You’ve heard from poetry editors and one of the prose editors, now Kacie Wheeler catches up with Alex McElroy, one of our international editors. If you didn’t know, Hayden’s Ferry Review has a whole section of prose and poetry translations in every issue! And now you know! Let’s see what Alex has to say about his position.
Alexander McElroy: It’s hard to pin down what exactly I do because I still don’t think I’m totally sure. I mostly read the international prose submissions submitted and glance at the untranslated originals, mostly for aesthetic purposes because rarely am I able to read them. My primary focus is to judge the quality of the work based on its English translation. I also read the international poetry submissions, though I defer making selections to Christine Holm, who intuits the value of poems much more naturally and skillfully than I am able to. The job also involves searching for international writers. Dalkey Archive’s annual Best European Fiction and the journal Two Lines are vade mecums for any international editor.
KW: What are you currently reading (outside of HFR submissions)?
AM: On the rare occasions I’m not reading HFR submissions, I might, as is the case currently, read through a book on bridges and another on the history of Oregon. I tend to read with unproductive eclecticism. I’m working through some of Plato’s early dialogues, Renata Adler’s thankfully reprinted collection of stories, Speedboat, Delmore Schwartz’s poems in Summer Knowledge, and just about everything Amelia Gray has ever written. Plus class work. This morning I read some John Donne, because I’m nostalgic for the era where authors spell’d words howesoever they pleesed.
KW: What are you writing right now?
AM: I’m working on a few stories right now and a short profile on Amelia Gray.
KW: What kinds of things do you like to see show up in the submission queue?
AM:For HFR, I gravitate toward shorter work that makes a statement about life—I was a prose reader prior to International Editor, so this speaks to both international and fiction submission. Work where characters and narrators are unafraid to talk to the reader, tell the reader what they think, though not in a cloying or overbearing way. But in an honest way, which is difficult to define, but, like a supreme court justice might say, I know it when I see it. I like clear, stable prose that understands its intention. By that I mean writing that is not overly sentimental or detached without reason. I like to feel like the author understands why they choose the words they do, because it is apparent when authors rely solely on inspiration and a chubby thesaurus.
Plus work that strikes a match on my spine. Just do that, potential contributors.
KW: What language would you like to have your stories translated into? Why?
AM: I would like to see them translated into Chinese or Russian. Maybe ancient Greek. Any language that uses a different alphabet would be welcome so that I wouldn’t be able to read the work. It would be interesting to be wholly detached from my work, to see it as an object rather than a series of interpretable codes and symbols articulating a message.
KW: How many languages can you read and write in?
AM: This is embarrassing. I can read Spanish and barely write in it. I could maybe bumble my way through a train station in France. Je suis Américain. Sortie, s’il vous plait.
Alex McElroy is a first year fiction candidate from New Jersey. Prior to moving to Arizona he waited tables at a Japanese restaurant in Oregon, a job he hated but has since romanticized and now desperately misses.