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READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
appy new year to all, and my thanks for reading the blog (if you do read the blog, and otherwise thanks for dropping by.) I am looking forward to what this new year will bring. Ring out the old, ring in the new...
Numerological note as of January 1st: today is 1/1/11! Do something observant at 1:11, 11:11, and 20:11.
Rivera Letelier is an absolute wizard of narrative voice, of person -- I wrote before about the shifts from third to first-person singular in The Art of Resurrection; something even more complex and initially confusing is going on in Our Lady of the Dark Flowers. This is quite possibly the only novel I've ever read which is told in first-person plural omniscient present.*
The novel opens
with the narrator telling a story, set in the present tense, about 56-year-old widower Olegario Santana and his two pet vultures** -- he "is feeding" them, they "are emitting their gutteral carrion cries"... And it is initially quite jarring when the narrator backs off and shifts to "we" -- I believe the first place this happens is at the end of the sixth paragraph, where Olegario is walking to the mines -- something does not seem quite right, suddenly he meets up with a group of men who come up to him and "we tell him" that perhaps he has not heard, but a general strike was declared last night.
Is "we" the group of men? That's what it seems like at first; but as the novel progresses, "we" becomes more general, it is the workers of the pampa as a general class. The narrator is not a singular person or a distinct group of people -- the group of men would not have been able to narrate Olegario feeding his birds -- but is rather the voice of the pampino community. By doing this Rivera Letelier includes you the reader as a member of that community and makes it very easy, after a little hesitation, to get inside the book. Thinking of the story as a movie: when the narrator is telling about Olegario feeding his birds (and throughout the book in passages where he is speaking about "he" and "them"), he is describing the action onscreen as you watch the movie -- the present tense makes this work -- but when he shifts to "we", you realize you are part of what you're watching onscreen.
*I can't think of another one. Can you? I can't imagine this has never been done before; still it is quite distinctive.
**Well I'm pretty sure they're vultures anyway -- they are called jotes, which I think serves as a generic way of referring to birds, not buitres -- but they are described as carrion birds with pink heads, so vultures. Possibly jot is a Chilean term for vulture. Vulture does seem like an unlikely bird to have as a pet; but I am leaving that to the side for now, suspending disbelief.
...And, confirmation! Googling around for jotes in the Atacama brings me to a page from the Museo Virtual de la Región Atacama, with pictures of a vulture, "Jote de Cabeza Colorada (Catarthes Aura)". Wiktionary listsjote as a Chilean term for turkey vulture.
This week I've started Rivera Letelier's Santa María de las flores negras, Our Lady of the Dark Flowers -- the title is a reference to this anonymous poem, "The Dark Copihue, Flower of the Pampa", published in 1917 commemorating the 1907 massacre at Escuela Santa María de Iquique:
Soy el obrero pampino
por el burgués esplotado;
soy el paria abandonado
que lucha por su destino;
soy el que labro el camino
de mi propio deshonor
regando con mi sudor
estas pampas desoladas;
soy la flor negra y callada
que crece con mi dolor.
I am the pampino worker
Exploited by the owner;
I am the outcast, abandoned
fighting for his destiny;
it is I who lay the roadway
of my own disgrace
irrigating with my sweat
this desolate pampa;
I am the dark, silent flower,
flower that feeds on my sorrow.
A blind man** recites this poem in Chapter 3, among other folk poetry about the workers' struggle. (This seems like an interesting way of interweaving fact and fiction, since of course the poem was not written at the time the novel is set. The author is turning the poem into an element of his fictional world.) The red copihue is Chile's national flower; the poet (who Sergio González Miranda speculates* could be Luis Emilio Recabarren, fixture of Chile's left wing in the early 20th Century) sees a black flower growing from the blood and sweat of the pampino workers.
**The blind poet might be, if I'm understanding a statement in Chapter 4 correctly, Rosario Calderón, listed byPoesía Popular as the author of Poesías Pampinas in 1900.... Ah -- no -- I missed a note in Chapter 3 that the blind man's name is Rosario Calderón "just like the famous poet who publishes his works in El Pueblo Obrero."
Teresa's Christmas post is very much worth checking out: Luke 2, 1-14 in a plethora of different translations. Read about Mary's revelation in Dutch, Portuguese, Lowland Scots, Greek, Slavonic, various Englishes...
...in the winter-time... Sylvia and I worked a puzzle together, a gift she and Ellen got for me this fall when they traveled to visit Sybil.
I hereby declare the persistence of memory officially disintegrated! We also spent some time playing chess -- I won but she gave me a good run for my money. The set is a gift from my father and mother, an old set which I remember from our household growing up:
There is a winter storm warning! 10-15" of snow predicted for this afternoon and tonight and tomorrow... I will be indoors keeping warm. Here is some music to keep warm by.
It is blues guitarist Eleanor Ellis' documentary of a Piedmont Blues house party -- at John Jackson's house in Fairfax Station, northern Virginia. Featuring Jackson and his son James, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, Archie Edwards, Cora Jackson, Flora Molton and Larry Wise, John Dee Holeman, and Quentin "Fris" Holloway. Lots of talk about the music and the traditions. Thanks to Chris (of the have_moicy mailing list) for the link.
The sky is clear! So I'm going to stay up and wait for the eclipse at 2 tomorrow morning, which will be the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the Winter Solistice since the 1600's... While I'm waiting seems like a good time to write my annual reading review post.
2009 was, as you may recall, a year of starting to pick up the Spanish language in my readings and getting acclimated to the literature of Latin America; that trend continued in the early part of this year with a whole lot of time and thought spent on Borges -- Collected Fictions in Hurley's translations and many of the fictions in Spanish as well, plus some essays, lectures, and forewords. In the last quarter of this year I have discovered and have been reading Hernán Rivera Letelier, specifically The Art of Resurrection (and am just starting Our Lady of the dark flowers which a friend on the west coast sent to me), and thinking more about Borges and about language. And in between, well, Bolaño, and some very interesting Saramago, Coetzee, Meredith Sue Willis, Joyce Hinnefeld, The Wettest County, Fred Exley, Jeffrey Eugenides; also have been for the first time really explicitly reading things with translation in mind, like the Rivera Letelier books, like the Poets of Nicaragua collection and Slavko Zupcic.
I have probably been blogging less about reading this year (particularly towards the end of the year) than in the last couple of years; that does not strike me as a terrible thing. I might shift the focus of the blog slightly away from reading and toward translation and the craft of writing -- of course there is a lot of room for overlap there...
I believe instead of creating a reading list post for 2011 I will just use the list from last year as a scratch pad -- I've been updating it over the course of the year anyway.
posted evening of December 20th, 2010: Respond ➳ More posts about 積ん読
At Making Light, Teresa posts lyrics to a Swedish carol for this opening night of the Christmas season, along with descriptions of customs around Europe for observing the feast day. Marissa Lingen also has her annual Santa Lucia post.
Update: Fantastic! Saint Lucy, the patron saint of the blind, is the woman in the Blindnesschurch scene, who "did not have her eyes covered, because she carried her gouged-out eyes on a silver tray."
'tis the Season! (anyway it is Winter, nearly.) John Holbo has just the thing for your seasonal enjoyment: a truly awful Christmas volume to read online or buy in hardcopy. Really impressive set-up I think -- fiction upon fiction upon great illustrations. I am reading eagerly to find out where he goes with it. (And see p. 10 for the Christmas card I want to send out to my friends and family.) Source images from Kunstformen der Naturhere and here.
Holbo's earlier essay on Haeckel's contributions to the genre of Squeampunk can be read at HiLoBrow.
LanguageHat finds a curious misreading in a review of two new translations(!) of Le Petit Prince. In comments, Paul notes that there is a new animated film of the book. An auspicious year for St-Exupéry fans!