Friday, June 29, 2007

With Ann McLaughlin, Washington DC

This was taken by my sister Alice after my reading from Miraculous Air at Candida's World of Books last week. Ann McLaughlin, author of the delightful The House on Q Street, among many other novels, and Yours Truly, overlooking Key Bridge.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Man High

Man High's 50th anniversary celebration in Crosby, Minnesota coming up... More about that at journalist Beverly Mindrum Johnson's website here. She's selected my poem, "Man High" for a commemorative anthology. More anon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kate Blackwell Guest-Blogging with Summer Reading

Who better to recommend some fiction than a crackerjack fiction writer herself? Apropos of the publication of her splendid new book of short stories, You Won't Remember This, (SMU Press), I invited Kate Blackwell to guest-blog here on Madam Mayo with a summer reading list. I have long admired her work. We were in a Washington DC writers group for a few years, and, back in 2003, I was honored to be able to reprint her short story, "Pepper Hunt" together with its first Spanish translation as "Caseria con pimienta" by Egla Morales Blouin, in Tameme. Kate reports that this summer she'll be reading away in her cottage on Maryland's Eastern Shore.--- Madam Mayo


“Summer reading” has become an oxymoron, as shown on the cover of the Summer Reading Issue of the Washington Post magazine recently, where a woman lies in a beach chair, hat over her face, arms dangling, either asleep or dead. There is no book in the picture. (Write your own story.) I have another picture of summer reading, and how it differs from winter reading or fall or spring reading. For me, a summer book is one I can’t easily put down, like Gone With the Wind the summer before I turned twelve. I didn’t want to do anything else but read that book and, unlike other times of year, I didn’t have anything else to do. Some of the best reads of my life were in those adolescent summers, long, sweaty un-air-conditioned days lying in a porch swing with The Count of Monte Cristo and Jane Eyre and Ivanhoe, meaty novels about worlds far from mine. I still look for those reading experiences, though now I find them in stories more often than novels. The following are “summer books” that keep me awake, and more importantly, alive.

Anton Chekhov’s longer stories for his clear-eyed, compassionate picture of the suffering and joy life brings to everyone. My favorites are “In the Ravine,” “Peasants,” “Gooseberries,” “A Boring Story,” and “Lady with a Pet Dog.”

William Trevor’s portrayals of Irish and English middle-class characters coping with a diminished present and a past that won’t leave them alone. Look for his two novellas in Two Lives and the haunting story “The News from Ireland.”

Alice Munro’s tales about plucky Canadians of all stripes, stories that give us entire lives in twenty pages. Her latest are The View from Castle Rock and Runaway.

Edward P. Jones’s stories, all set in a Washington, D.C. many Washingtonians have never seen. Read Lost in the City and this year’s All Aunt Hagar’s Children.

George Saunders’s collection Pastoralia, whose imaginative language shows us ourselves from disconcerting angles.

Lorrie Moore’s stories of young, disaffected Americans saved by their (or her) sardonic humor. See Birds of America.

If you want to sink into a longer work, a riveting read like those of my young summers, nothing can beat Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander novels or Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows.

Enjoy Stay alive...---Kate Blackwell

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gone to the Litblogs: Back from ALA & Notes on Writers's Blogs

Last Saturday morning, I signed books--- the new paperback edition of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico at the Milkweed Editions booth at the American Library Association bookfair at the Washington DC (gulp) Convention Center. Having seen that ginormous multi-acre hive, well, mangoes to anyone who says reading is dead. Thousands and thousands of librarians shlepping shoulder-breaking bags full of books--- with enthusiasm! Well, can there be a crowd more enthusiastic about books than librarians? I saw Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners! And heard Naomi Ayala read her glorious poetry. And said hi to E. Ethelbert Miller (who read his poems at the ALA inaugural event), novelists Anosh Irani and Donna Leon, not to mention scads and scads of childrens book authors... and Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle and Washington DC's Underground Railroad historian Mary Kay Ricks... Books are a big business, so it's strange, really, that there are ever fewer book reviews. This is well-documented phenomeon--- in fact, the National Book Critics Circle has a campaign to "save book reviews." A fascinating conversation with one publisher's marketing director there--- how getting a review in, say, the Washington Post, is like winning the lottery, so she's been aiming more of her pitches at the litblogs. As I've mentioned many times (most recently here), I am intrigued by the so-called "litblogs" as an emerging literary genre. She mentioned Book Slut, I mentioned The Happy Booker... I think we both said The Millions at the same time... Maud Newton is one of the best... The Old Hag has been around quite awhile... But I believe, rather than generalist litblogs, we are going to see an increasing influence of individual writers's blogs. Some of the abovementioned litblogs are by writers; what I mean by an "individual writers's blogs" is that the focus is primarily on the writers's own work, or what the writers, qua writers, find of interest. These may or may not offer book reviews, but they do often mention books they like, or don't like, in effect, providing blurbs and sending readers to new (and old) books--- in short, assuming more of the function of print reviews. An excellent and early example is Laila Lalami's Moorish Girl. Another example: Leslie Pietrzyk's Work in Progress, which just started up this March. Tod Goldberg and Jim Kunstler blog voluminously, as do The Naked Authors... Ken Ackerman, author of, most recently, Young J. Edgar Hoover, has started his blog, Coffee With Ken with some essays on related current events--- but how often will he post? Is his heart really in it? More anon.
---> Read my other posts on "Gone to to the Litblogs" here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gone to the Litblogs: Alberto Ruy Sanchez's "Cuaderno Abierto"

As I've noted in several other Gone to the Litblogs posts, (most recently on "narrowcasting") I am fascinated by the emerging genre of the literary blog. As a translator, I've been keeping an eye out for Mexican writers's blogs. I've noted Agustin Cadena's blog, El vino y la hiel, and Martina Casillas de Alba's, Juego de espejos, among others. Now there is Alberto Ruy Sanchez's Cuaderno Abierto (which means "open notebook"). Here's my recent post about Ruy Sanchez's work.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Many Voices, One Nation: Washington DC

Tonight at the American Library Association conference in Washington DC, I'll be reading from Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (an excerpt which also appears in Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion) for the "Many Voices, One Nation: Washington DC" program, the kick-off event. Some of the other writers I'll be reading with are E. Ethelbert Miller, Anosh Irani, and Tim Tingle. Never been to ALA? Click here.

(Speaking of many voices, etc--- last night, while working though a Bento box at the Dupont Circle Teaism, couldn't help overhearing snippets from the tables on either side, one discussing Bolivia, the other, Egypt. I didn't pay much attention, however, as I was so thoroughly engrossed in Judith Martin's charm-fest of a new tome about Venice, No Vulgar Hotel.) More anon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Liam Callanan Over at Leslie Pietrzyk's "Work in Progress"

A story about buying a book on the internet.

Book Art Surfari

The other day, when I was at the Writers Center to give my Literary Travel Writing Workshop, I happened upon a tiny, brown, hand-stamped and altogether peculiar-looking package that turned out to be an art book by Sally Canzoneri. The title: Repurposed Law. She'd taken her law books, colored them and turned them into book-like origami--- the point being, as she writes in the insert, "About This Book," to "reshape my old law books, just as the Bush administration has reshaped our law to suit its purposes. My law books can have a new purpose now: commenting on what the Bush administration has done to our nation's greatest treasure--- our legal system." Apropos of art books, I went on a little Internet surfari and found quite a few delve-worthy websites. Here's a good place to start your own book art surfari:
Pyramid Atlantic: Contemporary Prints, Paper, and Book Arts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Alexandra van de Kamp's "State of the Soul"

Is here in the new issue of New York Spirit. Visit Alexandra van de Kamp's website for more about her marvelous poems and translations.

A Necklace for Every Pug, Woman, and Child

This photo is of the beautiful black Yogi, of Pug Snuggly by Yogi. Picadou loves-loves-loves her Pug Snugglies by Yogi--- these are soft-soft-soft coats specially shaped for a pug's cobby body. Picadou has two, one in black with a pink lining, and one in red with the black-and-bone collar.

Well, pugs are so cute it may be hard to believe: there are many, many pugs in need of rescue. (Read more at Yogi and Jett write:

Help us help those in need by purchasing one of our "Have a Heart" necklaces for only $25. Yogi will donate $15 of the sale to the Pug Rescue of your choice. This wonderful necklace was designed to be worn by every Pug, woman and child.

Sounds like a grand idea to us!!! More anon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Carlota in the Palacio Nacional: "La Loca de Bachout"

This is sure to be something really special (both in the Mexican and the Anglo-Saxon sense of that word): Three free performances, Tuesday June 19 at 5 pm and two Saturdays, June 23 and June 30th, both at 12 pm in Mexico City's Palacio Nacional: actress Teresa Selma to perform the monologue "La Loca de Bachout" based on Fernando del Paso's epic novel, Noticias del imperio. (News from the Empire). Note: an excerpt from del Paso's novel appears in my recent anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. And my essay about a journey to Maximilian and Carlota's Italian castle appears here. And my own epic novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire? Almost, almost...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Baja California Slide Show

Apropos of the launch of the paperback edition of Miraculous Air, a Baja California slide show--- embryonic version-- is now on-line. Many more photos to be added asap.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

This Father's Day: Launch Event for Miraculous Air at Washington DC's Candida's World of Books

This photo of a boojum is one of the many of Baja California that I'll be showing this Sunday at the reading / slide show / signing /Washington DC launch event for the paperback edition of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions). This Sunday June 17th at 5 p.m. at Washington DC's Candida's World of Books 14th & Q. Back blogging on Monday.

Solutions Abroad

Solutions Abroad, an information-packed website intended to help build community among expats in Mexico, features Yours Truly as Expat of the Month. Glad to have the chance to plug Miraculous Air and the collection of Mexican fiction and literary prose, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. I've been surprised how many people who come to my book signings tell me they are thinking of moving to Mexico. Here's a previous post about that phenomenon. And about that wall. Now that this Solutions Abroad profile is on-line, I've been getting scads of e-mail from people who want advice about how to get a job in Mexico. Here's what I'm telling them: Check Craig's List. And know that, in order to be legally paid, you need to have your documents in order. Um, Mexico does have a tax authority. And last I checked, pesos weren't sprouting off the trees. Seriously, if you're thinking of living or working in Mexico, check out Solutions Abroad's many useful links. More anon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gone to the Litblogs: Narrowcasting & More Notes Towards a Taxonomy

Dinner conversation this evening with my amiga K., a DC writer who works in a media organization, about blogging. K. says the successful ones are narrowcasting, i.e., aiming a highly specific blog at a highly specific audience. Indeed: in the litblog world, a good example would be Wendi Kaufman's The Happy Booker, which focuses on news in literary Washington DC and environs. Novelist Leslie Pietrzyk's Work in Progress focuses on, yes, work in progress. In the news world--- for example, for news on Iraq--- a blog I often check in on is Informed Comment, in which University of Michigan Professor of Middle Eastern History Juan Cole offers a daily summary of and commentary on the news in the Middle East. They may not be the end all of the All on this Subject, but between Juan Cole and Col Pat Lang's Sic Semper Tyrannis, I get a better sense of what's going on in Iraq than from reading, say, the Washington Post. For example, last week, when Turkish troops invaded Iraq, to get a sense of what this meant, I skipped the papers and went immediately to these two blogs because (1) both Juan Cole and Col Pat Lang are highly knowledgable about this subject and (2) their blogs often go into far more depth than scant newsprint can. (Though now and again, Col. Pat Lang dips into movie reviewing and showcasing excerpts of his civil war novel...) But back to the litblog world: for literary travel writing, another excellent example of narrowcasting would be World Hum. What of Madam Mayo? I'd put this blog in the category of a Individual Artist Blog. It's about my work and what interests me, as an artist. Some other blogs in said category: David Byrne (musician), Margaret Cho (comedian), Moorish Girl (writer Laila Lalami), Coffee with Ken (Kenneth Ackerman, the writer/ historian/ lawyer). Last thought: It occurs to me that few people over the age of 30 have heard the term "narrowcasting." K. said the under 30s in her office didn't recognize the phrase "Drink the Kool-Aid." Interesting juxtaposition. Possibly meaningless. More anon.

UPDATE: In Clusterfuck Nation--- a hybrid (as per my defintions) of Narrowcasting (comments on current events as related to his book The Long Emergency) and Individual Artist Blog--- Jim Kunstler writes, that this is "a society of envious slobs deluded into thinking that they could become the next Trump if only the Baby Jeezus would whack them over the head with a sock-full of silver dollars." That's pretty much the tone throughout. Post up, bingo, 193 comments.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Alberto Ruy Sanchez's New Essay, "The Nine Gifts That Morocco Gave Me"

I was in Morocco last year, where, after 20 years of living in Mexico, it was almost impossible to resist comparing everything to Mexico. Afterall, much of Mexican architecture and garden design has its roots in Moorish Spain. So I was delighted to find this beautiful and intriguing new essay (in English) on Mexican writer Alberto Ruy Sanchez's website: "The Nine Gifts That Morocco Gave Me." (I've long been a fan of his work--- his haunting "Vigil in Tehuantepec," translated by Harry Morales, appears in my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.) His novel, Mogador, translated by Mark Shafer, is available from City Lights. More anon.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Washington Independent Writers Conference: Authors, Agents, Books & Blogs

Still in recovery after the Washington Independent Writers Conference last Saturday--- for which I chaired the panel on travel writing with Sara Mansfield Taber, who is about to lead creative writing workshops in southern France and Mendoza, Argentina, and L. Peat O'Neill, who, as I write these lines, is on board a plane for Shanghai....signed my books, pitched the almost-finished novel to literary agents, scarfed down canapes and did the meet 'n greet with more writers than you could shake a Mont Blanc pen at--- among them, David Taylor (The Divine Root), Monica Jacobe, founder of Capitol Hill's fabulous "A Space Inside" reading series, Elaina Loveland, whose books on "creative careers" I recommend to all my friends with highschool-age kids, James McGrath Morris, biographer and editor of the spectacularly successful new blog/ newsletter, "The Biographer's Craft", Ann McClellan, author of the perennial Washington area airport and museum best-seller The Cherry Blossom Festival, Mary Kay Zuravleff (The Bowl is Already Broken), Doreen Baingana (Tropical Fish), Linda Leer (Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature), John Curry, Cara Seitchek, Lisa Daniels, Beryl Lieff Benderly... Also chatted with several fellow litbloggers, among them, biographer Ken Ackerman ("Coffee With Ken"), novelist Leslie Pietrzyk ("Work in Progress"), and freelancer Kristen King ("Inkthinker"). Came home with a shoulder-sagging bag o' books--- all by conference participants: Francine Prose's Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles; Rosemary A. King's Border Confluences: Borderland Narratives from the Mexican War to the Present; Peter Miller's Author! Screenwriter!; and Library of Congress librarian Thomas Mann's The Oxford Guide to Library Research. Not for nothing did DC Mayor Adrian Fenty declare June 9th "Washington Independent Writers Day"! More anon.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dog Rescue in Mexico City: Presencia Animal

Here are photos of the animals rescued and placed for adoption in May 2007 by Presencia Animal, a Mexico City dog and cat rescue organization. A potion of all sales of Picadou's audio CD go to benefit Presencia Animal.

Washington Writing Prize for Maximilian

Yesterday I won the Washington Writing Prize for Best Personal Essay for "From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion" from the December 2006 issue of the Massachusetts Review. It's about a journey to the Emperor of Mexico's castle in Trieste , Italy, what I think of as a nonfiction novela about a fairytale. Read the whole enchilada here. And more about the Emperor of Mexico here. More anon.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Gone to the Litblogs: Jim Benning on World Hum's Representative 5

Today's post is a "Gone to the Litblogs" column--- by ace travel writer and World Hum blogger Jim Benning.

"World Hum is an online travel magazine with a literary bent and a global perspective. As we put it on the site, “World Hum is dedicated to exploring travel in all its facets: how it changes us, how it changes the way we see the world, and finally, how travel itself is changing the world.” We publish stories, essays, interviews and book reviews, and we maintain a daily weblog. I co-founded the site six years ago with writer/editor Michael Yessis after complaining about the dearth of outlets for literary travel writing. We’d been maintaining the site as a labor of love while juggling day jobs until a few weeks ago. That changed when World Hum was acquired by the Travel Channel. We’re jazzed that we can now work on the site full-time.

C.M. asked me to recommend five posts. Here are five that I think are representative of what the site is all about.

1.) Unlocking Beirut by Catherine Watson
This is a lovely essay about travel and people and the passage of time. It’s the kind of travel writing that, sadly, you just can’t find in many publications these days.

2.) Top 30 Travel Books
This is our take on the top 30 literary travel books of all time, with writers explaining just what makes each book great. Titles range from Jan Morris’s Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere and Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad to Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar.

3.) How to Kiss Hello in France
Our “How To” section shows readers how to dive deep in a culture. This entry is a primer on how to properly greet someone with a kiss on the cheek in France--- a delightful custom that needlessly confounds many visitors.

4.) Invasion of the Kilt-Wearing, Buttocks-Baring Scots!
While we take travel seriously, we like to have fun, too. This is a recent news item from our weblog about a rather, uh, troubling trend in European travel.

5.) The Speed of Rancho Santa Inés by C.M. Mayo
You may have heard of the author. We were honored to publish this excerpt from Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. I’ve spent lots of time traveling in Baja California, and I’ve read a bit of writing about the place. I haven’t come across much that captures the magic of Baja as well as this piece does."

Well (blush) gracias Jim!
For the previous "Gone to the Litblogs" post, by DC poet Kim Roberts, click here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Quarterly Conversation: C.M. Mayo on The Wide World of Mexican Fiction

Elizabeth Wadell has just posted an interview with Yours Truly about literary translation--- in particular, Tameme and Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion--- in the Summer 2007 issue of the "Quarterly Conversation". The issue also includes interviews with translators Natasha Wimmer and Chris Andrews.

Jeffrey Zachmann's Kinetic Sculptures

Here's something that ought to be on Jeffrey Zachmann's kinetic sculptures. I saw a selection of these (for similar, click here) at this past weekend's 57th Street Art Fair in Hyde Park, Chicago. His booth had the biggest crowd, by far.