Acclaimed translator of
prominent Italian writers
William Weaver, 90, one of the world's most honored and widely read translators, who helped introduce English-language readers to the works of Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino and many other Italian writers, died Nov. 12 at a retirement home in Rhinebeck, N.Y., his family said. The retired Bard College literature professor had been in poor health for years after a stroke.
An ambulance driver in Italy during World War II, Weaver went on to translate some of that country's popular and influential books, notably Eco's international bestseller "The Name of the Rose" and Calvino's singular historical tale, "Invisible Cities."
"He was a pioneer in bringing many of the most significant postwar Italian voices into English," said Jonathan Galassi, the publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux and himself an acclaimed translator of Italian poetry.
Born in Virginia on July 24,1923, William Fense Weaver was encouraged by his family to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. When he was sent to boarding school at the age of 12, his going-away present was a typewriter. As a teenager, he wrote poetry.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, he vowed to become a conscientious objector but instead signed on with the American Field Service, which allowed civilians to drive ambulances. He served in Africa, then Italy, absorbing Italian through movies, plays, conversations and study of a grammar book.
After the war, he graduated from Princeton University and went on to graduate studies at the University of Rome. In a 2000 interview with The Paris Review, Weaver detailed a translator's travails. Calvino's writing had such distinctive rhythms that translating them was particularly challenging; Weaver said he worried that even a single misplaced comma would spoil the narrative.
He also endured the author's misplaced confidence in his understanding of English.
"Every now and then he would fiddle with a sentence in his English," Weaver said. "At one point, he fell madly in love with the word 'feedback', and he didn't realize that in America, 'feedback' is ... jargon and cliche, and you can't use it anymore. The word is dead to literature, but to him it was new and fascinating."
Author of Junie B Jones
books for young readers
Barbara Park, 66, author of million-selling books about the mishaps of irreverent grade-schooler Junie B. Jones, died Friday after battling ovarian cancer, according to a statement from Random House Books for Young Readers. She was a longtime resident of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Starting in 1992, Park wrote more than 30 illustrated chapter books about the smart-mouthed girl with an ungrammatical opinion of everybody — her parents, her teachers, her friends and her classmate and enemy for life, May, who is so mean that she won't even acknowledge Junie's middle initial (which stands for Beatrice: "Only I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all," Junie warned).
The books' titles alone were windows into Junie's slangy mind: "Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth," "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus," and "Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim's Birthday." Junie was stuck in kindergarten for years before Park advanced her to the next class, starting with Book 18 and "Junie B., First Grader (at last!)."
In an interview with barnesandnoble.com, she said: "I find that when I'm struggling to think of how a 6-year-old would feel about something, I just have to go right down to the common denominator, find the simplest way that you can look at an object or a problem, and not muck it up with all of the stuff that adults do and over-analyze."
Park's books sold more than 55 million copies in North America, according to Random House, and the series was adapted into a popular musical theater production. Parents and educators occasionally objected to Jones' personalized language and cheeky ways, worrying that she was a bad influence on her fans. The series has appeared on the American Library Assn.'s list of "challenged" books.
Born Barbara Tidswell on April 21, 1947, in Mount Holly, N.J., Park remembered herself as a troublemaker who knew well the path to the principal's office. She had planned to become a teacher, majoring in education at the University of Alabama, but a year of being a student teacher for seventh-graders convinced her that any further classroom experiences should be confined to paper.