my soul just wasn’t a “happening” enterprise, rather like setting up a lemonade stand at the North Pole and expecting people to fork out a buck for more damned ice. I’m the first to admit I fully applaud the invention of submission fees because journals without fiscal support go down in flames, and I feel sad when I read giant messages on my screen that say, “We’ve drowned and no one came to rescue us.” The fact is that we’re all together standing in the breadline out in the cold.
A lot of people say that you can’t make a good living as an English major. The facts are very cold and hard: Most publishing houses are in New York City. Entry level publishing jobs pay very, very little, and New York City is very, very expensive.
When I graduated from college, I resolved to go into publishing, no matter how poorly paid it was. I would show the world that I really could make it work as an English major.
I can do this, I thought, in the naïveté of my youth. I can realize my dream of living in Brooklyn and being boho-poor like in Girls but still not actually so poor that I have to live on the street like a pigeon.