Wassup Rockers

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the dead writers category.

“Don’t Ever Tell Anybody Anything…”

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”

You took the words out of my mouth, Jerome.

I’m speechless.



I was thinking about the stuff I read this year, and I only came up with the following underwhelming list, in no specific order:

(1) El llano en llamas by Juan Rulfo.
(2) Cuentos de amor de locura y de muerte by Horacio Quiroga.
(3) Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.
(4) The Chosen by Chaim Potok.
(5) The Promise also by Chaim Potok.
(6) The Proof by Agota Kristof.
(7) The Third Lie again by Agota Kristof.
(8) A shitload of Fables by Bill Willingham.
(9) Also a shitload of Y: The Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan, but I haven’t finished the series yet.
(10) Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert.
(11) The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Rodríguez-Valdés, definitely the worst book I read all year.
(12) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
(13) And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle.
(14) The 33 1/3 on Nas’s Illmatic by Matthew Gasteier
(15) The 33 1/3 on Wire’s Pink Flag by Wilson Neate
(16) The 33 1/3 on Celine Dion’s Let Talk About Love by Carl Wilson
(17) About a dozen One Story issues, I still have a few to catch up on.  My favorite one was “Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” by Seth Fried.
(18) I can’t remember anymore, but I’m pretty sure I read some more comics, like Gipi, whose artwork I really love. I read a shitload of magazine articles. I also tried reading more poetry, and hardly anything stuck, which makes me sad. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year. Finally, I’m currently on Mala onda by Alberto Fuguet, which I thought was gonna be lame, but it’s been really enjoyable and as it’s progressed it’s gotten increasingly juicy (or, actually, increasingly jew-cy…).

I already have a brief list of things to read for the next year. I hope my “to be read” mission goes better in 2010. I’m such an undisciplined reader. My mom bought me a copy of Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher, and my brother got me a copy of Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe for Christmas. When I saw the cover for Brave Story I thought it was a comic, and I was also excited by how weird it was. (So much for not judging books by their cover, heh…) It made me feel a little better about having bought The Squirrel Machine for him, which I thought he’d find too freaky. But maybe he’ll like it. I hope he does.

Also on my list is Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Yes, that Betty Smith. You wouldn’t believe how shocked I was to realize she’d written more than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I have such a huge pile of unread books, though, I really need to curb my spending on books because they accumulate and I don’t get enough of a chance to read them. For the next year I’m gonna lay off war-related books. The Agota Kristof stories did a serious number on me; I read that shit in the Spring and I’m only just recovering. That’s why I read so much light stuff after that. I’d like to go more humorous next year.

I’d like to begin this new decade with a smile.

Twelfth Night @ Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park).

[EDIT July 6: I am getting several hits from people wondering how early to line up for the show. My coworker’s girlfriend had Friday July 3 off so she decided to try for a ticket. She lined up around 6:30, but apparently, about 100 people showed up around the same time… she did NOT get tickets. Since this is the final week, you’re probably going to have a pretty tough time. I’m speculating that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, being workdays, won’t be as bad, and that Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be particularly difficult. I’ll leave you to decide when to show up. I wish you the best of luck!]

For weeks I’d been planning on going to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare in the Park on June 18, because it was a week day I had off and before the reviews came out, so I figured the lines wouldn’t be as bad. But when I woke up on Thursday, the weather was just drab. Rainy all day. I watched some of The View; Anne Hathaway was on and all I could think was “Damn… I guess today’s a bad day to go.”

But as the hours passed I kept checking the weather, and by 5 pm I noticed that by 8 pm, there would “only” be 50 or 60% chance of precipitation. So even though I’d spent all day resigned with not being able to go, I decided that a little rain was not enough to keep me away. In fact, I imagined that plenty of people would be hesitant to go to an outdoor theater on a rainy night, so I decided to take my chances and see if I could get a ticket.

Well, the girl at the box office gave me my ticket and all I could do was throw my fist in the air and cry ALLAHU AKBAR! Why? Because my ticket was in section C, row CC: front row, in the best section of the theater. Although it’s sucky to go to the theater alone, the fact is that it’s more likely you’ll get a better seat. I just didn’t expect it to be that good!

I went off and grabbed me some dinner, and then I came back for the show. They opened the doors a bit late, and the show itself started past 8 (not unusual). The theater was about half empty, and I’d guess that a good number of the people there were (1) people who are familiar with the rain policy at the Delacorte Theater, (2) people who, like me, made sure the weather cleared out before they got a last minute ticket. As I waited for the show to start, two thoughts ran through my head. The first was, “Shit, I hope the production doesn’t suck,” and the second was “Muthafuck, I hope this doesn’t turn into some participatory production.” That’s what freaks me out about first row, that maybe an actor will try to interact with you and shit. That just sent me into a panic.

On the first count, I can confirm that the production was good, a solid B. I feel like it was time well spent, and I felt a pang of sadness I didn’t have anyone to share the experience. I’d say the entire cast was pretty good, committed, well-rehearsed. I’d even say that they really embraced their roles and were having a lot of fun, which, in turn, made it fun for me to watch.

It was drizzly the first half hour but the actors soldiered on, and I felt particularly bad for the ladies who wore gorgeous, short-sleeved dresses. The clothes were seriously rocking. I’d peg them very Napoleonic-era (maybe?).

A good half hour into the play, the drizzle finally got a little too hard to bear, so the Voice From God (okay, the dude who does the announcements) said that there would be a pause while the rain passed through. It didn’t take long for the rain to weaken, and so the actors went back to their places, kinda rewound a few lines to remind us where we’d stopped, and just went on as if nothing had happened.

I should mention that, when I first read the cast list, I really hoped there would be singing involved. Now I can say I’ve heard lovely people like Audra McDonald and Raúl Esparza sing to me live onstage. Er, well, the music was fairly good and the musicians were totally right on, but I did feel like the compositions were a bit long and dragged the pacing a bit. So part of me was like, “Damn, these songs are so pretty,” and another part of me was like, “Damn, can we get on with the ~*CRAZY ANTIX*~ already?”

But I didn’t hate this as much as I hated the fool, Feste, walking over to the front row right as the second half of the show started, and putting out his hat for money. Holy shit. I mean, I was totally laughing on the outside but weeping in the inside, and the only thing that made me feel a little better was that he didn’t put out the hat in front of my face, just the people next to me. It was a very close call, though, and lucky for the actor, David Pittu, because the couple sitting next to me was a lot more gracious about the unscripted moment than I would have been. Ack!

Another aspect of the show I didn’t dig too much was that the humor was played very broadly. The thing is that, in terms of execution, the actors did a great job, so my beef is with the directorial choice to deliver the lines with a clear wink and a jab with the elbow. At the same time, I infinitely preferred this more accessible, enjoyable production over last year’s Hamlet, you know? So I ain’t complaining too much on that element of the show.

I have to admit I wasn’t too hot with Esparza in the part of Orsino. He wasn’t bad, but I’d say miscast. Then again, I was basically expecting Pushing Daisies all over again. Sigh! Not only that, he had like, superintense sideburns–they really distracted me. I’d love to see him in another production soon, though!

McDonald was pretty good, though I found her far more watchable in her funny moments than in her brooding ones. Her timing is really good. Anne Hathaway held her own, and it’s probably the most physical thing I’ve seen her do since like, The Princess Diaries. She even gets into a sword fight. The choreography was all right, nothing major, but it’s still always cool to see a sword fight in a live production. By the way, the dude who played Viola’s twin brother looked acceptably similar to Anne Hathaway, but even more eerie, he seriously reminded me of the youngest Jonas brother(!). The actor’s name is Stark Sands (for real…?). Surely it was just from seeing him from a distance, but I was still like, “WHOA… Where’s Miley Cyrus, dude?” That said, I thought he was pretty good in his more minor role.

I really loved Jay O. Sanders in this; he was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream a couple of years ago as the head of the rude mechanicals, easily the best part of a so-so show. Again, he did not disappoint. He has a great voice, too. But I think my favorite cast member was Julie White, who played Maria with mischievous glee. Even though Maria plays a pretty awful trick on Malvolio, I still felt like she was totally awesome, and Julie White really made her a very inviting and sympathetic character.

The play itself is so funny. I had very faint memories of reading it in school and then watching the version with Helena Bonham Carter. I couldn’t remember anything except that there was a mistaken identity plot that centered around cross-dressing and that there was a funny servant lady named Maria but whose name was pronounced Mariah. Also, I remembered feeling more than a little awkward with the weddings at the end because of all the gender-bending. I’m not even gonna consider the political statement that the Public Theater may or may not be making by putting on this show at this moment in American history cos my mind would explode, yeah? But back to the words: there were some hilarious lines, that had everyone tittering and at times howling. Really bawdy lines. The weird thing was realizing how badly I’d needed to have a good laugh, and the production did the trick. All in all, a good night at the theater, especially since it was free.

The show will officially open on June 25, and will close on July 12 to make room for The Bacchae.

In Case You Were Curious, Which You Most Likely Were Not.

(1) I decided recently that Roy Orbison is fucking brilliant.  I find his voice quite strange.

(2) A couple of weeks ago I went to the Virgin on Times Square and found out they were closing.  Got some cool shit.  My biggest find was a fucking Man Recordings 12″ that features Deize Tigrona.  I chortled to myself at the fact that no one had bothered to buy it and I was giddy that I had the pleasure to do so.  I was so excited, in fact, that I kinda didn’t want to listen to it, because I was so fucking sure I’d be disappointed.  But I listened anyway.  And let me tell you something–now, I know you’re going to laugh, but I wish you wouldn’t–after listening to it, I was thrilled, but I also couldn’t figure out if I’d listened to it at the right speed.  I know it makes me sound like a moron, but I’m telling you, both sides of the single are so fucking weird, so many miles away from what I recognize as funk, that I am still kinda disoriented about it.  At the same time, this disorientation makes me feel even more excited about the 12″.  The A-side in particular is off the hook.  Hee!  I think it’s gonna be one of those songs, like “Ni Fu Ni Fa,” that I’m gonna listen to years from now and still think that it’s ahead of its time.  Seriously.

(3) I also bought a copy of Scratch half price, and thank the lord cos that shit was mad expensive originally.  I started watching it today, and I couldn’t finish it cos my parents told me to stop hogging the teevee.  I’m telling you, though, it’s really fun and just watching the footage of all those DJs slouched over their turntables is so beautiful.  Okay, the sounds, I don’t care much about the result of the sounds, but fundamentally, I find it really inspiring, because you know that for them to create the music that they do, they need to go crate-diggin’ for the most beautiful sounds to their ears, and they need to learn every element in a song intimately, and I’m awed by the dedication and discipline and pure love of music they show in doing that.  I know that I don’t hear music the way they hear music, and I’m fascinated by it.  I also think it’s amazing how they take a pre-existing work and they really reinterpret it, not unlike a singer covering someone else’s song.

(4) I bought a collection of poetry by Jose Garcia Villa (v. v. hard to abstain from adding accents in his name since I’m so used to it, but he’s filipino and I’m not sure if they use them over there).  I’m only telling you this because it’s National Poetry Month and I’m enjoying the book a lot.  I didn’t know of his existence until recently, when the AAWW had an event about him.  Like Tseng Kwong Chi later on, it appears that Villa was one of those cool kids hanging out downtown who has become nothing more than a footnote in pop culture history, even though both Villa and Tseng were serious artists with significant contributions to the scene.

Anyway, reading the book and enjoying really makes me wonder why I don’t read more poetry.  The dumb and easy answer is that I don’t get it, and I find a lot of other people telling me they don’t get poetry either.  I really feel like we’re not taught poetry very well.  The whole population can’t be averse to poetry–we must have been taught that somehow it’s lesser than other writing forms.  And that fucking annoys me!  In one sense I understand that times change and that different writing forms fall out of vogue.  For example, I’d say–without any scientific proof or naught, but still–we’re transitioning out of the era of the novel and more into some weird sort of non-fiction/memoir era (and I think blogs are helping this!), but it still bothers me that poetry is ignored because I think there’s still a lot that could be said and done with poetry.  Poetry came before the novel and I feel that the less literate people are in poetry, that means that works from hundreds and hundreds of years ago will become lost…  Seguro que yo sueno histérica, y yo sé que lo poesía no morirá por completo, pero me molesta que hay tanta tradición, tanta cultura y arte que la gente no aprecia y lo toman todo por idioteces solo porque alguien (some higher up) decidió que la poesía ya no importa tanto como otros géneros, y así es que las generaciones más jóvenes no aprenden el valor que tienen los poemas…  Bah!  Me duele la cabeza.  And so I make my exit.


Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Translated by Geoffrey Brock

I’m writing this a couple of months after I read the book. I needed the distance to think carefully about my comments regarding the book, because immediately after I finished it, all I could feel was disappointment.

No, I didn’t care much for Pinocchio as a character, and that ultimately extended to me not liking the story since the entire narrative is about him and all the mistakes he makes along the way. He’s rendered as an unsympathetic figure, someone who openly disobeys others. It would be one thing if he stood as a contrast to abusive authority figures, I would have a kinder view if Pinocchio’s mischief had served to reveal the failures and hypocrisy of society; however, most of the errors are really rooted in his own carelessness and they just made the wooden boy look bad instead of commenting on something outside of the boy. I would have found this more compelling since I don’t have a clear sense of what Italy was like at the time Pinocchio was written.

So time after time, we see Pinocchio make a bad choice, and just when you think that Pinocchio would learn, he gets sidetracked again, thanks to all sorts of distractions. It’s frustrating! The worst part is when Pinocchio is reunited with the Fairy, and she manages to make an honest puppet out of him for a while. He has a stable home that she keeps in order, and he excels in school. But he gets into one fight with a classmate and everything comes tumbling down… didn’t Pinocchio understand how good he had it going?? Hadn’t he learned from his many previous mistakes? It’s hard to feel pity for him. Not only that, it complicates the ending, because we’re led to believe everything ends happily ever after. We close the book with a warm fuzzy feeling, until we think, “Well, there were previous instances when everything seemed okay, and look how bad things turned out…” All I could think was that the story ends, but I don’t trust that Pinocchio truly learned a lesson.

Then again, maybe there was no lesson to learn. I think Collodi didn’t mean this story to be the morality tale that it’s come to represent. In my life, I’ve primarily identified two images with Pinocchio: first, conscience in the form of the cricket, and the second, the nose that grows with every lie that is told. Both of these images take a different form in the story from what we generally think of them, and they have less of a moralistic quality on the page.

I found it comforting that Collodi seemed aware of Pinocchio’s faults and wasn’t enamored with his protagonist. Collodi also gives the audience a hard time, withholding information until the last second, or maybe just making up stuff whenever he needs to come up with an excuse, leaving the readers to try and hold on while the ride shifts in unexpected directions.

Collodi shows a great sense of humor. One of the recurring elements in his story telling was that every few chapters, Pinocchio would meet someone from his past, and he’d recount every stupid thing that had happened to the boy in those few chapters. I’m sure it was just a necessity from serialization, sort of how TV shows say, “Previously on…,” but it tickled me to see what Pinocchio included and conveniently forgot whenever he recounted his side of the story. There’s so much plot that you read Pinocchio recounting everything and you’re like, “Geez, I’d totally forgotten this happened…!”

I don’t think I would have appreciated this story as much as I did if I hadn’t read the critical essay by Rebecca West that followed the story. (I own the NYRB edition.) For example, it illuminates a lot about the Blue-Haired Fairy, who is not entirely benevolent. I thought she’d be passive and that she would forgive and forget every one of Pinocchio’s infractions, but it wasn’t that way at all. Pinocchio’s relationship to the Blue-Haired Fairy is fascinating and the critical commentary goes at length about it, with good reason. She’s the only female character in this story and the role she plays is very complicated. At the end, I feel like Pinocchio is great to read for scholarly purposes, but it’s not exactly a fun book to read.

So after all this talk of the story, why haven’t I mentioned the Disney version of Pinocchio? Because I don’t remember it. Instead, I approached the book with a more general sense of how Pinocchio is viewed in society today, though I am assuming that this perspective is mostly defined by the Disney version anyway. In that sense, I was definitely surprised by how my expectations did not match what I was reading at all.

Some Notes.

Part I

I just read this post on Moleskine Literario (¿otra vez? ¡pos sí!) about Julio Cortázar’s former spouse selling the rights to three unpublished stories. Iván wrote,

Está claro que Cortázar no decidió publicarlos en su momento por considerarlos equívocos, pero no importa, nadie espera demasiado de esos textos, lo interesante es el legado. Eso sí, el libro será de ultra lujo: solo 100 ejemplares a 260 euros cada uno.

That is, “It’s clear that Cortázar decided not to publish the stories at the time because they weren’t right, but that doesn’t matter, no one expects much from those texts, what matters is the legacy. That said, the book will be an ultra luxury: only 100 copies at 260 euros each.” (My emphases. Also: not a literal translation.)

What really annoys the fuck out of me is that it seems ridiculous to charge 260 euros to get your hands on three unpublished stories. Honestly. This woman couldn’t donate (or even sell!) the works to a museum or a library? Turning the stories into a commodity, a very expensive commodity at that, pisses me off so bad. My dearest hope is that the people who get their hands on this ARE establishments such as museums or libraries that will allow the masses to have some sort of access to them for free, rather than having the copies go to private individuals who, for all we know might use the stories to wipe their asses with them (o lo que sea). Argh. 260 euros! And none of it going to the fucking author, cos he’s dead. So why is it so fucking expensive? Supposedly, it’s just how much it’ll cost to bind the stories in a beautiful volume, and that the publisher won’t be making a profit. Pffft. Okay, even if that’s true, for the consumer, it becomes much more of a “haha, I got one and you don’t” situation. I don’t see why Cortázar’s former wife couldn’t just make it available to a wider mass of people so that we could get a better sense of his writing process and the like.

“What matters is the legacy,” right. But why should Cortázar’s legacy touch only a select few who can afford it? I hope at least one of the people lucky enough to buy the stories just scans the fucking thing and leaks it onto the internets.

Musical Interlude A

“Soch na kya,” from Ghayal, which is a reinterpretation of “Llorando se fue,” better known as the song that inspired “Lambada.” Further proof that this song is bangin’ in pretty much every language and arrangement. Just recently I noticed that “Llorando se fue” actually has Japanese lyrics, which I noted from the use of the words “anata” and “watashi.” Yay for rudimentary Japanese language skills. Anyway, as soon as I realized that I thought, “Geez, I never knew were Peruvian.” It’s just that whenever I think of big Japanese populations in Latin America I think of Peru and Brazil. Heh. But Los Kjarkas are actually Bolivian. Regardless of where they’re from, I’m curious as to why they sing in Japanese in the first place. ¡Qué misterio!

Part II

Words Without Borders updated! Its theme for February is “The Graphic World,” and there’s some sweet translations of comics available. It’s also worth checking out their archives for older translations of comics. For example, there’s an excerpt in English of Fuguet’s “Road Story.” Good shit!

Musical Interlude B

I never made a list of favorite albums of 2008, and I’m so glad because I only listened to Utada Hikaru’s Heart Station recently and I’m loving it. I’m kinda dreading her forthcoming English language album, mostly cos I listened to her newest single and it’s dreadfully boring. But Heart Station is undeniably awesome.

Part III

How do the Kindle fiends do it? How can anyone stare at a screen and just read for extended periods of time? I had a hard enough time wanting to read Colson Whitehead’s “Wow, Fiction Works!” I mean, I opened the page and it loaded in like, five seconds, and then I… proceeded to not read it. Jesus. For like hours and hours I was like, “Oh, let’s put it off for a bit until I’ve finished watching this stupid youtube vid of [insert your favorite pointless youtube time-waster of choice here].” Finally I understood that I wasn’t going to read this essay unless I printed it. Because if I printed it, I wouldn’t be distracted by other open browser pages, not to mention it felt good to have something tangible to read. And it didn’t hurt my eyes to read it! In fact, I was pretty giddy about it. Whitehead is so gleeful in his delivery that it’s infectious.

Happy Belated Birthday…

… To Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s not like I’ve been online that much, so I didn’t even know about Poe’s 200th birthday until I read about it on Moleskine Literario. Not that I read Poe on a regular basis, but I have a particular soft spot for Poe for several reasons.

(1) He was, for a brief period, a Bronxite. And sure, we’re not talking about post-Robert Moses-shitting-on-our-borough-and-leaving-us-to-clean-up-his-mess The Bronx, but this was in the mid-19th century when the Bronx was just woods and farmland. So he was a trensetter (early adopter?) who made the Bronx home before others dared to. Being in such an isolated place (compared to downtown Manhattan) must have been good inspiration for his writing.

(2) He was a master of short fiction, and he was one of the first notable short fiction writers. As someone whose favorite genre of literature is short fiction, I am in awe of Poe’s work. Think of it! Without him as a forefather of the short story, people like Borges wouldn’t exist.

When I was younger and heard he believed a story should have a “single effect,” I got it. To this day, it informs the way I read short fiction and the way I try to write it.

(3) One of the first stories by Ray Bradbury I read was “Usher II,” and at that point I hadn’t read “The Fall of the House of Usher,” but I was still captivated by all the references I did get. My favorite was the reference to “The Masque of the Red Death,” mostly because I thought it would be brilliant to have a house big enough to have seven rooms that were all painted a different color. But of course, the more important thing is that I was led onto the rest of The Martian Chronicles, which I still think is some of the best shit I’ve read in my life.

(4) Hey, remember when The Simpsons used to be awesomesauce? Nevermore!

You can find a lot of his works at the Project Gutenberg site (click here), etc. Hurray for works that are too old to be copyrighted!

Back to Class.

A couple of years ago I took this fun class at school called “Writing New York.” The professors teach it every Spring and, unlike back when I took the class, now they have a blog for it too, so if you’re feeling geeky and want to learn more about NYC by reading awesome books and watching awesome movies, you can actually follow along and join in the discussion here. That specific post I’m linking to has a syllabus and everything. A lot of the reading for the first half of the semester includes a lot of non-copyrighted stuff, so you could probably just look it up on the internets and read it for free.

It’s weird, I recently watched Gangs of New York for the first time, and I was shocked by how much information I’d retained from this Writing New York class. I mean, I was a pretty lousy student, but having taken this class made it so much easier for me to watch the movie and understand it in context. Wish the movie had resonated a little more though, LOL. Definitely not Scorsese’s finest, even though I loved his little cameo.

Anyway, you don’t even have to be interested specifically in NYC to enjoy the texts. In the end, I feel like I learned so much about cities and urban life as a whole.



A pause in honor of Harold Pinter, who died a couple of days ago. What else is there to say?

In Which Your Heroine Se Topa With Her Favorite Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author.

Have I mentioned that post-graduation, I’ve been working at a bookstore? I don’t remember if I have. But yeah. I’ve been selling books.

Around noon, this kid came up to me at the registers and asked me if I could look up a book for him. He wanted Song of the Water Saints. I was like, “Oh yeah, by Nelly Rosario,” and he expressed surprise that I knew. I think he asked me if I’d read it. I told him no, but that I’d met Nelly Rosario once so I was aware of her existence and the existence of this book. Then I told him to go upstairs where our literature section is. So he went upstairs.

There was a lull at the registers and there were a lot of people working today, so I decided to go munch on my lunch even though it was ealier than my usual lunch hour. (Our lunch hours are 45-minute hours, by the way.) So I go upstairs to get my stuff and I see the following: (1) the kid who asked me for Song of the Water Saints, and (2) JUNOT DIAZ BROWSING BOOKS AS IF HE WAS SOME SORT OF AVERAGE CIVILIAN. Okay, I’m not sure why I capitalized that entire sentence. Anyway, I saw him and you wouldn’t believe the huge knot that I got in my stomach. Like, I really really wanted to talk to him but I really really didn’t wanna bother him.

Well I kinda tried to play it cool by talking to the kid about Song of the Water Saints. Apparently a shitload of people went looking for it cos it was temporarily lost in some literary black hole that exists in our store, but they finally found it, and so he saw me and thanked me for the help, and asked me how I’d met Nelly. I told him that I took a class with one of her friends, Angie Cruz. He recognized her name, telling me, “I just bought Soledad,” and I went off on how much I fucking loved Soledad and how I wanted to just move to Washington Heights and hang out with all the cool Dominican kids. Honestly, this was five years ago and I had no idea that the gentrification was already going on full force. So of course as I go on my little monologue, I have Junot right in my line of vision so the whole situation was a little literary Quisqueya-fest, you know? The kid and I finally exchanged goodbyes and he went on his way.

So for like 20 minutes after this, I’m pacing around trying to decide whether to bother Junot, and all I know is that I cannot fucking eat my lunch or I’m just gonna hurl from the nerves. Which is fucking bizarre, I never ever expected I’d get that sort of reaction out of just seeing an author I really dig. Embarrassing, to be honest. But there I was, just bugging out.

Finally, I was like, WTF, let’s just go for it. Because if I didn’t bother him, I’d hate myself forever. Also, I’d already been meaning to email him about something he said (I really felt that he would answer), so I was like, “Why the fuck am I gonna email him if he’s right there and he can just give me an answer.” So I walked up to him and asked if I could bother him for a sec and he says sure, so I tell him, “Oh so I went to see you recently–” and it kinda hits him that he’s been recognized so he’s like, “Oh, nice to meet you, I’m Junot,” which is kinda silly because it was clear to both of us his name was Junot so why did he feel the need to say it? Some sort of courtesy? But I followed his lead and I was like, “I’m Elizabeth, nice to meet you,” and I stretched out my hand and remembered my hands were still a little wet from having just washed them (since I’d been about to lunch), and of course I was mentally kicking myself for not having dried them completely.

Anyway, so I launched into my question which was this: I went to see Junot at this event that was actually held in Spanish, and he’d mentioned that he’d been reading a lot of Colombian books, which piqued my interest because I’ve been all about Colombian books, too. I asked him who he’d recommended because I hadn’t quite caught all the names he mentioned. I told him I’ve already read Vallejo and Franco, who else should I read. So he tells me Efraín Medina Reyes. I asked him what kind of stuff Medina wrote and Junot’s telling me that it’s all this crazy shit and that he’s the sort of mofo to put a naked picture of himself on the cover of his books which sounds like the sort of classy shit I’d be into.

Well you can’t imagine the regret I’ve been feeling from asking him cos I’ve been on Google for hours now just trying to figure out how to get my hands on a copy of this dude’s books. All I’ve figured out is that Medina Reyes is supposed to be some kind of punkass dickwad (I say this with much respect, good sire) in the literary scene. Also, apparently his name is Efraim, not Efraín. Qué sé yo.

Honestly, he warned me it would be hard for me to find, and I was like, “You think I could find it at the library?” And of course, he could only answer with a maybe. Sigh. Even when I can find a website that sells the books, I’m always hesitant because I’m not sure how reputable the site is, and then I’m also bummed that I can’t just check out the books and feel them in my hands and just see what they’re like before I send my dinero to these people. No 30 second samples? Pffft.

Anyway, I asked Junot if he had read any Andrés Caicedo, since Caicedo was Colombian too, and he had no idea who I was talking about, so I told him how I’d been reading ¡Que viva la música! and he actually started to like make note of it. Shit, if he finds it and hates Caicedo, he’ll remember me as that girl who gave him a shitty book recommendation. So let’s hope he forgets about me completely. So yeah, I was so busy talking to him about this stuff I didn’t even see what sort of shit he bought from our store.

I hope I didn’t scare Junot away from returning to our store. The owner of the store would be pretty mad if he heard that I scared away a customer…

On Books and On Time.

I’ve been absent from here.  I’m sure you don’t care.  But I do want to spend a few minutes writing about this absence.

When I graduated from school a few months ago, one of things that excited me most was the prospect of finally being able to read whatever the fuck I pleased for whatever fucking reason I wanted.  No more assigned reading?  Hurrah!

So here I’ve been, these past few months, and I have all this time in my hands, but I’m not sure how to divide it properly.  Most of my time is spent at work, or asleep, or eating a meal, and then finally there’s some sort of leisure time.  It’s bad enough I haven’t been keeping in contact with people, but then there’s the constant “Should I be reading or should I be writing?” issue.  It’s the kind of reading too.  I have all this fiction on my shelves waiting to be read, and then there’s all these blogs that matter a lot to me and have so much of substance to say that must be read NOW because in the blog world timeliness is next to godliness, right?

And then in terms of writing I have to decide whether I want to blog, or write in my real journal, or if I want to work on little poems and cuentos and such–all of this writing is basically worthless but somehow fulfilling.

On top of that I’m such a fiend with pop culture that I have a fierce desire to keep up with television and such not just because I love it but because it’s a great way to connect with people.

Anyway, my priorities have been as such: work, food, sleep, reading, and writing.

Work is going great, I spend most of my money on food, I sleep as fitfully as I have done for most of my life.  I’ve been reading some awesome shit.  Like at McNally Jackson, I magically found (multiple!) copies of Etiqueta Negra which blew my mind.  Y’know, that magazine that Daniel Alarcón is affiliated with.  I spent ten sweet dollars on it, which was a shitload of money but I still hope that my purchase will signal to them that people are interested in those sorts of magazines.

I finally got these Sandman volumes from the library that I’d been awaiting for a couple of months.  I finished The Doll’s House and it was almost as exciting as the first time I read it.  Neil Gaiman is untouchable.  He was around last night at some event for his new book, which I’d had a chance to go.

The other great thing I’ve been reading tonight is this blog called Three Percent, which focuses on literature in translation.  I’ve spent a few hours checking out their older posts and I just want to weep with excitement because sometimes you feel so alone…  After graduation I’ve been gravitating more and more towards authors who don’t publish in English, so this sort of blog (that leads to even more blogs!!) is heavenly, just because I can see that my interest isn’t unique and because it means there’s a chance to participate in continuing dialogues about literature around the world.

Speaking of translations, I noticed that Oscar Wao has finally been translated into Spanish.  I was curious as to how they would pull that off, so I glanced at a copy and I was like, “OH.  MY.  GOD.”  You know what they did?  There is an extra set of footnotes.  If you’ve read the novel, you know that Díaz uses extensive footnotes, except the novel in general makes so many references to all sorts of shit (not just sci-fi namecheckin’) that the Spanish translators had to add their own footnotes to give context.  Yikes!  That must be a bitch to read!  I can’t even understand how they handled the whole Spanglish issue.

Sigh…  The suckiest thing for me right now is knowing that certain books exist and not being able to buy them because having them shipped from far away is just too expensive.  (Oh, hello Ville Ranta… I hope to own Papa est un peu fatigué someday…)  This is the sort of shit that makes me regret that I went to a private university.  What with the shitty economy, I fear I’ll never pay off my loans.  What about the public library, you say?  They don’t even carry Andrés Caicedo!  How am I supposed to learn what Fuguet is fucking fussing about if I can’t get a copy of Caicedo’s works?  Bah!


My favorite branch of the NYPL, Donnell, ceased its regular services a while back but today was its very last day. I went yesterday for one last visit and I have to say that I almost cried on the way there. I think I wouldn’t feel so bad if it would close temporarily for renovations, but they’re getting rid of the entire building and building a hotel there. When Donnell reopens, it will be located on the lower level of the hotel. So I will never experience the Donnell library in the same way again. Who knows how long it will take to rebuild.

I do think that the pain I feel is based on nostalgia. The first time I went to Donnell was on a class trip and got a card there. (I think I cried when I lost the card I got from there, which happened over five years later.) I liked going to the “Teen Central” and checking out all the cool CDs and comic books while listening to music. One specific time I remember they were playing Fever to Tell in the background.

As far as selection, the Donnell was pretty right on for me. That’s why I didn’t mind trekking down to midtown and maneuvering my way around tourists and busy office people. It had a great media center where I borrowed out a whole set of Carter Family CDs which is still uploaded on my computer. That’s right–when seeking my soul failed, I tended to just go to the library and uploaded a lot of the CDs I got there. I’m not ashamed to admit this, and in fact I’m so grateful that the library had such a great collection for me to discover. I remember one time I just came across a Smog album… and the only reason I’ve heard Neubauten is because I took out Halber Mensch out of Donnell.

It had a really incredible selection of foreign language literature that really saved me when I had to get books for my Spanish classes. If I wanted something, it was there, you know?

I didn’t go to prom. I went to the Donnell early that evening.

Hmm. Nostalgia is such a dangerous thing. To be frank (and cheesy I guess) I feel like another part of my childhood has really ended. Fuck, now I gotta make another branch my official library.

Jeffrey Eugenides + George Saunders @ Barnes and Noble (Lincoln Center)

What a surprise and what a delight. So the proceeds for the new book that Jeffrey Eugenides edited, My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, are going towards 826Chicago. I had no idea that Eugenides was touting a new book and I had no idea that he was going to be joined by George Saunders. Honestly, I didn’t know who George Saunders was, but after tonight, I’m never going to forget him.

Eugenides’s reading was very cerebral, scholarly, but really interesting. Y’know, all about Catullus and how he was totally poking this married chick, which obviously means he was asking for trouble. He also read a bit of a Milan Kundera work from the anthology, and I was surprised that Kundera is pronounced with a stress in the first syllable and not the second. Eugenides’s finest moment: referring to Dave Eggers as the Bono of the literary world. Can I get a “zing!” anyone?

Saunders, who apparently is also of Greek origin, was incredibly funny. His piece was so clever (or at least I found it clever) and since the narrator is meant to be a teenager, there was something terribly funny about watching Saunders say things like “Dude.” I know a lot of people say “Dude,” but the way Saunders said it was special… I guess you had to be there. I almost wanted to buy the book because of his story. I definitely pledge to check out his other works.

The crowd was pretty good, they didn’t take five million years introducing their questions, though one person was very nervous so she got a bit rambly. But it was kinda sweet. Okay, that’s not true, I get a bit uncomfortable when people get so “starstruck,” but I know she didn’t mean anything by it.

Somebody asked the two authors if they have acted before, just because of their strong stage presence. Saunders said “Hails naw” but Eugenides said that he had as a high school and college student.

There’s another collection that just came out, too, but the proceeds go to 826NYC. It was edited by Zadie “With a ‘Z,’ Not Sadie With an ‘S'” Smith, and from the looks of it, the cover is by Charles Burns. At least I think it is by Burns, I’m only guessing from the line work.

You can read more about 826 here. It’s a really cool organization, it’s geared towards kids.

¿Qué Onda Y’all?

So how have your LAMC experiences been so far? I know a number of you have been googling the LAMC recently and ended up here. Well, my experience so far has been pretty non-existent. It sucks not having money for a badge (I’m geeky and I would totally attend the panels if I could). It sucks being under 21, too, so I can’t really go to the ~*EXCLUSIVE*~ parties. It also sucks realizing that this event might actually be a big deal when you find out that tickets for Mala Rodríguez (for that Bowery Ballroom showcase) are “no longer available on Ticketweb.” Oy! I admit it’s totally my fault for hesitatin’, but when did the conference become a big deal? Sigh. It’s aight, I’m going to watch Transformers with my friend tomorrow, forget you fools who are lucky enough to have badges/tickets!

Honestly, I heard that Zoé had to cancel their Apple Store set because their gear didn’t arrive on time and I felt giddy inside… I figured if I couldn’t see them, no one should be able to either. :/ I’m a douchebag, it’s true. But their show at Prospect Park is still on!! And I can’t wait to see them. I’m just glad Shakespeare in the Park is on break maintenant. Having two jobs pays well, but it’s kinda stressful handing out programs to people like Vanessa Redgrave and trying not to FREAK OUT about it.

The biggest news I have today is that I learned how to type accents on my laptop. I’ve never had a laptop before so this is quite a revelation.

+ Some recommended reading:
Sergio Vodanovic (especially Viña)
Etgar Keret

So it Goes.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. As a Bokononist, I have a hard time believing this. But Wikipedia says so, and y’all know Wikipedia don’t lie.

Manú Chao – “Mentira