What Is a Mestizo?

From J. H. Elliott’s review of Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture, by Colin M. MacLachlan, in The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015:

Although the racial definiton of a Mestizo is a person born to Indian and European parents, a better definition of a Mestizo is a person who functions within a modified culture drawn from both the indigenous and European historical-cultural experience: in short, those who embrace cultural mestizaje and organize their personal life and behavior accordingly.

Colonial Mexico was “an acutely caste-conscious society, in which the boundaries of each casta would be meticulously delineated in the famous sets of eighteenth-century casta paintings, more than a hundred of which are known.”

And that is all self can post for now, but she is sure dear blog readers will agree that image and reality are so far apart in the matter of race because no one wants to acknowledge any blurring of categories. It is just too difficult. But identity cannot be constructed without taking account of race, so what are we to do?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Colm Toibin, The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015

Self used to have a subscription to The New York Review of Books. Oh how she mourns, mourns, mourns that absence, it was her go-to publication for really good writing, such as the one in the 9 July 2015 issue, Colm Toibin’s essay “The Hard-Won Truth of the North.”

In describing poet Elizabeth Bishop’s move from Nova Scotia to Worcester, Massachusetts, Toibin writes: “. . . the sudden disruption, the end of the familiar, came as a rare and ambiguous gift to the writers. Despite the pain involved, or precisely because of it, they found not only their subject, but their style.”

In discussing the Swedish writer Stig Dagerman (d. 1954, at the age of 31), Toibin writes: “Dagerman was in possession of several tones.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful sentence? It says it all.

Dagerman had “a gift for writing sharp and cool declarative sentences that is close to Hemingway.”

His short stories use “a tone close to that in the early stories of James Joyce’s Dubliners, which Joyce described to his publishers as a tone of ‘scrupulous meanness.’ ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested After Perusing The Guardian’s Summer “Text on the Beach” Issue, 23 July 2015

Self used to do this. A LOT. Post about books she was interested in reading after picking up a copy of The New York Times Book Review (which she used to subscribe to. Until last year), The New York Review of Books (which she also used to subscribe to), The New Yorker (which she still subscribes to, but hasn’t read in six months) and The Economist (which she no longer subscribes to)

Anyhoo, after that very lengthy introduction, here is self with The Guardian’s Summer Reading issue, and after going through the whole thing, self has culled just three books. She must be in some kind of slump?

Here are her three:

  • Grey, by E. L. James — What what what? Self actually read the first two pages in Hodges Figgis in Dublin. And what do you know, she liked it! But The Guardian review is so silly. “Come again, if you insist . . . ” Self still wants to read it.
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante — “The first part of the Neapolitan trilogy in which almost nothing happens.” (OK, these reviews are one-note and boring. Sorry, Jim Crace, Reviewer. Self will read in spite of)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Let self dispense with the utterly dispensable: i.e., the review. And let’s just say, if this novel is indeed a riff on Gone, Girl, she likes. So “Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl On the Train” is a barrel of laughs.

Just for that, self is popping over to the London Review of Bookstore (Hey, last AWP Book Fair, in Minneapolis, she actually saw a table for the London Review of Books! She’s not sure if they’ve been coming every year, but this year was the first time she noticed them)

Side Note:  Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is in every bookstore window, all over Dublin and London. So happy for her. Promise to read the book, at least five years from now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Moment in Mad Max When Tom Hardy Removes His Face Device

Lord, self never wanted to like Mad Max: Fury Road.

She saw the trailers and was — OMG, this movie’s been taken over by Charlize!

Not that self has anything against Charlize.

But seriously — there’s a reason this movie is called Mad Max. And that’s because it has to be about Mad Max. Later, Charlize can be in her own movie, and they can call it Imperator Furiosa.

Today, in Banff, took a class on book-making. Not writing — scrapbooking! (So nice to have non-verbal expression, for once! Also, the store was absolutely delightful, and so was the owner.) Wait a minute, self was about to write something about Mad Max. (Er, would you believe self has only seen a handful of movies this year? And it’s nearly half over! Must correct that situation pronto!)

Anyhoo, Tom Hardy. In that facial gear, self kept slipping up and thinking she was looking at Gerard Butler.

Not, however, when he finally succeeded in prying off the unholy device. And —

Ladies and Gentlemen, a new generation has arrived. His FACE, dear blog readers. THAT FACE.

Tom Hardy, you are so beautiful. After that, self never looked away from the screen once, not even while she was madly scribbling lines of dialogue into her take-everywhere notebook. She can barely decipher her scrawl now.

Self must also mention this other presence:  Nicholas Hoult. He plays a “War Boy” named Nux.

Okay, while not beautiful like Tom Hardy, he is moving. Self has seen him play a zombie, play a 12-year-old, play Jack in the Giant Beanstalk movie, and she always always finds him terribly easy to empathize with.

In fact, self would have to say the BEST lines of dialogue in this movie (What? There was dialogue? Hold on . . . Indeed there was! Not of the Shakesperean variety, mind you! But close, lol!)

For instance, somewhere in the middle of the movie:

Nux:  There’s high ground just beyond that thing.

Furiosa:  What thing.

One of the Brides:  He means the tree.

OMG, do you see what self means about the dialogue? It is economical, it is brisk, and it does the job!

Next line of memorable dialogue: Wives (aka Breeders) having a squabble. One wants to give up and return to her oh-so-unholy breeding activities. The other wives chase after her and tell her:

You. Are. Not. Thing.

Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Do dear blog readers know that self has a science fiction story set in a dystopian (apologies, but she has to use that word) future? And it is called Thing? It was published in the New Orleans Review, 2012.

Yes, you brides who are all played to great blank affect by possible real-life models: YOU ARE NOT THING.

Three cheers for George Miller for using such a great line in his movie.

And now to Nick Hoult’s lines:

I live.

I die.

I live again.

There was just something so nihilistic, so even Nietzsche about that line. About the movie, in fact. Captured the despair of the characters perfectly.

So, when the credits finally rolled, self waited to see those words:

DIRECTED BY GEORGE MILLER.

Well done, sir. If she were in a movie theatre alone, she would have clapped.

Stay tuned.

Because Whole Treatises Could Be Written on Fan Fiction Hunger Games AU!

Self has just seen “Exodus.” Yeeees. Hard to believe, but she actually followed up watching “Birdman” (Thursday, at the height of the storm) with watching “Exodus.”

Although let’s not kick around Christian Bale. He’s about the best we have to play such roles. Bale is a real journeyman actor. Whatever role he agrees to play, he goes for it Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Pile of Stuff: New York Review of Books, Dec. 13, 2013

The Pile of Stuff is mythic: it contains missives from — who knows — years back.

This morning, the first thing self pulls out of it is a New York Review of Books from Dec. 19, 2013.

Self adores poetry in translation, here’s one on NYRB p. 34, a Charles Simic translation of Radmila Lazic’s Psalm of Despair (Following is the opening verse):

PSALM OF DESPAIR

by Radmila Lazic

I dwell in a land of despair
In the city of despair
Among desperate people
Myself desperate
I embrace my desperate lover
With desperate hands
Whispering desperate words
Kissing him with desperate lips

And here are a few of the books reviewed in the issue:

Levels of Life, by Julian Barnes (Knopf, $22.95) — “It is, not surprisingly, a marvel of flickering Barnesian leitmotifs . . . ” (Reviewer Cathleen Schine)

American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, by Deborah Solomon (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28)

Undisputed Truth, by Mike Tyson with Larry Sloman (Blue Rider, $30)

My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, edited and with an introduction by Peter Biskind (Metropolitan, $28)

Orson Welles in Italy, by Alberto Anile, translated from the Italian by Marcus Perryman (Indiana University Press, $35)

This is Orson Welles: Conversations between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

What Does It All Mean?

Even as self posts, teen-agers are lining up in front of the downtown Century 20, anxiously awaiting the 12:01 a.m. screening of “Mockingjay, Part 1.”

It rained all day.  Naturally, self spent almost the entire day reading reviews.

Here’s a summary of responses from reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes:

  • Katniss is “listless and uncommunicative.” That’s OK. But two hours of J-Law being “listless and uncommunicative” is a bit much. At least it is for a few reviewers.
  • District 13 underground bunkers are not a happy place.
  • There is very little of J-Hutch, boo. Nevertheless, NPR feels he is “doing something fascinating as Peeta . . .  we see him only via the Capitol’s authorized interviews . . .  like Katniss, we can only guess at his current state of mind. Hutcherson’s strong, subtle performance lets us read any number of possibilities in his face and minimal line readings.” Thank God.
  • Jennifer Lawrence does not phone it in.  Sure, she has an Oscar now, and she has the unenviable task of delivering the film’s most cheesy lines (“If we burn, you burn with us!”), but she never phones it in. She is such a force. And, truthfully, the reason the franchise is raking it in is because fans believe in her as Katniss. No matter how clichéd the dialogue or the plot, she gives it her all.
  • Lionsgate shouldn’t have split the last book of The Hunger Games trilogy into two films. Doing so was a blatant and cynical grab for box office bucks. But, you know what, self is glad for J-Law getting more screen time as Katniss! So the final book became a four-hour movie instead of a two-hour movie, so what? For $11, it is definitely worth it. Think of what other stupid things people could be buying with $11:  CVS lipstick. Lunch at a fastfood joint. An airport paperback. Ummm, 1/5 of a tank of gas. a large bag of Frito-Lays.  Instead, we get to see the most entertaining actress of her generation on the big screen for four hours instead of two. No complaints here.

Stay tuned.

 

 

First NYTBR Post in Forever: 15 December 2013

Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.  It’s been nearly a year since this issue came into self’s hands. She has since suspended her New York Times Book Review subscription (in case dear blog readers were wondering. It was just too depressing seeing the book review in her mailbox every week, and not being able to read for months and months and months.)

It just so happens that the By the Book interview is with Michael Connelly, and he has many, many interesting book recommendations, which include the following:

  • Act of War:  Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo, by Jack Cheevers
  • The Public Burning, by Robert Coover
  • The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler

This issue also has the list of Ten Best Books of 2013, and since self is well aware that time is a river, and self is disappearing quick, she has to be choosy about which of the Ten she really really wants to read, and it is these:

In Fiction

  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
  • Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
  • Tenth of December: Stories, by George Saunders

In Nonfiction

  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink
  • Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

One of the highlights of this issue is a review (by Anthony Doerr) of Brown Dog: Novellas, by Jim Harrison.  Self doesn’t know why exactly but she’s loved Jim Harrison for a long long time. His books are violent, they are pungent, they are precise, and they are very, very funny.

And here’s a round-up of a burgeoning sub-genre, the cookbook as memoir:

  • Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
  • Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, by Abigail Carroll
  • Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers and Food, by Peggy Wolff

And here’s a sub of a sub-genre, the fate of elephants in America:

  • Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard Thomas Edison, by Michael Daly
  • Behemoth:  The History of the Elephant in America, by Ronald B. Tobias

And one about elephants in Africa:

  • Silent Thunder, by Katy Payne

Finally, much thanks to Rivka Galchen and Pankaj Mishra for recommending (in the end-paper, Bookends) two books by authors self hasn’t yet read:

  • My Struggle, by Norwegian writer Ove Knausgaard
  • Zibaldone, by Giacomo Leopardi

Whew! Finally self has arrived at the end of a monster post. Stay tuned.

 

 

Books of The Economist, 22 February 2014 (Can Self Be Any More Behind in Reading

First, a novel. There is usually only one fiction review in each issue of The Economist. This one is in a box — the fact that it is means it must be special.

The Undertaking, by Audrey Magee (Atlantic Books) :

  • The best elements of this novel are intrusions of war into the domestic sphere.
  • A German soldier named Peter Ferber enlists the service of a marriage bureau and weds a girl he has never met in order to get home leave.

Next, a book about climate change:

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt) :

  • As the climate warms, catastrophe looms. Yet it is oddly pleasurable to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, which offers a ramble through mass extinctions, present and past.  Five such episodes in the past have 450 million years have wiped out plant and animal life on huge scales.

Finally, a biography of an American poet whose name seems to be popping up everywhere these days:

E. E. Cummings:  A Life, by Susan Cheever (Pantheon)

  • It was only in New York that he felt free. Surrounded by writers such as Marianne Moore and Edmund Wilson, and photographers such as Walker Evans, he spent over 40 years in Greenwich Village, living in the same apartment.
  • He wrote nearly 3,000 poems, two novels and four plays, as well as painting portraits.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Lucy”: Feminine Degradation

Something about self’s mood today — she feels extremely argumentative.  Ornery.  So, take the following with a grain of salt, dear blog readers.

Self likes Luc Besson.

She really does.

She can never forget that Besson gave us the glorious Annie Parillaud in “La Femme Nikita.”

And Scarjo is one phenomenal actress.

And beautiful, too.

But “Lucy” is just one more in that long line of sub-genres that are little more than titillating flirtations with feminine degradation.

Like what happened to Noomi Rapace in “Prometheus”?  You will like “Lucy.”

Like how the “Kill Bill” movies are one long revenge fantasy enacted by statuesque Uma Thurman?

You might like “Lucy” (though Besson and Tarantino are light years apart — that is, in terms of cinematic wit)

And what was that movie Kathryn Bigelow did with Ralph Fiennes, “Strange Days,” the one where you put on these special glasses, and while you’re raping a woman you can experience HER fear, which heightens your pleasure?  The one that had Juliette Lewis’s skateboarding Goth waif bonding with pervert played by (typecast) Tom Sizemore?

Ugh.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

One of the most painful scenes in “Lucy” was the one where Scarjo, having been kicked so many times in the stomach, starts crawling up the walls (literally).  That was creepy and grotesque, as if science fiction was melding with Kafka.  Might Scarjo actually turn into a bug?  At one point, she grabs her long chain (she is chained to the wall) and runs full tilt — into, presumably, a wall.  But mercifully, we are not actually treated to the glorious sight of a beautiful woman’s face slamming against stone.  Mercifully, there is a cut right here.  Next time we see Scarjo, she appears quite composed, with no external disfigurement other than a cut lip.

???##!!!

There is something self likes about “Lucy,” though.

Scarjo acquires a craggy-faced sidekick, a French investigator/cop(?) called del Rio.  Now, that guy, though not conventionally handsome, is actually quite a find.

Not to mention, he is an excellent straight man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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