Lisa’s Literal Translations #4 – “Rent” by Jane Cooper


What a Literal Translation is: A word-for-word translation that swaps words out with literal synonyms
Why a Literal Translation: They help dissect hard-to-understand poems. Most of the time.
“Rent” by Jane Cooper The Original:
If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let’s have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.If the rocking chair’s arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.I don’t want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle’s flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us—
Not a roof but a field of stars.


Lisa’s Literal Translation:

If you crave my rented living abode, hibernate therein
but let’s keep a transparent agreement of ideas:
the tomes are yet liberated spies.

Should the shuffling seat’s limbs circle you
they may likewise release you,
they may mold the atmosphere like a corpse.

I don’t wish your house money, I wish
a brilliance of concentration
kin to the light’s fire when we ingest,

I intend a sort of wonder
listening to the emptinesses betwixt us—
No ceiling but a meadow of planetary lights.

Nora Ephron Can Write About Anything



Nora Ephron, as you probably know, passed away in June of last year. When I heard the news I was firstly saddened because this woman had written a couple of my favorite movies, some of which I didn’t even know were hers. Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, of course. When Harry Met Sally, well, not my absolute favorite, but maybe because I’ve only seen it once. MichaelMy Blue Heaven. The main reason I adore both Joan Cusack and Rick Moranis, and my first reason for loving Steve Martin, was My Blue Heaven.

But I also realized when she died, that I knew absolutely nothing about Nora Ephron. I knew she had a few books, but for some reason I had thought that her books were an offshoot of her movie escapades. That she was a filmmaker first, and then a little bit of a writer.

Nora Ephron. Who was a journalist and playwright and novelist long before I so much as thought of existing.

I was a little ashamed of myself, and vowed that I would get me hence and read some of her books. So recently, I did just that.

More to the point, I read a couple of her memoir books from the last couple of years. There was a time when I was young and fiendish for fiction (I won’t say how recently that has ended) that I probably would never have picked up a memoir, even if it was by and about someone who interested me. I think I can finally say that this is no longer the case. That I can finally revel in the fact that life can be infinitely more interesting and memorable than some fiction, and especially such a life.

I picked up audio copies of I Remember Nothing and I Feel Bad About My Neck on my phone via Overdrive, and was pleased as pink to hear from Ephron herself. Some of it was a little melancholy—the realizations of how old she was, and that she would pass away soon enough, realizing how many of her friends were already gone—but so much of it was fascinating, and all of it was wonderfully presented. She talked about working in the White House, her luck and the gumption it took to get her where she got in journalism. She talked about her mother, who she had an almost Amy-Tan-complex relationship with. And she didn’t get overly sentimental about anything—except perhaps about how her neck used to look.

And that is her great strength in both of these books. She presents the story as it happened, with few judgments as to whether any of it was good or bad, which of course lets you feel it for yourself.

So, while it took some time after her death for me to do so, I was immensely pleased to get to know Nora Ephron a little bit more. And extra pleased by the idea that if I had been older (and let’s face it, probably better dressed) I probably could have gone up to her and convinced her she was supposed to know me somehow. She says she remembered nothing, but she lived a lot, and is comfortable talking about it all, which makes her books unmissable.