I'm mid-way through Juan Villoro's most recent novel, El testigo (Editorial Anagrama, 2004). I'm simultaneously reading Cristina Rivera Garza, La cresta de Ilión (Tusquets Editores, 2002).
Since college, I've been keeping lists of the books I read in the back of my notebooks. An interest in creating and reading lists, perhaps borrowed from Basquiat's paintings (whose glow and full sculptural force I can still feel from having seen his show at the Brooklyn Museum last month).
As a preliminary list for the next few months, I hope to read:
Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002).
Salvador Garmendia, Día de ceniza (Monte Ávila Editores, 1981).
José Lezama Lima, Paradiso, Edición Crítica de Cintio Vitier (Colección Archivos, 1988).
Ibsen Martínez, El mono aullador de los manglares (Grijalbo Mondadori, 2000).
Eileen R. Tabios, I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved (Marsh Hawk Press, 2005).
Arturo Uslar Pietri, Oficio de difuntos (Editorial Espasa Calpe, 1988).
I bought this edition of Paradiso in Mexico City in early 1996, at the Librería Gandhi at Parque Alameda. I began reading it in the hotel I was staying in a few blocks away and continued with it once I was back in NY. But I soon set the book aside, overwhelmed by its size and the density of Lezama Lima's baroque prose. I would find myself having read a dozen pages and suddenly being utterly lost.
But, as I've been reading through the texts in the recent edition of English translations of his poems—José Lezama Lima, Selections, Edited by Ernesto Livon-Grosman (University of California Press, 2005)—I've remembered why I first picked up Paradiso almost a decade ago. It has to do with Lezama Lima's complete devotion to poetry as a lived art, to reading as a form of experience, to the library as an allegory of the universe, or perhaps (as Borges tells us) an incarnation of the universe. Plus, having successfully navigated Roberto Bolaño's masive 2666, I feel confident enough to make my way through Lezama Lima's rich and difficult Spanish.
Just as Eileen says in her recent interview with Tom Beckett, when he asks her about the phrase "Poetry as a way of life":
"...I’ll say that the phrase means that I would like no seam between how I live and how I write my poems. That just as I want to write good poems (however “good” is defined), I’d like to live as a good person, which is to say, as a responsible human being."
The lists I build are part of an effort to organize and survive chaos. To retain the titles and events of books I've lived through, dreamed of and carried with me. I realize that I had a different list up here a few months ago and maybe this one will change, too.
I hope to find Lorenzo García Vega's memoir, El oficio de perder (Colección Asteriscos Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 2005), maybe when I'm in Florida later this summer. From what I've read, his memoir covers (among other topics) his time among the Orígenes poets, as well as his life after he left Cuba in the late 1960s. He talks about his recent work in a 2001 interview. I also came across this poem of his tonight.
The essay I translated on Saturday, by the poet, historian and journalist Jesús Sanoja Hernández, is his most recent Friday column for El Nacional. Reading his weekly investigations of historical themes and their relation to Venezuela's current disastrous situation is another way of facing chaos. He has a prodigious historical memory and I've found that his column has been a way for me to learn about a country I never really knew, even though I grew up there. Earlier this month, the newspaper Correo del Caroní in Ciudad Guayana published an interview with Sanoja Hernández.
Perhaps those on the left here in the US who have deluded themselves into considering the current Venezuelan regime as a viable alternative would benefit from reading Sanoja Hernández's lucid critiques of Chavismo (I'm recalling a recent comment on The Philly Sound blog which referred to Yo El Supremo as being "democratically elected!"—as were Hitler and Mussolini, I suppose). Sanoja Hernández is a life-long communist and, like the majority of the left in Venezuela, he is painfully aware of the fascist methods of Yo El Supremo. But, "Fuck all that whack shit."
I've been running three times a week and it feels good. I usually go out for about two miles at a slow, even pace. It's raining outside as I type this, past mid-night.