Translator's Notes (The Mystery Guest)

After translating Grégoire Bouilliere's novel L'Invité Mystère, Lorin Stein created a web site that presents the messy story behind the seamless and apparently quite wonderful translation. (FWIW, here's a quick synopsis: A guy gets a call from his longtime ex, who disappeared without a trace five years earlier; she invites him to a birthday party for a woman he has never met.) The hypertextual presentation of the translator's notes is clunky and nonintuitive. You have to click each blog entry (though there is no obvious prompt or link marker) to get the window that contains all the good stuff. Despite the flawed presentation, it's exactly the sort of meta-book spin-off project that publishers should do more of. Strictly from a book marketing point of view, the site is useful. I wouldn't have known about Bouillier otherwise, and my next stop will be Amazon, where I may well buy the book.

There's something else, too -- a web site like Translator's Notes is a simple way to take some of the "shine" or commodity aura off books, making it less tempting to undervalue them because the labor of writing (not to mention publishing, marketing and distributing) is apparent. What if every book looked like a handmade craft item you might find at Zanisa or Sweet Thunder or Nest...?