31 January 2009


On Thursday, another post of mine went up at the Words Without Borders Blog. Somehow, I was able to begin to articulate the strangeness of my situation. But just now, I'm irremediably homesick. I think posting a few things that have occupied my thoughts lately will help.

Nearly two weeks ago I found out about Gina Parody's resignation from the Senate. As the youngest person to be elected to Congress in Colombia, she is also the most direct and clear-spoken--and is undeniably brilliant. In the interview she gave with RCN (the video follows this letter to her supporters), she expressed the reasons why she could no longer represent her (former) party. Her integrity and clear belief in her principles is awe-inspiring. At 35, she's closed this chapter of her political career, but continues to explore other ways to fight for change. (At this point, she sees education as a main avenue.)

Between January and July of 1861, Colombia had a black president. Juan José Nieto, governor of Bolívar, served as interim president while Mosquera arrived to Bogotá. History had forgotten, his tomb is falling apart. But memory is returning...

The Hay Festival is in full swing! I'll be checking this year's blog all weekend. (I love looking at last year's too.) A., his sister, and another dear friend are in Cartagena right now! I look forward to hearing all about it.

Junot Díaz talks about how his two great loves--books and the Caribbean--were brought together for the first time in his life when he first attended the Hay Festival in Cartagena: "Cartagena fue la primera vez en mi vida en la que mis disparatados yos se sintieron como uno solo."

And because I can't help it... Two "Bettyadictas" from Mexico and Spain visit Colombia for the first time, thanks to one of the greatest shows ever: Yo soy Betty, la fea. (Yes, I may as well join la Asociación de Bettyadictas Anónimas too!) Originally a Colombian "telenovela" that ran between 1999 and 2001, it has since been adapted by 18 other countries around the world. It's brilliant--hysterically funny and deeply moving at once. (They've been running it again in Colombia and I had to leave before it finished. Luckily, I was able to see the rest of it on YouTube.)

30 January 2009

Favorite things

In this list of "17 Things I Love," Neko Case discusses the books she read while making Middle Cyclone and why they're amazing. See which titles by Annie Dillard, Richard Adams, Joseph Mitchell, Sherman Alexie, Angela Carter, Lynda Barry, and Tomek Tryzna have won her devotion.

17 January 2009

Yet another reason I love Colombia

Being able to buy García Márquez novels at supermarket check-out counters.

(The last photo, from top to bottom: Cien años de soledad, El amor en los tiempos del cólera, El general en su laberinto, and La mala hora.)

I read El otoño del patriarca in a week, rushing to finish it before I had to leave Santa Marta (since it was A.'s copy and I couldn't bring much back with me because then I'd have even *more* to haul back from England in the summer. Which makes me wonder, because no matter how firmly I've resolved not to buy books, I seem to accumulate them regardless. Evidently, there is no escape.). The last three days consisted of swimming through 100 pages each--and I do mean swimming. This 398 page novel consists of six paragraphs. SIX. There are very specific reasons for this--which I'll probably investigate later. I know he was heavily influenced by Faulkner and the modernists, and when I finally read our copy of El olor de la guayaba (lengthy conversations he had with his friend Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza), I'll know more. There's a whole section dedicated to this novel of his.

I think the reason I was able to sail through it so easily is that I didn't get hung up on trying to remember what was said at the beginning of each sentence. Sound strange? Ok. It's as if he's structured this novel like a flowing river. Each sentence is an individual current in this river, and you have to let yourself get swept away by it. Float along, see the sights, take in all that he's telling you. But don't get caught up in trying to remember the sequential order of things or where you started from, because then you'll spend your time trying to arrange and sort and categorize, reading it will become a chore, and you'll (ironically) miss what you were supposed to experience along the way.

Yes, he's very deliberate about the decisions he made. There is no dialogue punctuation, which helps the sensation of being carried along by something greater--a lone sailor in a rowboat. It's a little scary, but once you stop worrying about who is telling the story (there seem to be many voices telling it, many "I"s, the voices of various people in this coastal city) and simply take in the words as they come, it's an entrancing experience. I've felt like this reading Faulkner, Woolf, and Joyce, but never quite this strong. Probably because I was reading great chunks of it at a time and simply enjoying the story--the intrigue, the horror, the tragedy, and (yes!) the humor. (What a marvelously wicked sense of humor García Márquez has!) I could almost hear the voice of this lonely, monomaniacal dictator--his verbal tics and repeated sayings, his "que carajo" and "no seas pendejo" and frequent pleas to his mother, Bendición Alvarado (of the sewing machine and myriad birds).

The best reading experience I've had in a long time.

16 January 2009

Andrew Wyeth

I knew this would happen someday...but it still seems too soon.

15 January 2009


Another dispatch of mine went up at the Words Without Borders Blog on 4 January. I returned from Colombia on Sunday night and I'm slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things. Hope to have more to offer soon!

14 January 2009

A way out

A few lines from Paul Auster's Oracle Night...

"I didn't get that far. But we would have found a way out. People can't die in their dreams, you know. Even if the door was locked, something would have happened to get us out. That's how it works. As long as you're dreaming, there's always a way out."
"Thoughts are real," he said. "Words are real. Everything human is real, and sometimes we know things before they happen, even if we aren't aware of it. We live in the present, but the future is inside us at every moment. Maybe that's what writing is all about, Sid. Not recording events from the past, but making things happen in the future."