Workshop at the Betsy

November 4th 2015, at the Betsy South Beach Hotel, Ocean Drive..

need I say Miami Beach? An encounter with international literary agents Stephanie Abou and Vanessa King….a sparkling cosmopolitan setting with actors a la hauteur de… with only a query about the name Betsy lending itself to a commodious art deco establishment with a gracious porch. Physical locations bearing women’s names tend to suggest checkered pasts, but even that would be in tune with the laid back no questions asked mindset of Ocean Drive, and Miami in general. I am not complaining. The original Miami was a swamp, so there are always murky depths to explore and critters that slip and slide as shadows, but that is its charm. More daunting are the unplumbed depths of translation, indeed a linguistic swamp, and a cultural minefield. Mesdames Abou and King tried valiantly and somewhat successfully to shed some light into its cultural darkness, but push aside one clinging vine and another appears immediately. Great modern French authors somehow don’t “make it” with an American public, or only exceptionally like Michel Houellbecq whose novel Submission evokes a totally Islamized France in 2022. What to do? Is there a possible foothold for French literature and authors in the US? Or must French culture be caught in the quick mud of cook books and fashion?

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