"What a killer..."

In the latter half of his most recent novel, Wilson Harris incorporates Hernando Cortez as one of several characters whose identity shifts between ghost and material realms. In Harris's novel, Cortez remains the blood-soaked killer he was but he also reflects on the consequences of his genocidal endeavors. Through Harris, Cortez questions his own actions from the space offered by quantum time travel, simultaneously undermining and reinforcing his historical legacy.

Neil Young's epic-sounding mythography of Cortez (on Zuma) has always seemed to me a treatise on mestizaje, besides being such a fantastic song. I've written before here that Slint's Spiderland (Touch & Go, 1991) is, in many ways, the model I emulate for poetry. A poetics of screams, underwater narrative, early loss, incommunication, repetition, lyric and simplicity. Anger a second breath with night laurels, the Spanish moss that hangs from trees all over Tampa.

Recently, I came across Slint's version of "Cortez the Killer," recorded live in Chicago in the summer of 1989. Slint's rendition is slow drain heavy and magnificent--scratching the shoreline with an LP needle.

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