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

domingo, noviembre 25, 2007

The Lost World of Quintana Roo

The Lost World of Quintana Roo is out of print. But you can find copies at Amazon for $22.00 and up and at in English and Spanish for for $15 and up (English). alibris has the book beginning at $12.00. Doubtless other used book sites and shops have the book at similar prices. This non-fiction recounting of a solo trek on foot in 1962 from what would become Cancun, all the way down the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, to Belise is an amazing tale. I recommend reading it.

The book resonates with me particularly because I am sure that Peissel had to walk down the pictured beach in front of my house, just north of Tulum, to reach his destination. The mangrove behind the beach would have been utterly impenetrable on foot and without assistance. Walking for days on beaches this hot and sunny without access to much fresh water would be very difficult.

What was on this beach in the early 60's? The beach was probably a cocal, a place where coconuts were grown. A caretaker (or a caretaker's family) would take care of the trees (not much is required) and collect the fruit. Boats would come by to pick up the coconuts and carry them to Cozumel or to Belise for sale. Of course, there was no electricity. And of course, there were no roads into the interior. The mangrove behind the beach is wide and deep to this day, but then there were probably more jaguars than now. And many more turtles.

The Mayan Riviera and Tulum have now become tourist destinations. People who travel there now on insane Highway 307 really have no idea what the area was like a scant 50 years ago. Peissel's book describes that beautifully.

A wonderful gift for people who have discovered and love the Mayan Riviera.

Etiquetas: , , , ,

lunes, noviembre 19, 2007


I'll keep this short. I want to read Roberto Bolano's new book The Savage Detectives. Really I do. I love Latin American literature. And Amazon says this big novel is one of the top ten novels for 2007. But there's a small problem. And it's not the author's fault.

Friday I was in Ithaca, New York. I stopped in the Cornell Store and saw that they were selling the book for the list price, $27.00. This seems like a lot of money for a book, even though it's new and hardcover and I want it. When I got home, I found in my email box an advertisement from Amazon offering me this very book at 40% off, for $16.20. And I could get free shipping if my order totaled $25.00. How could this be? I wondered.

So I went to, my favorite used online bookseller, and I found used copies of the book beginning at $16.79 plus shipping. In other words, the used books (probably review copies) were more expensive than the new book from Amazon delivered to my mailbox.

I want to support my local, independent bookseller. That would be The Bookstore in Lenox, Massachusetts, which has been a community institution for more than thirty years. I love that bookstore. I have given readings there. I have attended readings there. Matthew, the owner, has good wine at readings. He has a great selection of books. He stocks books people love. And he's succeeded even though Barnes and Noble opened a store nearby. But I digress. I want to support my local bookseller.

But as far as Roberto Bolano's book is concerned, is my commitment to independent bookstores worth $11? For this one book? I'd like to think it was, but frankly, I can hear padlocks snapping shut on the front doors of most independent booksellers near here. That would be a terrible.

And now that Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc. are approaching, and the gifting season is upon us, people who give gifts probably want to stretch their gift-giving funds. I'm worried. Because all of that desire to save drives people to Amazon and B&N. And that's is a real danger not only for my friend's bookstore, but also for the lovely, lively, local, independent institution of bookstores generally.

Please think about this briefly before you shop. I don't want bookstores to go the way of the small town hardware store.

Etiquetas: , , , , ,

martes, noviembre 13, 2007

Reading In The Airport

The Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico

This as the travel season begins:

Marley is frustrated. He's read all the soccer magazines in English, Spanish and German and most of the newspapers in the San Juan airport, and he is thinking about starting to drink pina coladas to make the time pass. He can't find any books that he might like. He has had a waiting room nap, and his neck now aches. He and Bardo have been waiting at the gate for three hours. It has gone far beyond the jokes about BWIA meaning "But Will It Arrive." ... The gate area is filled with the two extremes of Caribbean travel: rich tourists, with fluorescent pallor when arriving and tanned or sun burnt when leaving, and the poor of color, leaving and coming home, carrying boxes taped shut with duct tape, crates, and battered suitcases. The tourists are vibrating with apparent anger at the delay that has been imposed. The locals are implacably resigned to the wait and to show grace no matter what.
The Dream Antilles

Yes, the travel season to "warm places" is upon us. It's hard to get to desde Desdemona, as you already know, especially if you haven't been invited. But there are other lovely spots in the Caribbean. With spectacular beaches. Of course, there will be delays for weather in the US and for equipment. But don't despair. Just remember to bring lots of reading material. And breathe deeply.

Etiquetas: , ,

jueves, noviembre 08, 2007

A Gripping Novel

Luisa Valenzuela

I love second hand books. I ordered a copy of Luisa Valenzuela's Black Novel With Argentines from It was a former library book with dustcover. It cost a couple of bucks. And it arrived quickly, bearing stamps "No Longer Property Of Tacoma Public Library" inside the front and back covers and on the plastic dustcover. This is not what riveting books are supposed to look like. Those are supposed to be comfortably sitting on shelves in the Tacoma Public Library, and in other public libraries, and are not supposed to end up in the discard heap. Maybe, I thought, it's just not in vogue in Tacoma. After all, I reasoned, what do I know about literary tastes in Tacoma?

Tacoma's loss is my gain. This 1990 novel is dark (hence, the title), riveting, sensual, and full of horror. It's not set in Buenos Aires; it's set in a New York City both the author and I know only too well, in the era when the East Village was Bohemian and Alphabet City was a war zone, the two being divided by macabre Tompkins Square Park. The books begins with an inexplicable murder of an actress by an Argentine writer living in the City, and it then travels in circles into the world of the New York fringe inhabited by his lover, her unusual friends and acquaintances.

Because Agustin, the writer, and Roberta, his lover, are both writers, they discuss writing. But Roberta, who is "working" on a novel, and Agustin, who has manuscripts and a grant, do not practice their craft. Their writing has been suspended. It's hard to know for how long. And their talk about "writing with the body" leads to more not writing. And angst. And more talk. You could easily shoot somebody for no reason.

Etiquetas: , ,

domingo, noviembre 04, 2007

The Suffering In Tabasco

cross posted at daily Kos

The flooding in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, continues. It has finally broken into the traditional media. And the images are appalling.

According to the NY Times
President Felipe Calderón, who has visited Villahermosa twice this week, said that Mexico was facing one of the worst natural disasters in its recent history. But it was hard to gauge how widespread the damage was.

The Tabasco governor, Andrés Granier, who compared Villahermosa to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, said that as many as one million of the state’s 2.2 million residents had been affected by the flooding. But it was not clear if they had been left homeless.

State officials said Friday that 69,000 people were in packed shelters around the state. Many residents who could leave the state sought refuge in the neighboring state of Veracruz.

Here's where we're talking about:

State Secretary Humberto Mayans said Friday that an estimated 100,000 people in Villahermosa had nowhere to go and were wandering the city’s streets.

Tabasco has approximately 2.2 million population.

That made things look like this (most photos from Mexican press sites):

It's not clear yet where private donations should go that will most directly benefit the people of Tabasco.

In the meanwhile, this would be a good time for prayers and positive thoughts and putting aside a few dollars to donate.

Etiquetas: , , ,

viernes, noviembre 02, 2007

The New York City Marathon

An excerpt from The Dream Antilles:

Bardo is stretched out in the hammock. He is doing an exercise Swamiji told him about. He gets completely comfortable and relaxed. Then he thinks of something about which he has only positive thoughts. At the moment, he is thinking about how delicious it feels when he is in good physical condition and is running in the New York Marathon. He focuses on his enjoyment, his appreciation of the event, his excitement, the ease of it. As he thinks of these things, other positive thoughts come to him as well, thoughts about how his body is healthy, strong, light, swift, lithe, thoughts about how wonderful and efficient his breathing feels. Soon his mind has appreciated the running, and moves to appreciate something else. He continues as long as there is purely positive thought. At the first awareness of a negative thought he stops, pauses, and returns to the beginning again. Bardo is agog at how many negative thoughts arise in his thinking. Some, he notes are obviously comparative, critical, negative; others, implicitly negative; others, disguised as neutral are negative. He goes back to running down Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn in a sea of runners, enjoying the spectacle of it all, cradled in positive thought, and falls asleep with his mouth open and his jaw hanging relaxed.

Sunday is the day. Again, it's the start of Standard Time. If you're in Gotham, please go to the route and yell. It helps. It really does.

Etiquetas: , , ,