The OF Blog: June 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Borges Month: Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923), Luna de Enfrente (1925), .Cuaderno San Martín (1929)

Before he ever became known for his short fiction or for his literary criticism, Jorge Luis Borges aimed to be a poet.  Although it was not an ambition he ever totally abandoned, as he was writing poetry until 1985, a year before his death, much of Borges' poetic output came between 1923 and 1929, with a thirty-one year break until his next collection of poems (and what today might be called flash fiction) were published as El Hacedor (The Maker, or as it is more commonly sold as in English, Dreamtigers) in 1960.

Yet despite the hundreds of poems Borges wrote over this span of sixty-two years, he is not as highly regarded for his poetry as he is for his prose.  There are two reasons for this, I believe.  The first is that Borges' poems, especially the ones of his early period, are in the Spanish Ultraist mode, which ran counter to the much more popular Modernist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The themes and treatments of Borges' early poems differ considerably from those of say a T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound or even the pre-eminent Latin American poet of the fin de siècle, Rubén Darío.  The subjects tend to be more mundane, such as the references to specific landmarks in Buenos Aires, such as the Recoleta, and the meters are less ornate than those of the Modernists.  For readers, with the notable exception of Buenos Aires of the 1920s, poems in the Ultraist mode just did not have the pizazz or vivid imagery found in works such as The Wasteland.  The Ultraist movement had collapsed in Spain by the mid-1920s and although Borges wrote in this style into the early 1930s, it never became more than a minor poetic movement.  The second reason why Borges' poems tend to be overlook is much more prosaic:  prose is easier to process than poetry and when Borges cemented his literary legacy by the 1940s, it was due more to his prose works, fiction and non-fiction alike, than due to his poetry.

But this does not mean that readers ought to overlook Borges' early poetry.  There are several elements within them that perhaps will appeal to readers.  In my recent re-read of his three 1920s poetry collections, I remarked to myself just how familiar, while yet so different in form and execution, Borges' early poems were to the themes he later explored in prose.  Take for instance this excerpt from Fervor de Buenos Aires, "La Recoleta" (translation is mine, with no editing to make it read smoother for English speakers):

Equivocamos esa paz con la muerte
y creemos anhelar nuestro fin
y anhelamos el sueño y la indiferencia.
Vibrante en las espadas y en la pasión
y dormida en la hiedra,
sólo la vida existe.
El espacio y el tiempo son formas suyas,
son instrumentos mágicos del alma,
y cuando ésta se apague,
se apagarán con ella el espacio, el tiempo y la muerte,
como al cesar la luz
caduca el simulacro de los espejos
que ya la tarde fue apagando.

We mistake that peace with death
and believe to yearn for our end
and we long for dream and indifference.
Vibrant in swords and in passion
and asleep in the ivy,
only life exists.
Space and time are their forms,
they are magical instruments of the soul
and when this is put out,
put out with it are space, time, and death,
as the ceasing of the light
expires the simulacrum of the mirrors
which already the afternoon was turning off.
Some will point to the reference to mirrors as being proof positive of how influential such a concrete metaphor was throughout Borges' writing career, but I believe what is more important than that is the treatment of life and its connections to time and space.  There too is a reference to dreams and to the confusions that humans have in their lives.  Although my quick, rough translation does not capture the fullness of Borges' use of metaphor here, it should serve well enough to illustrate how even at the age of 24, Borges had begun exploring thoughts on life, death, and dreams.

The issue of Death and of God is explored in another poem from his first collection, "Remordimiento Por Cualquier Muerte" ("Remorse for Any Dead"):

Libre de la memoria y de la esperanza,
ilimitado, abstracto, casi futuro,
el muerto no es un muerto:  es la muerte.
Como el Díos de los místicos
de Quien deben negarse todos los predicados,
el muerto ubicuamente ajeno
no es sino la perdición y ausencia del mundo.
Todo se lo robamos,
no le dejamos ni un color ni una sílaba:
aquí está el patio que ya no comparten sus ojos,
allí la acera donde acechó su esperanza.
Aun lo que pensamos
podría estar pensándolo él;
nos hemos repartido como ladrones
el caudal de las noches y de los días.

Free of memory and of hope,
unlimited, abstract, almost  future,
the dead is not a dead man:  it is Death.
Like the God of the mystics
from Whom they ought to deny all predicates,
the dead ubiquitously devoid
it is not but perdition and the absence of the world.
We rob all from them,
we do not leave them neither color nor syllable:
here is the patio which already they do not share their eyes,
there the sidewalk where ambushed their hope.
Even what we think
he would be able to think;
we have distributed like thieves
the wealth of the nights and days.
Although perhaps a bit too diffident in some respects, Borges did later refine these sentiments for further exploration.

The remaining poems in Fervor de Buenos Aires and its much smaller sequels, Luna en Enfrente and Cuaderno San Martín focus on aspects of the city of Buenos Aires, its pretensions of cultural greatness co-existing with the scandalous tango, the brothels, and the knife fights in the Palermo district that Borges remembered from his youth.  These are not horrible poems (even if in draft form, my translations do not capture fully the qualities of the originals), but instead they read more as exercises in exploration, exercises that Borges would begin to develop more as he began to make a reputation (a reputation that had the benefit of being boosted from the start by Borges' association with his father, Jorge G. Borges) for himself as a literary critic in the late 1920s.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Borges Month: Introduction to one of the greatest writers of the 20th century

It is no secret to regulars at this blog that I consider Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) to be one of the greatest literary voices of the 20th century.  Ever since 2003, when I finally decided to read him, I have been reading more and more of his works.  If you are a fan of say a Gene Wolfe or many of the New Weird writers, it shouldn't be surprising that elements found in Borges' fictions influenced their own ways of approaching the craft of constructing a story.  Doubtless whenever there are references to labyrinths or allusions to metatextual forgeries, somewhere, someone stops and thinks, "I remember seeing Borges do something similar in his fiction!"

But Borges is much, much more than just that mostly-blind, crafty storyteller.  There is much, much more to the man than this and for the next five weeks or so, I am going to be exploring Borges' less well-known sides.  I am going to examine his poetry and provide short translations of my own of key lines that I think are worthy of consideration.  I am going to discuss Borges' non-fiction, particularly his books of literary criticism, those on Argentine writers like José Fernández and Evaristo Carriego, as well as his works on Germanic and English literature.  Toward the end of this time, I am going to review two books written about Borges.  The first is a book on Borges' connections with SF, written by Carlos Abraham and called Borges y la ciencia ficción, while the second is a monstrous 1663 page extract from Adolfo Bioy Casares' diaries that discuss his dear friend and fellow writer.

With at least 33 books to discuss, several of which are omnibi, my original plans to make July Borges Month had to be altered slightly.  Thus the introductory post  on June 29th, and the likely conclusion stretching into early August.  Hopefully, there will be others who will participate, either by commenting here asking questions or providing solutions to problems I may have with the text (mind you, I'm reading all of this in Spanish, although there are English translations for the majority of these works), or perhaps through reading and blogging about particular works of his.  If you do this, please give me a link, perhaps in a comment to one of my posts, and I'll collect them and make regular posts about what others are saying about Borges.

Anyway, the first post will be posted later tonight on his 1923 poetry collection, Fervor de Buenos Aires, and his 1925 poetry collection Luna de Enfrente.

New group blog established for reviewing the Gollancz Fantasy and SF Masterworks series

Actually, this has been in the works for most of this month, but starting July 1, there will be a series of reviews over the next several months from a dozen or so online reviewers (including myself) that will cover the 130+ books on both lists, at a group blog called simply SFF Masterworks.  My first reviews will go live on Saturday, July 3, as I will cover William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland and Other Novels (Fantasy Masterworks #33) and James Blish's A Case of Conscience (SF Masterworks #30).  The Hodgson is already written (a 2100 word piece on the four novels included in this omnibus volume) and scheduled to go live at 12:04 AM on July 3, and I'll be writing the Blish review tonight and scheduling it for a few minutes afterwards.

There will be a variety of opinions and approaches to these books and I would hope regulars here will bookmark this group blog and/or add it to their RSS feeds, as it will be updated regularly.  In addition, I'll be editing the Fantasy Masterworks link in the Recommended Reading section of my links to include links to the reviews I have written, plus I will make regular Saturday posts linking to the reviews I've written (after all, I believe I said last year that my goal by the end of this year was to have read/reviewed all of the Fantasy Masterworks books.  I own them all and have only 3 left to read.  What I don't review there - that which has already been chosen - I'll review here a few months later, so there won't be any conflicts).

So...who's excited about having a one-stop resource for reviews of a series of books that one UK publisher at least thinks are among the SF/F best?

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 27 Used Book Porn

Here are the latest 23 books that I found in my favorite local used bookstore.  Traded in $90 of books, had almost another $8 in store credit from the last time I was there, and I spent only $86 on these books, $25 of which was for a single book.  Something tells me you can guess which one that is.  Now for the pictures:

French books, all of them by world-famous authors, all for a low-low price (one was $4, the rest were $1.50 each).  I guess I won't be waiting much longer to read Godot now that I have it in the original French.

Three Spanish, two German.  And although my German is very rusty since I haven't really practiced it since 1997, I can understand more written German than I let on (as I should, since if I had chosen to pursue my Ph.D. in German History, I would have had to pass a fluency exam in German).  However, that does not mean you can expect me to carry on a conversation in it now, although I am quite capable of quoting Goethe's "Kannst mich mal..."

From vol. 4 of Gibbon's most famous work to Delany to a Booker Prize-winning novel to a Library of America edition to me finally owning a copy of a treasured Bradbury, I am well pleased with finding these books.

When I was doing the daily group round World Cup of Fiction posts, I think I mentioned somewhere thatI had not yet read Peter Carey's work.  Well, I found a copy, so that will change soon.  Been meaning to read Frazer's book for over a dozen years now.  Sean Stewart is a fine writer, but for some reason, I never got around to getting this book until now.  And yes, I like to read theological books written by Popes on occasion.

The Turgenev is a replacement copy (and a newer translation).  The Moorcock is to be read later this year, when Moorcock Month begins on Paul Smith's blog.  And the Walton book is a second, nicer copy of the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks book I bought last year.  For only $4, it was worth it, I thought.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The chronology of my life via certain novels released, the second decade (1985-1994)

Ten more years of books released from the year I turned 11 to the year I turned 20:  Some high-profile books may not be listed here, because I either forgot or because I have no desire to read them or didn't find them to be influential on my reading habits.

1985 - Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
            Don DeLillo, White Noise
            Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero
            Imil Habibi, The Secret Life of Saeed
            Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse:  Dune
            Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
            Naguib Mahfouz, Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth
            Gabriel García Márquez, El amor en los tiempos de cólera (Love in Time of Cholera)

1986 - José Saramago, El año de la muerte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis)
           Stephen King, It (might read it sometime in the future)

1987 - Ken Grimwood, Replay
           Toni Morrison, Beloved
           Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun

1988 - Clive Barker, Cabal (want to read)
            Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum 
            Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

1989 - Nick Cave, And the Ass Saw the Angel (want to read)
            Katherine Dunn, Geek Love (have it, but still need to read it)
            Gabriel García Márquez, El general en su laberinto (The General in His Labyrinth)
            Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
            José Saramago, The History of the Siege of Lisbon (want to read this in Portuguese someday)
            Dan Simmons, Hyperion
            Shashi Tharoor, The Great Indian Novel
            Rose Tremain, Restoration

1990 - Thomas Pynchon, Vineland (want to read)
            Dan Simmons, Fall of Hyperion

1991 - Martin Amis, Time's Arrow
           Clive Barker, Imajica (want to read)
           Pat Barker, Regeneration
           A.S. Byatt, Possession
           Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

1992 - Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (maybe in the near future)
            Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

1993 - Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
           Laura Esquivel, Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)
           Lois Lowry, The Giver

1994 - Jonathan Lethem, Gun, With Occasional Music (want to read)
           Rick Moody, The Ice Storm (want to read)

Interesting how certain years contain many more books that I enjoyed or want to read than others.  1989 truly was an annus mirabilis, for more than just the fine literature produced that year.  Same for 1991, which is important to me in other ways.  Enjoyed 1985 as well, and the literature was fine then as well, although I certainly didn't read those books until several years later.

Any that I'm missing?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The chronology of my life via certain novels released, the first decade (1974-1984)

In a little less than a month, I'll be 36 years old, or 127 in internet years.  I thought about my life and the events that have transpired during the course of that span while reading the introduction to the Everyman's Library edition of Franz Kafka's The Castle.  There, events of Kafka's life were compared to political, military, and literary highlights of each year of his life.  I thought it'd be interesting to do so with a list of certain stories released over the course of my life that I have either read and thought were among the best, or lauded works which I hope to read sometime in the near future.

1974 -  Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
             Richard Adams, Shardik (want to read)
             Ursula K. Leguin, The Dispossessed

1975 - Saul Bellow, Humbolt's Gift (want to read)
            Jorge Luis Borges, El libro de arena (The Book of Sand)
            Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
            Gabriel García Márquez, Otoño del patriarca (Autumn of the Patriarch)

1976 - Judy Blume, Blubber; Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
           Alex Haley, Roots:  The Saga of an American Family
           Frank Herbert, Children of Dune
           Manuel Puig, El beso de la mujer araña (The Kiss of the Spider Woman)
           Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality 1

1977 - Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly
           J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
           Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

 1978 - Don DeLillo, Running Dogs (want to read)
            Stephen King, The Stand (will read sometime)
            Graham Greene, The Human Factor (want to read)

1979 - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
           Octavia Butler, Kindred
           Thomas Flanagan, The Year of the French
           Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
           Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
           Norman Mailer, The Executioner's Song
           V.S. Naipaul, The Bend in the River
           Mary Stewart, The Last Enchantment

1980 - Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster
           Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
           Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
           Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer

1981 - Peter Carey, Bliss (want to read)
           Alasdair Gray, Lanark
           Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
           Naguib Mahfouz, Arabian Days and Nights (want to read)
           Gabriel García Márquez, Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)
           Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator; The Sword of the Lictor

1982 - Isabel Allende, La casa de los espíritus (The House of the Spirits)
           George R.R. Martin, Fevre Dream
           Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark (might want to read in full in the future)
           Gene Wolfe, The Citadel of the Autarch

1983 - Thomas Bernhard, The Loser
            Jorge Luis Borges, La memoria de Shakespeare (Shakespeare's Memory)
            Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale
            Salman Rushdie, Shame

1984 - J.G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun (want to read)
           Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory (want to read)
           Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street
           William Gibson, Neuromancer (will eventually finish it)
           Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune
           Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I'll post separate lists for my 11-20, 21-30, and 31-present sometime on Sunday and maybe Monday.  If there are any notable books from these years that I have overlooked, feel free to list them, as I or another may discover something new and interesting to read.

Robert Freeman Wexler, The Painting and the City

Tonight, for all its magnificence, the city projected a claustrophobic attitude in which barren and cheerless buildings huddled for companionship, creaking across streets and alleys to confer with their neighbors.  The sky had the brittle look of overripe fruit, all lumpy apples and oozing bananas, while the air felt more July than May, sodden and heavy, attacked by the aroma of uncollected refuse that overflowed its containers like some rain-swollen tropical river, and the faces of the homeless shone with brown light.

In summer, rancid haze clings to the buildings, a coating of torpor that drives out all who are able to leave, for a weekend, for a month, two months, all who own the means of leisure, while the rest take what ease they can, shunning the subways, avoiding the lifeless underground air weighted with the bones of past generations, whose inability to speak shackles the city, at its worst in the dead time of heavy summer.  Breezes of shaved concrete crumble through the open windows of anyone unfortunate enough to lack air conditioning, and nightfall carries no release, as the trap laid by the day clamps down, vengeful and loathsome. (p. 7)
Robert Freeman Wexler's 2009 novel, The Painting and the City, opens with one of the most vivid cityscape descriptions that I have read in some times.  It is the summer of 2001 in New York City (yes, there is a significance for it being set then) and the city that never sleeps is broiling, both in heat and activity. Amidst this teeming activity a young sculptor, Jacob Lerner, goes through the motions of his everyday life.  One thing that quickly becomes apparent in reading this novel is that Wexler imbues his characters with interesting perspectives and views on life without doing the literary version of holding a flashing sign in front of the characters which says, "THIS IS AN IMPORTANT THOUGHT THIS CHARACTER IS HAVING."  Instead, even the oddest, most unusual conversations flow as naturally as two familiar, old friends having a 3 AM dorm conversation about life, the universe, and whether or not Danny Bonaducci could kick Donny Osmond's ass in a celebrity boxing match.  Wexler manages to mix the mundane and the surreal so adroitly that the narrative moves seamlessly from the quotidian to the weird.

Lerner one day discovers a painting that the Dutch illustrator Philip Schuyler did of a biracial young woman.  In this painting, there is a menace lurking behind this woman, which intrigues Lerner.  As he investigates, he discovers the name of the woman, Madame Burgundy, and a manuscript that Schuyler had written about his time in New York City in the 1840s.  This manuscript, reproduced within the pages of the text, reveals not only some of the mysteries behind Madame Burgundy and why she was painted in such a distressful situation, but that there was also a Dutch-American secret society that existed then which was still carrying on secretive commercial deals.  Schuyler barely escaped his situation, but as Lerner investigates this historical mystery, he discovers that underneath the surface, there are still deep, dark, hidden currents that can be lethal to those who traverse their depths too far.

But The Painting and the City is much more than an update on a 19th century sensational novel.  Over the course of its 268 pages, the city itself, historical and present alike, emerges as a quasi-character, with the setting firmly grounding the plot in such a fashion that the reader can feel immersed in the environs, and yet there are enough unsettling oddities that the city, just like Schuyler's painting of Madame Burgundy, feels a bit off-kilter, as if it were as much of a dreamscape than a solid cityscape.  This sense of surrealism adds to the narrative, echoing what is occurring both in the "past" (Schuyler's manuscript) and the "present" of Lerner's discoveries.  And despite this strangeness, Wexler's text never feels jarring or rushed in its moves from the mundane to the extraordinary; his narrative connects these disparate elements so tightly together that the so-called normal yields to the weird, which in turn returns again to the mundane.  This flowing may seem easy when reading the text, but in the course of writing this short review, I have come to appreciate just how difficult it likely was for Wexler to balance these elements out to where the most surprising elements in hindsight felt so smooth and natural when in the midst of my initial read.

Lerner's character is much more nuanced than the bog standard "Everymanish character, mostly devoid of identifiable character traits, gets sucked into a strange mystery," where that bland characterization is meant to underscore the strangeness of the situation.  Lerner's character is well-defined; his sense of alienation from his world is developed nicely through the use of short but effective internal monologue flashbacks.  He is much more than some random schmuck that gets sucked into a mystery.  His character is interesting because he is not a cipher but someone who takes an active role in uncovering this mystery.  This character development is important not just from a plot perspective, but also from a thematic angle.  Wexler explores issues of Art and Commerce in this novel and how Lerner and those who he meets over the course of this novel help further his explorations of those seemingly polar opposites.  This element adds yet another layer of depth to a story whose plot alone was well-realized in its goals and execution.

There were very few faults I could find with The Painting and the City.  Oh, perhaps I could note how I wish just a little bit more could have been said about this or that plot point or character, but that would only serve to underscore just how fascinating the city and the painting mystery truly were for me.  Wexler's novel felt as though it were a briskly-paced story that had been stripped of any extraneous fat, leaving the reader with a story that moves at a falsely languid pace until s/he realizes just how quickly things have developed and how engrossed s/he is with what has transpired.  If I had read this book last year, The Painting and the City certainly would have made my year-end Best Novels list.  Highly recommended.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Serbian and newish book porn

As I promised someone on Twitter, pics of my growing collection of Serbian language books (much thanks again to Zoran Živković for sending me copies of his works so I can work on learning that language).  Tentative plans are to have a series of reviews of his and other Serbian authors in August.  29 books in Serbian so far, with more to follow, third-most behind my thousands of English-language works and 300 or so Spanish-language books.

Yes, some of these are translations from the original English, but most were originally written in Serbian.

Some of the Pavić stories are available in English, including the last book, Drugo Telo (Second Body) being available online in English translation. Highly recommended.

And here are a few of the English-language works that have arrived recently.  I wonder who would want to read the book on the bottom?  And the cover of the middle book certainly ain't no Ten, let me tell ya...

Wexler's book will be reviewed later today; the others sometime over the next few weeks.

World Cup of Fiction: June 25 Matches

Last day of group play!  And I have my toughest match to write about, since I have friends of mine who are Brazilian writers/editors and still more friends who are Portuguese writers/editors.  While I shall keep mum on who I am supporting (or not, if you know about the Twitter bet I have) in the actual match later this morning, I do believe it'll be an easy call on the literary side.  But since I'm a bit rushed for time, not as many pictures this time (only for the feature matches).

Group G

Portugal versus Brazil - Outside of any of the US matches, this is the group play match I have wanted to see most on the sports side.  As for the literary, well, it's tough to go against the Portuguese, who shall be led by Fernando Pessoa for this match, while the Brazilians will turn to master novelist Jorge Amado to provide the counterattack:

Prediction:  This will be an exciting, back and forth battle.  Amado will set up his fellow Brazilians for several opportunities, but Pessoa will continue to confound the Brazilian defense with his multiple pseudonyms and with his witticisms.  Saramago and Camões will end up being second half substitutions that will end up providing the Lusitania side with the decisive goal, as they clinch the top spot in Group G.

North Korea versus Côte d'Ivoire - Just as virtually no one outside these two countries cares about this match on the sports side, the literary match-up is just so dreary that I can't bring myself to paste another photo of Kim Jong Il here.

Prediction: Literary version of 0-0 draw with no shots on goal.

Group H

 Spain versus Chile - This is the other match-up that I want to watch today.  I think I'll get a decent sports match to watch, but on the literary side, I can compare some of my favorite writers!  Who should I choose?  For the Spanish, I've already highlighted Miguel Cervantes and while I could do with fellow Siglo del Oro writers Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca, I think I'll turn to the 21st century for the chosen star for each side.  For the Spanish, I select Carlos Ruiz Zafón, who is I believe the first Spaniard since Cervantes to sell over 10 million copies of his fiction globally.  For the Chilean side, after having already highlighted the late, great Roberto Bolaño, for this match I'll go with one of the leaders of the 1990s McOndo literary movement, Alberto Fuguet:
Prediction:  Another close, tense, exciting match with first place on the line.  Zafón's combination of melodramatic settings and evocative writing is countered deftly by Fuguet's updates on Bukowski and Sallinger's best work (his first novel, Mala Onda, or Bad Vibes in English), as well as his ability to tell a good narrative involving movies of the 1970s and early 1980s.  Although La Furia Roja does have a slew of excellent poets and dramatists, the Chileans have their own strong poetic side, plus they have first dibs on Roberto Bolaño.  This literary match ends in a 2-2 draw, with the Chileans claiming the top seed and the right to be the best "Roja" in this group.

Switzerland versus Honduras - Although the sports sides do have something to play for, their literary counterparts are so far behind the Spanish and Chileans in interest that instead of repeating the same lineups from their last matches, I'll just say re-read that earlier post.

Prediction:  The Swiss build a strong defense following the models shown in The Swiss Family Robinson and they win 1-0 in a rather boring affair.

July shall be Borges Month here at the OF Blog

Been planning to do this for a couple of months now, but with BAF responsibilities lessened now for the next month or so, I thought July would be the perfect time for me to re-read and this time comment at greater length on Argentine author Jorge Luis's prose, poetry, and literary criticism.  Some of the books I will be reading and reviewing are not available in English, at least not independently.  Three books were collaborations he did with another excellent Argentine writer, Adolfo Bioy Casares.  But since many love images, here are the 23 Borges books I will be discussing in July:

A collection of Borges' poetry, a bestiary, and his comments on Argentina's greatest epic poem.

His 1970 short story collection, his 1960s poetry collection, and his second-most famous story collection.

Prose/poems, series of writings about his favorite books that were part of a critical series in Argentina, and an early book of his approach to literary criticism.

Last collaboration with Bioy Casares, plus two non-fiction books.

A collection of prologues he wrote, transcript of seven lectures from 1977, and a book on Buddhism that he co-wrote.

A critical piece on an Argentine writer, plus his first two collaborations with Bioy Casares.

Another non-fiction piece, followed by his last two short story collections.

Borges' most famous collection, plus his first collection of prose.

Hope to review around 1 every 1-2 days, maybe doubling up every so often.  Not going in any particular order, but which books pictured here would you be most interested in learning more about?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An amusing sign juxtapositioning

My best friend from college, Jonathan, posted this picture to his Facebook earlier this week.  He's on vacation with his family in Oregon and he saw this along a coastal highway.  There's just something morbidly funny about two of those places being side-by-side...can't quite figure it out.  Can you?

Oh well, I guess recycling is quite important, in some form or fashion.

World Cup of Fiction: June 24 Matches

Although I slept part of the night, I don't care to see dawn rise, so onto the day's final round of group play in Groups E and F:

Group E

 Netherlands versus Cameroon - The Indomitable Elephants of Cameroon were the first side to be eliminated on the sports side, but their young, underdeveloped literary side is also playing more for pride than for any hope of advancing in the World Cup of Fiction.  The Dutch, having already clinched a spot in the Knockout stages, have elected to go with Harry Mülisch as their captain.  The Cameroon side counters by turning to national poet Larry Bate Takang:

Prediction:  Despite Mülisch looking more like a bum off the street that they dosed liberally with cheap wine, the Dutch side does prevail in a defensive (and offensive) struggle.

Denmark versus Japan - The winner of this match will move on to the Knockout stages, so both sides have elected to bring out the heavy artillery.  The Danish side has turned to their star fabulist, Hans Christian Andersen, while the Japanese have gone magic realist with the insertion of Haruki Murakami into the lineup:

Prediction:  The Japanese will pen some awesomely strange stories that will confuzzle the Danes, leading to Murakami and Crew scoring twice.  The Samurai march on.

Group F

 Paraguay versus New Zealand - This is do or die time for these sides.  Paraguay trots out its most important 20th century writer, Augusto Roa Bastos, while the Kiwis counter with Elizabeth Knox.

Prediction: When all else is equal, experience trumps youth.  Paraguay, being the more experienced side, moves on after drawing with the Kiwis 1-1.

Slovakia versus Italy - Despite being heavily favored in all their matches, the Azzurri find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to win or draw in order to advance.  The Slovakian side is loose, having nothing to lose, so they have elected to go with Jozef Cíger-Hronský as a counter to the Italian semiotics expert, Umberto Eco:

Prediction:  As is now tradition for the Azzurri, the Italians play their best when they finally have nothing to gain and everything to lose.  They get their first outright victory of this tourney and advance to the Knockout stages.

World Cup of Fiction: June 23 Matches

I was very busy yesterday and away from my computer most of the time, so I didn't have the time to do the writeup on the actual day.  But here is what I would have written, regardless of now knowing the outcomes of the actual sporting matches:

Group C

 England versus Slovenia - On paper, this would be a huge mismatch, with the legendary English literary side competing against a young, small nation whose more famous writers have tended to be associated with the Habsburg Empire than with an independent Slovene nation.  But English is reeling after its draw with the US and its clash with the Algerian-French import Albert Camus, so it has been decided that the English will use their most famous writer, William Shakespeare, to crack the rugged Lacanian defense of Slovenia and its star, Slavoj Žižek.

Prediction:  Shakespeare bursts out his "To be, or not to be," which gets Žižek all hot and bothered to the point that the English strike quickly, before resorting to their usual thumb stuck up their bum "offense" for the rest of the way.

United States versus Algeria - This was shaping up to be a monumental mismatch until the Algerians were permitted to claim Albert Camus, who was, after all born in what became Algeria, from the French on a loan after Camus and Sartre could not agree on anything.  Les Fennecs aim to replicate the tactics of the original vulpine and the German general who are also known as Desert Foxes.  The Americans counter with one of their greatest writers, the late, great Southern writer William Faulkner:

Prediction:  Camus's excellent prose defense stymies the Americans until near the very end, when after William Penn Warren has set up a cross for Flannery O'Connor that deflect off Camus's hands, Faulkner follows through with the Dead Mule Kick to win the match and to send the American side onto the Knockout Stage.

Group D

 Germany versus Ghana - With a victory, the Germans would avoid having to face the resilient American literary side in the first Knockout stage, instead preferring to face the divided English side.  For Ghana, unlike their sports side, which has much to gain, their literary side is playing for pride and for the opportunity to show just how good African literature can be when the global spotlight is on it.  The Germans, despite having to worry about Serbia claiming the top sport if they were to somehow upset in this match, have decided to go "simple," so they have trotted out from the musty depths of their deep bench the 17th century author of Simplicius Simplicissimus, Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen.  The Black Stars of Ghana counter with playright Ama Ata Aidoo:

Prediction:  The match ends up involving 22 writers, poets, and playwrights running all across the pitch and after 90 minutes, the Germans win.

Serbia versus Australia - Ignore the surprising sports result, for the literary tilt here may be a beauty for those who want to be exposed to smashing literary action that runs the gamut of styles and genres.  The Serb side is captained for this match by Milorad Pavić, while the Sockaroos of Australia are led by Peter Carey:

Prediction:  After a long, exciting match, the Serb side is just too much for the Aussies, with a late goal from Pavić sealing the Sockaroos' fate.
Add to Technorati Favorites