The Guadalajara Book Fair closes today and Blanco is back in Wales. A friend emails from Mexico that they (meaning the assassins referred to in Friday’s post) ‘have still not shot any writers yet, even the bad ones.’ I am relieved, as I would certainly like to go back to the feria del libro, if I am invited. Now that The Vagabond’s Breakfast has been accepted by Argentinian publisher Bajo la Luna, there is a possibility that I might be. For those who read Spanish, an account of Blanco’s performance (and a suitably haggard representation of the author) entitled ‘La mirada del vagabundo/The gaze of the vagabond’, which was hosted quite delightfully by Jorge F. Hernández last Tuesday can be found here.
Although I claimed last during the week that I would not be reading any novels for a year, I cheated, since I was already reading David Enrique Spellman’s Far South when I started the immense The Kindly Ones, and finished it off in Atlanta airport while waiting for my change of plane. Far South is an intriguing experiment in genre writing by a novelist (Spellman is a nom de plume and it is not for me to reveal his identity) who has changed style and theme with each of his four novels. This latest offering is pacey and political, with a fairly representative hard-boiled private dick narrator, subverting the detective novel genre at the same time as subscribing (mostly) to its format. This subversion of a particular mode of telling (or of reading) extends far beyond the book itself: it presumes an invented world – like all fiction – but one which leads into labyrinthine tunnels of consequence, if one takes up the challenge. Spellman is, essentially, questioning the way we invent and receive stories, and his several narrators are all dependent on each other to secure a sequential unreliability. And there is more: as I mentioned in my post from Montevideo, ‘Far South’ is itself a larger project – or collective – consisting of videos and audio clips and installations, to which punters can subscribe and add comments. It might well be a direction that narrative fiction will follow in the near future, particularly well-adapted to e-readers/online reading, as one can switch from written text to videoclip to audio as and when one wishes. I am fascinated to see what ‘Spellman’ comes up with next.
As I still had the onward flight to London to look forward to, I read 24 for 3 by Jennie Walker (another alias, this time for poet and publisher Charles Boyle), which doesn’t really break my commitment as, at 138 sparsely populated pages, it is a short novella or long story, therefore not falling within the prohibited zone. I thoroughly enjoyed 24 for 3, which I finished on the train from Gatwick to Cardiff. It is a delicious story, told with classical economy and a real delight in its subject matter – cricket, sex, parenthood, love – which teases the pleasure points and inspires the reader to drift into secondary or tertiary digression. Surely one of the more neglected benefits of reading, this, the capacity of a piece of writing to inspire creative daydreaming. A gorgeous, elevating read.
I heard the Mexican poet Luis Felipe Fabre read the poem below at an open-air reading in Rosario, Argentina at the end of September. Later that night I went out with him and a few other poets from the festival to a rather poor transvestite show. I never quite got the idea of men dressing up as women. I mean, I don’t get what’s supposed to be funny about it. It seems to particularly affect Latin cultures, which traditionally have a strong macho streak. Perhaps I’m missing something, but if so cannot imagine what it might be. Luis didn’t seem particularly interested either, and we went along because our friends – Los Gays – were going and we were a part of their gang so went along too.
Luis’ poetry engages with social and political issues of the everyday while drawing back from the more overt banalities of social realism. His poetry collections are Vida quieta (2000), Una temporada en el Mictlán (2003) and Cabaret Provenza (2007). Anyway, here is my translation of the poem he read that midday in Rosario, which gives a flavour of the quotidian presence of violence in Mexico, in which a TV commercial is imagined that reflects the irrepressible logic of consumer culture, flogging a cosmetic product that can wipe away even the most corrosive traces of everyday murder.
Infommercial Luis Felipe Fabre
Señora Housewife: are you sick and tired
of scrubbing night and day
clots of impossible-to-remove blood
from the clothes of all your family?
Do the entrails spattered on the walls of your house
prevent you from sleeping?
Have you found yourself exclaiming like a sleepwalker:
“Out, damned spot, out I say!”?
Now you can buy
Lady Macbeth Stain Remover
and put an end to those viscous nightmares!
Lady Macbeth Stain Remover
is made up from a base of scavenger micro-organisms
that will do your dirty work for you
without damaging the surfaces to which they are stuck:
Señora, you know it: killing
is easy. The difficult part comes later.
Lady Macbeth Stain Remover offers you
an incredible solution that will revolutionize domestic hygiene:
Say goodbye to the trace of brains from your favourite armchair!
Say goodbye to those bloodied rugs!
Take a note now of the number that appears on your screen
or call 01800 666
and receive along with your purchase
a multifunctional applicator and a packet of body bags
With the Lady Macbeth Stain Remover
you will be able to sleep
like a true queen.