Went North, Found World Literature

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I am trying to shake up my routine a bit, so I have been testing out a new coffee shop. I realize this is not the most radical alteration one could make to one's lifestyle, but much of life is in the details.</p>
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<img alt="Michael Z. Wise and Ross Ufberg of New Vessel Press" src="/assets/images/uploads/New_Vessel_Press_sml.jpeg" style="width: 675px; height: 900px;" /></p>
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Michael Z. Wise and Ross Ufberg of New Vessel Press</p>
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Instead of heading south on my usual coffee quest, I have begun heading north. Today, on only my third such northerly caffeine excursion, I stumbled across a tableful of astonishing new literature, right there on 75th Street and Broadway!</p>
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A nice journalist named Michael Wise was manning the table. He is a co-founder (though he doesn't hyphenate that word on his business cards, I noticed, which I kind of liked) of <a href="http://newvesselpress.com">New Vessel Press</a>, and this was his table along with his other co-founder, Ross Ufberg, who was temporarily in absentia but was back by the time I passed by a second time after an hour of Pashto studies at my new northerly coffee shop.</p>
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Michael gave me a thematic and linguistic survey of the beautifully designed books on the table, periodically interrupted by enthusiastic repeat visitors who were <em>actually reading what he was selling.</em></p>
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All except one of the books on the table were translations from other languages into English. There was a book translated from Hebrew. Another from German. One from French. One from Italian. One from Spanish. One from Polish.&nbsp;</p>
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<img alt="This One Portrays a Lost Polyglot World!" src="/assets/images/uploads/Alexandrian_Summer_Front.JPG" style="width: 900px; height: 675px;" /></p>
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This One Portrays a Lost Polyglot World!</p>
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<em>Alexandrian Summer</em>, by Yitzhak Gormezano Goren, was translated from Hebrew by Yardenne Greesnspan. According to the back cover, this book "portrays a now vanished polyglot world of horse racing, seaside promenades and elegant nightclubs"!</p>
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I am kind of obsessed with how little foreign writing Americans read, so this development right here on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where New Vessel is based, was a very cheering start to my day.</p>
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As Michael and I were chatting, one customer came up who had bought from this Broadway book oasis before. He reminded Michael which title he had purchased last time.</p>
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"Did you read it?" Michael asked.</p>
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"Of course I read it," replied the customer in gruff New York style. <em>Duh,</em> was the vibe! <em>What idiot would buy a book and not read it?&nbsp;</em>A lot of people, I thought to myself. The customer started extolling the book's virtues to me.&nbsp;</p>
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<img alt="I Like This Title: I Called Him Necktie" called="" him="" i="" src="/assets/images/uploads/New_Vessel_Books1.JPG" style="width: 900px; height: 675px;" /></p>
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I Like This Title: I Called Him Necktie</p>
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<img alt="Beautiful Artwork!" src="/assets/images/uploads/New_Vessel_Books2.JPG" style="width: 900px; height: 675px;" /></p>
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Beautiful Artwork!</p>
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Another woman came up who had visited them at this street corner the week before. She wanted to be added to the mailing list.</p>
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I myself bought three books for $30. To me these books are perfect holiday gifts. Delicious design, words and ideas from wonderful writers around the world, so much more exciting than flowers (which are nice too, I like flowers, please don't misunderstand me).</p>
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It's just that the percentage of books published in the U.S. that are translations from other languages is minuscule. That incredibly lopsided pro-English bias is limiting intellectually and aesthetically, so bringing translations to the reading American public is important work.</p>
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I may have studied a bit of Hebrew, but I sure as heck am nowhere close to being able to read a novel in it!</p>
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I need someone else to do that work for me -- or for now that work is simply lost to me.</p>

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