Monday, October 29, 2012

The Atheist ...

I do a random search on my Kindle for magical realism. All sorts of books come up. One of them is The Atheist by Gabriel Ruiz, translated by Monica Lanshorn.

The book's cover depicts a white stick cross centered in a child-shaped heart superimposed upon a pond of sitting ducks haunted by the ghost of a church. The predominant colors are golds and browns. I download the sample.

The book starts with questions. Few are direct. They are interesting enough to keep me reading. The narrative style is pleasant, matter-of-fact. The narrator himself is thoughtful and introspective. But not too much.

An englishman in a small spanish town with a dead friend, the Atheist. And now two graves are being dug. One just inside the cemetery wall, and one just outside.  His friend will have to decide which grave will be the Atheist's.

Then comes Maria who believes in God.

The story follows a path that reminds me of the streets I walked in Granada. Not straight, but paved with stones that are not flat.

And then there is the boy, so much like the Atheist himself. I know what you're thinking. I was too.
When I finish reading I smile.


Friday, October 26, 2012

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

I love the story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. So far, it is my favorite in Leaf Storm. It is the reason I bought the book, years ago, in the first place. Its seven pages drench us with:

Lyrcial prose-

...a poor woman who since childhood had been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portugese man who couldn't sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while wide awake...

Clever humor-

He seemed to be so many places at the same time that they grew to think he'd been duplicated, that he was reproducing himself all through the house, and the exasperated and unhinged Elisenda shouted that it was awful living in that hell full of angels.

And blistering indictment-

The only time they succeeded in arousing him was when they burned his side with an iron for branding steers, for he had been motionless for so many hours that they thought he was dead.

We pray, ask, beg, and plead for the divine to reveal itself in our lives.

We bemoan, fret, and sigh that the divine eludes us. Yet if a very old man with enormous wings made a clumsy landing in our yard on a wet afternoon, what would we see?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Not even with an axe...

I finish the story Leaf Storm and think:

These are the memories of how we treat one another. 

Death, the final arbiter arrives for us all.
And then we smell...

Immediately, I begin reading the Gabriel Garcia Marquez biography by Gerald Martin.

I am shocked--why?--to learn just how autobiographical the story Leaf Storm is. I feel disappointed and satisfied. Disappointed because it wasn't imagined from ground zero. Satisfied because perhaps I did get the story, more than I thought.

Then something the biographer observes about Gabo's voice gives me pause.

Many years later, when Garcia Marquez managed to reconstruct those two ways of interpreting and narrating reality, both of them involving a tone of absolute certainty--the worldly, rationalizing sententiousness of his grandfather and the other-worldy oracular declamations of his grandmother--leavened by his own inimitable sense of humor, he would be able to develop a world-view and a corresponding narrative technique which would be instantly recognizable to the readers of each new book.

And I begin absorbing in a new way how there is no becoming who we are. It is always an undoing. An unveiling. A stripping away of flawed pretense. Useless affectation, that fools no one but ourselves, must go. Because we cannot cut ourselves off from our roots.

Not even with an axe.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Good and Bad Have Long Tails...

Of the three books I'm reading, Oscar Wilde's The Complete Fairy Tales feels the most prosaic. Qualification: I am not done yet. The allusion to christ in The Selfish Giant feels maudlin, while the inviolate boundaries drawn between good and bad in The Devoted Friend feel tedious.

Good and Bad have long tails. Tales that grab the middle, and attest only to the pendulum's extreme swings deny deeper truths. It's not so much that everything is relative....

It's much more that this leads to that and that leads to this, and addressing a partial continuum in moral absolutes feels hollow.

But Wilde wrote his fairy tales ages ago. Perhaps, I can forgive him for being a man, somewhat of his times.

When I was a child...

We had a Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tale collection (printed) and an LP of The Brothers Grimm. I wore that LP out. The book of fairy tales was more dangerous, and lingering. Things we were not allowed to discuss in my home--anger, envy, betrayal--laced those stories.

I kept quiet about those things. And held my breath.

Because those enchanted tales held out hope for a future where the truth might be set free, and I might be able to breathe.

Saturday, October 20, 2012 lists, doodles, short story, novel.....

i will read anything marquez list, doodles, short story, novel..... A review of Leaf Storm by Kerilynn Pederson on Goodreads.

Half-way through Leaf Story, I'm nodding my head.

I'm lying if I say I "get" every word, line, sentence. I don't.

At least not on the rational level. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story slips and slides through every "how it should be/written" censor within me.

When I read Adelaide's point of view, being raised in a bilingual household, I know her. This outrage of things she has never been told by the inhabitants of her own home. Marquez captures the affront to her dignity better than any reel of film.

Then there is the rhythm--that bassline--steady in the background. Syncopation is as much an art in writing as it is in music. 

And the light plummets through the trees like a bird. And the maliciously premeditated gossip.

He rolls the leaves tights then ignites them. The haze from the smoke alters our sense of perception.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who is that crazy man just eating grass?

I read several books, because one is not enough. Take a bite from each, and savor.

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman is creamy, bitter, and crunchy. It is not too sweet, but it is very intense. The world Elv, Meg, and Claire share unites goblins, demons and faerie queens; Paris, hawthorn trees and carriage horses; with wild girls who wear pointy boots and get black wings tatooed on their back. There is a secret language. Ca brava me seen arra? Who among us has the courage to do the right thing?

It tastes just as good the second time.

The Complete Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde are bursts. Stabs. They hit my tongue like the darkest of chocolates. Less than a single square is plenty. A nightingale presses a thorn to its breast for the blood red rose discarded in a gutter. SIGH. Don't we all know.

Leaf Storm is altogether different. Perhaps the best salad made from the fresh greens and herbs they grow down the road at Tolstoy's Farm. Why not?

The boy, Isabel, the colonel, and Meme provide slivers of Macondo. Slices of tomato.

So who is that crazy man just eating grass?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The world is atwitter with magical realism...

I am going to eat more, I decide. I am going to let myself sit at the table where "the mysterious quality of reality" (Bowers, 2004) is acknowledged. It's often the things that I live, breathe, smell, know, yet cannot touch or see, that sustain me. They fill me up. They make whatever fights within me know peace.

I discover I am not alone.

Film critics are musing about Beasts of The Southern Wild, and whether the decline of a superpower has forced a retreat to our imaginations.

The patron saint of subjective experience has returned, and the imagination is ready to run riot.
As if this might be a bad thing. Perhaps even a failure. Or comeuppance. But I know better. It is a greeting. It as an embrace. It is a coming home.

Like me, the world is starving, and it is what we imagine that will feed us.

Because imagination is the seed, the font, the alpha, the thing that regenerates, renews, and births hope. The mechanism of change. The vital essence of humanity.

And if there has been a failure, then it has been that we have not imagined enough...

Illialei, Tyrannis, the Great White Sea, these are some of the places where imagination dwells in my world. And the war fought there, will determine whether imagination survives in ours.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I am starving ...

I open Leaf Storm, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and my heart kind of flutters.

I am starving.

After decades of denying myself the power of story, I am reading more and more these days. The stories are waking up something essential. But this essential thing has been asleep for a very long time--maybe since the day I was born—so its sound is faint, easier to feel than hear. I vow not to read anything that can’t spark the “I have to read that” sensation within. There are too many books, and not enough time. Leaf Storm has been sitting on my coffee table, forever. Patient.

When I write, what I read influences me tremendously. I am aware of this, so I try to be careful about what I read when I am writing. It will inevitably seep through, the good and the bad.

But as I said, I am starving, so I open Leaf Storm and read:

Suddenly, as if a whirlwind had set down roots in the center of town, the banana company arrived, pursued by the leaf storm. A whirling leaf storm had been stirred up, formed out of the human and material dregs of other towns …

In the midst of that blizzard, the tempest of unknown faces ... we were the outsiders, the newcomers … we knew that the leaf storm was sure to come someday, but we did not count on its drive. So when we felt the avalanche arrive, the only thing we could do was set a plate with a knife and fork behind the door and sit patiently waiting for the newcomers to get to know us …