Beowulf, bro.

Robin Sloan:

The classic poem Beowulf begins with the Old English word “hwæt,” which has proven tricky to translate; it’s a call to attention, something like “hark!” or “behold!” Tolkien chose the musty “Lo!” Seamus Heaney, in his translation published twenty years ago—the first Beowulf I encountered—brought it up to date, opening with a winning “So!” Now, Maria Dahvana Headley, in a bracingly contemporary translation, does Heaney one better. Her Beowulf begins with—wait for it—“Bro!” Beowulf always was a little bro-y, wasn’t it? I love the way these translations speak to one another; neither Heaney nor Headley’s choices would be as appealing without the knowledge of what came before. Lo/So/Bro: a perfect progression.

Sloan’s commentary of casual Beowulf translation reminded me of John Gardner’s book Grendel. I read it for the first time last year and really enjoyed the rhapsodized re-telling of the Beowulf story from the point-of-view of the monster. Seems to me on the first reading to stand in the tradition of the unsettling groteesque characteristic of Flannery O’Connor.

After reading the book, I stumbled on some insightful commentary from Gardner in a letter he wrote to a group of young students. I appreciate when authors help readers understand their stories without nuetering the story.

How Humans Push and Pull The Internet Resulting in Flow and Stock

“Push and Pull” are Chris Dixon’s simplifying patterns of the internet named for the action that users enact on the tool. “Push and pull” classifies how we lay claim and opt-into the digital world.

This participation with the internet reminds me of what ends up shaking out over time and what Austin Kleon calls “Stock and Flow.” In fact, Dixon categorizes push and pull as stock and flow, respectively, under the category of “Content Durability.” To help us understand content durability here are Robin Sloans’ defenitions of flow and stock:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.