SUBSCRIBE

NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS | NINA MACLAUGHLIN

National Book Award winner breathes life into ‘Aeneid,’ a show of rare books

By Nina MacLaughlin Globe Correspondent 

Mr. ‘Aeneid’

Poet, professor, and translator David Ferry was in his 80s when he started working on “The Aeneid,’’ Virgil’s epic about the founding of Rome. He’s spent time with Virgil in the past, publishing translations of “The Eclogues’’ and “The Georgics.’’ Now at 93, his new translation of Virgil’s defining work was just released last month from University of Chicago Press.

A Brookline resident, Ferry has taught in BU’s creative-writing program and at Suffolk, and is the Sophie Chantal Hart professor emeritus at Wellesley College, where he taught from 1952 to 1989. In 2012, at 88, he won the National Book Award for poetry for his collection “Bewilderment.’’

Advertisement

So what now? “Of course I’m working on my own poems,” he writes in an e-mail, and his translation work continues with the poem “The Vigil of Venus’’ as well as Virgil’s “Satires.’’

His rendering of “The Aeneid’’ is sanguine and accessible. The lines are animated by a poet’s grace and rhythm. Take these lines, describing monstrous gossip as a figure “feathered all over . . ./ . . . calls down on the ones/ Below, her frightening mingle of truth and lies.”

Beyond the beauty of the language, the epic remains timely, detailing the grave cost of empire. “Every act of translation is an act of interpretation,” writes Ferry in an opening note, and this new take is a welcome one. Ferry will read from “The Aeneid’’ on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Suffolk University’s Stahl Center.

Books as treasures

This weekend brings the 41st annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair to the Hynes Convention Center, with 120 exhibitors exhibiting all manner of biblio-treasure. Visitors can browse the collection amassed by David Powers, a former JFK aide, of the president’s speeches and manuscripts, which includes much unpublished material; Japanese artist Murakami Sadao’s flower prints; and first editions and rare material by novelists Edith Wharton and Elena Ferrante, painter Georgia O’Keefe, poet and painter William Blake, writer and illustrator Edward Gorey, and physicist Albert Einstein, among others. Besides the finds to browse and buy, the festival also includes a talk by sleight-of-hand man Ricky Jay; a demonstration by bookbinder and artist Mark Cockram; a discussion on the Thoreau exhibit that’s taken place in New York and Concord with curators Christine Nelson and David Wood; and an opportunity to have that dusty old tome from your grandmother’s shelves appraised. The fair opens Friday, Nov. 10 and runs through Sunday. Opening event tickets are $20; the rest of the weekend is free. For more information visit bostonbookfair.com.

A Boston story that rocks

Clea Simon’s new noir, “World Enough,’’ is steeped in the 1980s Boston rock scene, with its sticky-floored clubs, radio stations dusted in coke, stars and hangers-on, seedy barbacks, and all the attendant sin and debauch that emerges after midnight when you can still hear the show ringing in your ears. Simon’s protagonist, Tara Winton covered punk bands back then and remains on the periphery of the scene. Now in her 40s and divorced, Tara works as a corporate communications drone, and in revisiting her rock-critic career via a writing assignment, she stumbles into a deadly mystery involving an old friend, an overdose, love gone wrong, and a web of relationships that tangle in twist. Simon, a journalist and novelist, was a local music critic in a former life, and her new book will resonate with mystery readers and former habitués of now-shuttered nightspots like the Rat.

Pick of the week

Advertisement

Michael Schiavo at The Bookstore in Lenox, recommends
“Amerifil.Txt’’ by Douglas Crase (University of Michigan): “This is the author’s love letter to America. A commonplace book assembled from the works of writers from John Ashbery to Jonathan Williams, Emily Dickinson to Gertrude Stein, it assembles the particles of the American spirit in all its disparate forms into a common store that you will draw from again and again.”

Coming out

“Houses of Ravicka’’ by Renee Gladman (Dorothy)

“Witch Wife’’ by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande)

“The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization’’ by Martin Puchner (Random House)


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.