Two Argentinian Gems
Ricardo Piglia is a remarkable Argentinian writer of fiction most US readers haven't heard about. He's teaching Latin American Literature at Princeton. But this isn't about his professorial occupation; I wanted to rave briefly about two of his novels I had the pleasure to read while I was away.
*Artificial Respiration is a masterpiece from 1981. Kirkus Reviews wrote
Published in Argentina in 1981 when that country still labored under authoritarian rule, Piglia's ambitious, multivalent novel explores the abrasive relationship between the human imagination and human history. Piglia, very much in the tradition of Latin American masters like Borges and Cortazar, employs a labyrinthine plot to worry knotty metaphysical and political questions. Sometimes a detective novel, sometimes a fictional probe of Argentine history, the book is plastic enough to concoct a confrontation between Kafka and Hitler. Piglia's compatriot, Ariel Dorfman, hails it as ``one of the most important Latin American novels of the last decade.''I loved this book and wished there were a second volume. The books discusses among other things the Argentinian literary canon. This is a novel that should be a part of that canon. Don't miss it.
*Money To Burn is a 1997 true crime novel. Publisher's Weekly wrote about this book that Piglia
again delivers his signature blend of noirish crime and social commentary in this provocative tale of a 1965 Buenos Aires bank robbery and its bloody aftermath, based on a real crime. The story is simple, but Piglia gives it depth by focusing on the sexed-up, drug-abusing, reckless robbers whose actions shocked Argentina.Telling more would be a disservice. There are surprises. Piglia's writing is taut, and the story moves rapidly. Another novel not to be missed.
How is it, you might ask, that I find these books? It's a question worthy of a real answer. Mostly, I rely on intuition. I find books and authors I like. I use Google and conversation to find books and authors who are compared to or in some way related to the ones I liked. If what I'm finding sounds at all intriguing, I invest $5 or less for a used copy of a book. I always like abebooks.com. Then I read. I'd use my local library if it had any of the books I'm searching out readily available, but it doesn't seem able to serve them up fast enough for these impulses. When I find a great book, I again Google and talk. I'm always looking for suggestions. It is simply remarkable to me how well this method works and how many wonderful books I've found and read in the past year.
In the pre-Internet world, I used this same intuition and sampling search technique to learn all about blues music and then, later, jazz. That was much, much harder: I had to find people (or libraries) with albums they'd lend.
My life has been enriched by this kind of searching. I'm amazed at how many gems I have "found." My standards remain incredibly high, and the shear volume of fantastic books, even limited to my genres of interest, means that I should never run out of new ones to rave about.