This post does not contain photographs of food–just a link to a short reflection I put up on Medium. I had never used it before, and I had been thinking about cupcakes, so it seemed there was no better time.
Over at Feedback, I just posted a short review of a couple new or newly translated books about Mexico City–one by Francisco Goldman and another by Valeria Luiselli. It’s exciting to be reading such excellent books about the DF, where I’ll be working for a few weeks starting next week. I’ll be looking at old maps in archives and listening to sounds in the Fonoteca, among other things. I’m sure I’ll buy more books than I can carry and will have to ship them back separately. And I’ll be rereading The Savage Detectives, not so much for the “being there” aspect of it, rather to prep for my fall grad seminar on Bolaño and Mexico.
Further dispatches will follow.
I spent a long weekend in Chicago for the Latin American Studies Association conference. It left me with lots to think about, and I’ll post in the next couple days with some thoughts. For now, though, here’s this, Al Jarreau performing “Take Five.” Few things in the universe are better.
The first short story I read in Spanish was “La luz es como el agua.” I was in high school and my teacher passed me a photocopy of it. I remember underlining, looking up all the words I didn’t know, learning words like brújula, which made little sense in my landlocked childhood but which, I remember observing, sounded like the word for witch and rhymed with esdrújula.
I remember reading Cien años de soledad in college while abroad in Venezuela. I remember buying El general en su laberinto in a Caracas bookstore. I remember where in the bookstore it was and that it was wrapped, as is so often the case, in plastic. I later wrote an honors thesis about that novel. It was the first time I engaged seriously with some the questions I teach about today: the relationship between literature and history, literature and politics, Latin American intellectual culture and my life.
Over the years I somewhat lost interest in García Márquez. His sentences and paragraphs are too perfect, too resonant and pouring forth: bubbles in the air blown not by children but by some fantastical machine. It’s a dumb reason to lose interest, maybe, but it’s true. Still, I taught “La luz es como el agua” in a class the other day and grew nostalgic for the high school kid who first pored over a dictionary trying to understand that story. And I’m nothing short of delighted to discover, today, this profile of Shakira that he first published in 1999. (I learned lots of Spanish from her CDs also when I was in high school.)
I’m very happy to announce that a project that’s been in the works for a while is now public. It’s called Furniture in Motion, and it’s a pamphlet series that I’m editing for Rattapallax. Here’s the official description:
Furniture in Motion is a pamphlet series published electronically by Rattapallax, with an emphasis on visual culture. The titular image is borrowed from the Chilean poet Nicanor Parra. Against the majesty of trees, Parra’s classic antipoems give us instead a world of home furnishings, tables and chairs in perpetual circulation. This is poetry as carpentry. Similarly, the entries in this series do not seek a return to roots. Rather, they take up ideas in flight, images in flux.
The first volume is a brief, beautiful treatise called The Oyster. The authors, Dejan Lukic and Nik Kosieradzki, take the oyster as the occasion for a meditation on form and chaos. In eight manifolds, they unfurl the oyster in its various modes of existence: a plastic form, a pulsating thing, a culinary delight, an object of representation, a factory of pearls…
In other news, I’ve been reading more than blogging lately. A couple books I’m deep into: Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams (Graywolf, 2014) and Óscar Martínez’s The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail (Verso, 2013). In very different ways, both authors integrate themselves into the prose in really effective ways. Both books come highly recommended. I also just heard that Sergio González Rodríguez has won the Anagrama essay prize for his new book on global war. I’m excited to get my hands on that once it comes out.