Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, octubre 29, 2006

A Week Lost In Time

It's probably true, as asserted in What the Bleep, that my brain can't tell the difference between what it's seeing and what I'm thinking. It's because of this that sometimes events that I thought ended decades ago are continuing or repeating themselves. Maybe it feels that way particularly this week because I'm thinking about Nicaragua and reading about Chile. And so, I bring you the news:

Daniel Ortega (right) As I Remembered Him
The other day I heard a story on the radio from Democracy Now that Dick Cheney and Oliver North had traveled to Nicaragua this week. It seems that Nicaragua is having an election and that Sandinista Daniel Ortega-- I'm sure you remember the name-- has a good chance of being re-elected. This would yield yet another left wing government in this hemisphere. Hence, some menace from the Northern Empire seems essential. You can read about it here and here. The story doesn't seem to have gotten much play in the US. Maybe it's evidence that with wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US doesn't have as much energy as before to play its previous interventionist role throughout Latin America. You'll recall, perhaps, what an imminent danger Mr. Ortega was to the US two decades ago and the efforts of the Reagan administration to repress him.

Salvador Allende (right) As I Remembered Him
And then there's the news this week that in Chile Augosto Pinochet is about to be indicted. It's an odd synchronicity that I heard this news as I was reading Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden. When I started reading it, it felt extraordinarily powerful, but the political events, in my mind anyway, seemed quite far away. About as far away as Costa Gavras's 1982 film Missing. Doesn't Chile now have a left wing government led by Michelle Bachelet, whom Pinochet had detained and forced into exile? I thought. If Allende's murder has not been avenged, at least the dictator is no longer in power. And then this news, that the struggle goes on and on and on.

And then, of course, we have the news that Fidel Castro, pictured above as I remembered him, continues to recuperate.

How is it possible that basic news of about events in the Americas continues elude us? It's as if we were in a deep trance, or under anaesthesia, or asleep, or hypnotized, and we somehow can't lift our heads and open our eyes to see across the walls we have constructed.

domingo, octubre 22, 2006

Building A Library: A Request For Titles

There are libraries (above, New York City Public Library), and there are libraries. Some are more finite than others. But leaving all of the metaphysical aside, the library I have in mind today is my own and what it might need to be better, more complete.

In a small house on the Caribbean Sea in Mexico for the past year I have been building a small library of wonderful Latin American novels that have been translated into English. I started with a large, rolling suitcase full of my favorite books: Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, Borges, Amado, Cortazar, Llosa. The list goes on. I put the books on the shelf so that the renters and I, when I am there, might enjoy them. I wrote in each book my request that it not be traded or removed. This request seems to have been mostly honored (I think Isabel Allende may have wandered off) . The library has not yet reached 100 books.

Today I ordered more books. Laura Esquivel, Juan Donoso, Juan Rulfo, Alejo Carpentier (a favorite, but the copies I had before belonged to someone else and had to be returned). And several others. I bought used books from Amazon and Abebooks, my favorite for old, out of print, used, wonderful books. It's really amazing how far $100 will go. And in light of possible hurricane ramifications, used books are just perfect for this project. Impermanence and all that.

What kinds of books do I want? Excellent Latin American novels and stories. Important books. Books that can be read in comfort and fit perfectly here: and here:
Books that fit in the humidity, in the heat, at the sea. Books that benefit from the clacking of the palms and the songs of birds. Books to take into the hammock. Books to read through sunglasses. Books to read under mosquito netting. Books that fit.

And so, dear reader, a request from me to you. If you know of a book that belongs in this very small library, please place its title in the comments. Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Muchas Gracias!

miércoles, octubre 18, 2006

Bring On The Yellow Sea Plane

I just got back from desde Desdemona, where I spent 5 days.

It really does take two days from anywhere to get to desde Desdemona. Last time, I ended up in a hotel waiting for a flight. This time my first flight was canceled, leading to a flight in a 19-seat beer can to Boston, a layover, a flight to Miami, a layover, and another flight to the yellow sea plane. You get it. No matter what the schedules may say, two days' travel.

And what did I watch during the commercial portion of my voyage? American Airlines plays CBS TV shows instead of movies. These are free though the headphones are $2 if you don't have your own. In short: the shows are all advertising for CBS and they are separated by advertising for American Airlines and/or CBS. Are they crazy? Do they really think somebody is going to get home and watch a sitcom they never heard of before, because s/he saw it on the plane? It's like thinking passengers go to the grocery store to search for the precise brand of free pretzels the airline gives you.

My passive viewing of these sit coms-- they were the only show in town once my laptop's battery expired-- reveals something quite troubling, that people of no apparent occupation and undeclared financial status have houses with small, working class exteriors, but the interiors are gigantic, extremely well decorated, nicely furnished and uncluttered. The apartments in these shows are even more gigantic and even better decorated. The rooms are not filled with life's detritus. The bedrooms have beds the size of football fields. The characters have silk pajamas and sheets. They have no books and no papers and garbage. In other words, to watch these shows, you have to suspend your disbelief entirely. How else can you think that people with no apparent work and no apparent trustfunds have apartments that make your own dwelling seem, well, tatty and inadequate?

These are the kinds of critical, negative thoughts that inform me that it's time for me to visit desde Desdemona and restore my sanity. They become even more pronounced while I'm travelling. Was it Club Med that used to advertise it was "the antidote to civilization?" This time I really needed the antidote to TVs in back of minivans, to lack of silence, to the Government's assertions of "facts," to the main stream medias' "news." And, of course, I found it.