The OF Blog: Disjecta Membra

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Disjecta Membra

As the title states, a few fragments:

  • When taking into account 2nd language speakers, Spanish speakers in the United States (estimates range as high as 50 million combined native and SL) constitute the third-largest body of Spanish speakers in the world after those of Mexico and Spain.  Yet there is relatively little discussion about the increasing availability of Spanish-language works in American bookstores (and of course, online retailers such as Amazon) when topics regarding "global" literature crop up.  Yes, there is still a major problem with the paucity of translated works available in English, but at least there seems to be a growing awareness among publishers (Vintage Español and Rayo being two Spanish-language imprints of Random House and HarperCollins respectively) that there is a viable market in the United States for Spanish-language works.  Considering that I don't have to spend $60 to import Roberto Bolaño's El Tercer Reich (which was released in Spain in January) due to it being available for around $10 on Amazon in early March (published by Vintage Español), this is a very positive development.

  • Speaking of Bolaño, I hope to have the second essay ready by Sunday evening.  This one will focus on his short fiction.  Currently nearing the end of my re-read of Los detectives salvajes and certain themes and narrative devices are becoming clearer to me.  I believe the next few essays will prove of interest to those readers who concentrate primarily on speculative fiction.

  • The late Argentine writer Roberto Arlt deserves a greater reading audience in Anglophone countries.  Nice styles employed in his short fictions.

  • Listening to The White Stripes covering Dylan's "Love Sick" makes me (again) appreciate just how much talent both Dylan and Jack White have.  Got to hear this song performed live back in June 2003 in Boca Raton by The White Stripes and February 1999 in Nashville by Dylan.  Been one of my favorite songs since then.  Below is a video of the cover performance, from another show:

  • The short fiction reading is going very well now.  Current two journals being read are the 2009 issue of Witness, titled Dismissing Africa, and the Winter 2010 issue of Glimmer Train.  With one exception, there have been several good stories in the journals and magazines I have read.  Unfortunately, that doesn't mean each story is going to be "fantasy" or "the best" of the May 2009-May 2010 period that BAF4 will cover.  But at least there have been some enjoyable surprises along the way.

  • It's nearly 3 AM here.  I guess I'll try to sleep again.  


Gonzalo B said...

Unfortunately, most of the chain bookstores carry a relatively small number of Spanish titles. At least two thirds of the offer is comprised of best-sellers translated from the English (Dan Brown, David Baldacci, etc.), plus self-help and religious titles. The rest is made up of big name authors (García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Fuentes, etc.) and in the end there's very little space for new names. Publishers are not even distributing the big award winners (Planeta, Casamérica, Biblioteca Breve, Herralde, etc.) that you read about in the Spanish lit blogs nor many of the up and coming writers.

Finally, one must consider how a large percentage of the Spanish-speaking population in this country does not have the educational background nor the income to buy books. The target market is not as big as it seems.

Larry said...

I know, which is a shame (and I've searched in vain in quite a few Nashville area bookstores for more than the usual suspects that you mention). But it's still an improvement over what I would find 8-9 years ago when I lived in the Miami metropolitan area, when I had to go to special Cuban or Haitian-run independent stores to find works in their native languages. It'll be interesting to see what might happen in the next 20 years, with the educational levels (hopefully) rising and between the 2nd language and 2nd generation speakers, there might be somewhat more interest. Having American publishers releasing Bolaño, Allende, and a few others like Fuguet in the original Spanish even after the English translation was released is at least a small step.

Gonzalo B said...

In DC they just opened a Fondo de Cultura Económica bookstore so I shouldn't be complaining. My view, however, is more pessimistic than yours. I've worked for a few Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S. and their readership tends to be comprised almost entirely of first-generation Hispanics. Many second-generation kids speak some Spanish but I'd dare say that the majority of them doesn't read nor write in the language. I've always thought Spanish-language publishers in the U.S. should try to replicate the successful model of Spain's "bolsilibros" or pulps, popular fiction that in its heyday sold in the millions thanks to its simple writing, relatively short page count, and action-packed plots. Nowadays, the genre is not as popular (it's been replaced by traditional best seller titles, especially historical novels) but bolsilibros still sell in Spain as well as throughout Latin America (especially Western writers like Marcial Lafuente Estefanía). Publishers should also take a look at what's going on with the so-called "urban lit" aimed at African Americans. It sells pretty well and the chain stores carry a big selection of titles (indicating that there's a healthy demand for them). Something similar aimed at young Latinos could be a winner, both in terms of increasing readership and making money.

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