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PDFs and Polyglossia

Part of my work as a practicing writer (and yours, in case you haven’t realized it) involves keeping up with technology. Or, in my case, trying to make up deficits.

Here’s an example: In the last week I’ve finally learned how to upload PDFs to my Web site on my own. My larger goal–and I’ll get there someday–is acquiring the ability to build entire new site pages that would consist of full articles or stories. But in the meantime, I’m slowly adding some of my work to the site in PDF form.

Case in point: My mini-rant related to this year’s Nobel Prize for literature and surrounding commentary is hardly my only writing taking on American literary “isolation” or “insulation.” Here’s the start of an essay, “In Praise of Polyglossia,” published in 2004 in Matrix magazine:

Last winter I sat with my fellow (American) fiction writers around a seminar table, absorbing our (American) instructor’s insights about Craft and Process. We had just finished critiquing one of my classmate’s manuscripts, and during a brief discussion the instructor pronounced one of the most shocking statements I’d ever heard a writing teacher articulate:

“People who use foreign words in their fiction,” she began, leaning back in her chair and waving her hand, “are just showing off.”

Slight, polite laughter rippled through the room. My own face froze.

Ma foi! Was she, I wondered, alluding to my own “person,” my own fiction? Was she thinking of my own reputation for peppering speech with a French phrase here and there? Because to my knowledge she had not yet read any of my stories, many of which feature immigrant characters, stories in which German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, especially, address loved ones as Liebchen, or slowly and painfully acquire English language skills. In any case, even granted the tension-filled time that it was, with the United States and France veritable foes at the United Nations, the instructor’s comments seemed the epitome of American exceptionalism—and certainly provided another insight concerning “why they hate us.”

To download and read the rest of the essay, please go to my Web site’s Writing page and scroll down. “In Praise of Polyglossia” appears twice, once with the articles about writing, and a second time in the “Essays” category.

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