Monday, December 22, 2008

Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read in 2008

1. The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman
by Nancy Marie Brown

With grace and elegance, a story brought back over a thousand years.

2. The Landed Gentry
by Sophy Burnham

Sophy Burnham's extraordinary, courageous, vividly and stylishly written romp through a heavily camouflaged part of America, first published in 1978, is back in print--- through the Author's Guild's phenomenal program. Highly recommended. But not for the squeamish. Read what the author has to say about it here.

3. In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan

A bodaciously good book. It will change the way you eat.

4. Tras las huellas de un desconocido: Nuevos datos y aspectos de Maximiliano de Habsburgo
by Konrad Ratz

One of the most important new works about Maximilian in years. I'll be posting more about this book soon.

5. Getting Things Done
by David Allen

If not for this book, by now I would have been a gelatinous blob of neurosis, double-fried. I LOVE THIS BOOK! Certainly, without it I could never have coped with (gasp) facebook and (arrrgh) twitter. This is Mental Management 101 for the 21st Century. Read this and understand why you must-must-must get a Brother labeler and a stack of file folders, like, yesterday.

6. Born Standing Up
by Steve Martin

Jerry Seinfeld calls Steve Martin's new memoir, "Absolutely magnificent. One of the best books about comedy and being a comedian ever written." Yes, it is absolutely magnificent. But no, it is so much more: It is one of the best books about being an artist--- of any kind--- ever written.

7. Across the Territories: Travels from Orkney to Rangiroa
by Kenneth White

White is a Scottish poet and founder of the Institute for Geopoetics. Beautiful and humorous. (Thanks to L. Peat O'Neil for the suggestion.)

8. Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee
by Hattie Ellis

Travel on a spoon from Surrey to Sicily, and Paris parks to New York City rooftops-- and gain an all new appreciation of this nectar from heaven, and the reason why bees can tell us more about ourselves than any other creature. (Except, well, pugs. Had to get that in there.)

9. Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster
by Dana Thomas

This deeply researched and elegantly written expose of the luxury business has nothing--- and everything--- to do with today's bloated and WalMartized publishing industry, a subject I admit I care a lot more about than fashion. That said, I found this book riveting. My favorite quote, by shoe designer, Louboutin:
"I see these men who build luxury brands to make money, and I am working in the same industry but I feel I have nothing in common with that... Luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers, and do things that you know they will love. It's about subtlety and details. It's about service.... Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality."

P.S. Watch the author read an excerpt about terrorism funding (via YouTube).

10. On Royalty
by Jeremy Paxman

An unusually perceptive meditation on the whys and wherefores of a peculiar but very human institution.

---> Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read in 2007
---> Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read in 2006

Friday, December 19, 2008

ARCs of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Pub Date May 5, 2009)

The ARCs (advance review copies) of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, are out, from Unbridled Books. (Want one? Contact Unbridled Books' Marketing Director here.) The book will be published May 5, 2009. Read all about it here. More anon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Smaller Paler Version of His Head

By all means, support your local bookstore-- and why not also buy direct from the poet? Check out poet and visual artist Christine Boyka Kluge's The Smaller Paler Version of His Head. I'm ordering my autographed copy asap.

Buy Books Locally

An open letter from Roy Blount, Jr., the President of the Author's Guild:
I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
The Authors Guild | 31 E 32nd St | Fl 7 | New York, NY 10016 | US

P.S. Want some suggestions? Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read in 2008 will be out this Monday. Meanwhile:
--> Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read in 2007
--> Madam Mayo's Top 10 Books Read in 2006

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SEC etc.

Over at the Big Picture, a blog well worth reading.

Guest-blogger Dianne Ascroft on 5 Novels Featuring Children in WWII Europe

One of the both necessary and richest pleasures in writing a novel (no, it's not all torture!) is reading other novels. Today's guest-blog post, by Dianne Ascroft, is on precisely this subject. Her novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, is the story of a German boy, Erich, growing up in war-torn Germany and post-war rural Ireland. Set against the backdrop of Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross project which aided German children after World War II, the novel explores a previously hidden slice of Irish and German history. Over to you, Dianne!
When I was researching my novel, I read many books, fiction and non-fiction, about people’s experiences during the war. Since the central character in my novel is a child, books that told the stories of children caught up in the war especially interested me. Although I’ve heard that adult readers prefer an adult main character, I’ve prepared a list of books featuring children in World War II Europe that I think will interest adults or young adults.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Set in Germany, Death narrates the story of Liesel Meminger whose mother sends her to a small town to escape the impending war. But she does not escape; the war’s destruction follows her. She and the other residents of the town encounter all its horrors. When she learns to read her love of the written word has a profound effect on her life, helping her to cope with her circumstances and be a compassionate human being. Death finds her humanity disturbing.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Set in Poland, this novel tells the story of nine year old Bruno. His father’s appointment as Commandant at Auschwitz Concentration Camp brings the German boy to live at this isolated place. Lonely and bored, he secretly befriends a Jewish camp detainee, Shmuel. His loyalty to his friend has an unexpected and devastating effect on his entire family’s lives.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Set in Poland during the early years of the war, this novel follows a street child who adopts the false identity, Misha Pilsudski, a Gypsy from Russia. He escapes Nazi attention as he struggles to survive but ends up living in a Jewish ghetto. His attempts to help Jewish friends escape the German resettlement plan result in him being shot by the Germans and left for dead. A farmer rescues him and he spends the rest of the war working him. Unable to settle anywhere, he wanders restlessly for many years before finally settling with his long lost daughter and her family.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Set in Paris in 1942 and the present day, this novel follows the stories of ten year old Sarah, who is caught in the round up of Jews in Paris’ Vel d’Hiv area, and Julia Jarmond, a modern day journalist, who is researching the events of the Paris roundup that sent Jews to Auschwitz.

True story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
Set in Poland, this novel tells the story of an eleven year old Jewish girl and her younger brother who are sent into hiding by their father and step mother to avoid capture by the Nazis. Helped by courageous villagers, they struggle to hide and survive in a forest. Parallels are drawn to the classic fairy tale.

--- Dianne Ascroft

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

P.S. Madam Mayo's favorite WWII novel featuring a child is Ann McLaughlin's luminous The House on Q Street, set in Washington DC.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ricardo Hausmann in the FT

Wacky! But he could be right.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas. This deeply researched and elegantly written expose of the luxury business has nothing--- and everything--- to do with today's bloated and WalMartized publishing industry, a subject I admit I care a lot more about than fashion. That said, I found this book riveting. My favorite quote, by shoe designer, Louboutin:
"I see these men who build luxury brands to make money, and I am working in the same industry but I feel I have nothing in common with that... Luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers, and do things that you know they will love. It's about subtlety and details. It's about service.... Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality."

P.S. Watch the author read an excerpt about terrorism funding (via YouTube).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Guest-blogger Francisco Aragón on 5 Books of Latino Poetry

My amigo Francisco Aragón, Washington DC-based poet and editor, has been such an inspiration to me. It was his Momotombo Press's beautiful series of Latino poetry chapbooks that inspired me to bring out Tameme's bilingual chapbooks. The other day we were both interviewed by Grace Cavalieri for her radio program, The Poet and the Poem, at the Library of Congress. More about that anon. In the meantime, herewith Francisco's guest-blog post on what's new and noteworthy in Latino poetry. Over to you, Francisco!

From my perch as director of Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, I try to stay abreast of what's new in Latino poetry, particularly among emerging voices. As 2008 winds to a close, I'd like to recommend five titles, stocking stuffers if you will-all published by small presses, where American poetry is at its most vital, in my view. Here they are, with companion commentary:

1. The Date Fruit Elegies (Bilingual Press) by John Olivares Espinoza.
"Espinoza es una espina en el corazón, a thorn in the heart. Gracias Espinoza for writing about our raza with so much sentimiento, so much love. Sometimes the beauty and pain of our stories are overwhelming, and I am grateful when writers like him recognize this responsibility as a privilege."
-Sandra Cisneros

2. Jane-in-the-Box (March Street Press) by Rita Maria Martinez
"Rita Maria Martínez's Jane-in-the-Box is a Rubik's Cube of Janes. Each poem is a smartly annotated hauntingly revisionist homage to Jane Eyre. Martínez's astounding poems are literary, conversational, personal, fun, as she confidently transports her Janes from Moors to Macy's, from Thornfield Manor to the world of tattoos." -Denise Duhamel

3. Please Do Not Feed the Ghost (BlazeVox) by Peter Ramos
"I've lived with these poems for many years-- they've never failed me. Part Plath's black humor, part Stevens's bright obvious, part Hugo's degrees of gray. Please Do Not Feed the Ghost is an exceptional meditation on family, country, friendship, and language-and on the inevitable loves and thefts to which these things give rise" -Graham Foust

4. Little Spells (GOSS 183 / Casa Menendez) by Emma Trelles
"'The beginning should eat the eyes'. With intimate and imagistic language, the start of Little Spells offers a graceful meditation on how to write a poem, drawing us into a poetry collection filled with humor and sorrow and the bright details of a hyphen-American life. Also a journalist, Emma Trelles is a Cuban-American writer accustomed to crossing cultures, and these poems wind with equal ease between a host of settings, and with a lens trained on the magic of the ordinary. Urban hamlets are painted as fables and saints and musicians offer salvation, as do intricate women, the green wilds of Florida and a spry attention to the beauty of words." -Goss 183

5. The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Beothuk Books) by Dan Vera
"The poetry of Dan Vera is clear, strong, honest and funny. He's the sharp-eyed observer in the corner who doesn't say much, but makes every word count. He handles the political and the personal with equal grace, even as the lines blur. Whether he's ruminating on the perils of bilingualism, giving voice to the bewilderment of his Cuban immigrant family, cursing the censors who tried to repress gay writers over the years, waiting for the late great poet Sterling Brown to turn the next corner in Washington, D.C., or taking delight in things delightful, Dan Vera is damn good company. You'll see. -Martín Espada

--Francisco Aragón

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ellen Prentiss Campbell Reading in Rockville MD

If you're anywhere near Rockville MD don't miss Ellen Prentiss Campbell's reading this Friday, 7:30 pm in the HearARTS reading series, at VisArts.

Vienna: A Traveler's Literary Companion Edited by Donald G. Daviau

This one just landed on the very top of my own personal Himalaya: I mean, the reading pile. Vienna: A Traveler's Literary Companion includes 15 works in translation, including one by Robert Musil, whose unfinished novel, The Man without Qualities, reputed to be a masterpiece, I've long had in mind to delve into... More anon.


Madam Mayo hearts Washington DC's Bit-o-Lit. Grab your free copy on your way into the metro. Would someone please do this in Mexico City? (Or did I miss it?) More anon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guest-Blogger Porter Shreve on 5 Favorite Novels of the '70s

Today's guest-blogger is Porter Shreve, author of the novels The Obituary Writer, Drives Like a Dream and the recently-released When the White House Was Ours, which has been garnering some bodacious reviews, from the Washington Post ("[t]urn off the TV pundits, turn down the thermostat, and slip on a comfy cardigan") to the Los Angeles Times ("laugh out-loud scenes and wonderful passages"). Over to you, Porter!
Five Novels of the ‘70s

My novel When the White House Was Ours is set in Washington, DC, in 1976 and narrated by a twelve year old kid who has a dawning awareness of what it means to live in the post-Nixon, pre-Reagan transitional decade that cluttered the world with mood rings, lava lamps, feathered hair, afros, leisure suits, platform shoes, KC and the Sunshine Band and Donna Summer. An outrageous, cartoonish decade on its surface the Seventies are easy to mock as self-absorbed, materialistic, insubstantial. There wasn’t much to celebrate, either: the economy was in the tank; the succession of presidents included a crook, a bumbler and an ineffectual moralist. The critic Howard Junker complained that “the perfect Seventies symbol was the pet rock, which just sat there doing nothing.” And Norman Mailer called the Seventies “a decade in which people put emphasis on the skin, on the surface, rather than on the root of things. Image became preeminent because nothing deeper was going on."

I beg to differ-– and not just because the Seventies made up a good part of my formative years. Transitional eras, moments of betweenness, those times of blending and uncertainty before and after the big battles, provide great material for writers. So when I sat down to research When the White House Was Ours I found a wealth of Seventies novels to drawn on. My list could be much longer, but here are five favorites:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie.
Talk about betweenness. Alexie’s first book of prose wavers between a novel and a story collection, lyricism and scene-driven narrative, hilarity and bleakness, realism and myth, and is packed throughout with the kind of irony characteristic of a whole era: “During the sixties, my father was the perfect hippie, since all the hippies were trying to be Indians.”

Flower Children by Maxine Swann.
I love a truly integrated story cycle or novel in stories (three of my recommended “‘70s novels” fit the bill.) And one of the finest recent examples of the form is this lush kaleidoscope about the legacy of Aquarius. Without strain or judgment, Swann takes on the perspectives of the kids of back-to-the-land hippies, showing the wonder and perplexity that comes with total freedom.

The Ice Storm by Rick Moody.
If the Seventies was a transitional decade, it was also a rather short one. Many social historians mark 1973 as the end of the Sixties, but for one family in the wealthy Connecticut suburbs the Summer of Love has just arrived. Moody makes a masterful metaphor of the ice storm and even finds meaning in seemingly ephemeral period detail, such as GI Joe, the Fantastic Four, and key parties.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.
A social novel-in-stories, Naylor dramatizes the crisis of ‘70s era public housing through the perspectives of seven women living in the New York City projects. Beginning with the iconic epigraph from Langston Hughes-– “What happens to a dream deferred?”-– Naylor shows the burden of dispossession and broken promises with a rich weave of memorable voices.

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike.
Like all great books, Updike’s third Harry Angstrom novel is both timeless and quintessentially of its time. Here are two lines from the first page that could just as well have appeared in this morning’s paper: “The people out there are getting frantic, they know the great American ride is ending... People are going wild, their dollars are going rotten...”

--- Porter Shreve

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

Voila, the Narrative: Joseph Stiglitz on the U.S. Economic Crisis

A sad, sad story, briefly and expertly told in the latest issue of Vanity Fair by Joseph Stiglitz.

P.S. Donald (now Dierde) McCloskey, If You're So Smart, How Come You're Not Rich? The Narrative of Economic Expertise.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Twittering Ionesco

In his most recent and always thought-provoking newsletter, writer and creativity coach-of-coaches Eric Maisel opines,
I think that this social networking chatter is the new absurdity. It is absurd because it is at once effective and horrible, seductive and mind-numbing, professional and infantile.

Madam Mayo is scratching her head over that one. Yes. No. Not exactly-sort-of. What constitute "professional" and "infantile" in our culture are undergoing a seachange. Just for example, I had thought facebook was childish--- until I had a look at who's on it and what they're using it for. Herewith a few of our finest poets and writers whom you'll find on facebook: Grace Cavalieri, Chris Offutt, Naomi Ayala, Mark Doty, Martin Espada, Richard McCann, and Sandra Gulland.

Furthermore, says Maisel:
What is the state of absurdity today? It is clear to me that I am supposed to be cross-blogging and twittering all day long in order to increase my audience. If you do not know what cross-blogging and twittering mean, you are lucky. It is indeed the case that folks who spend all day doing things of this sort really do sell more of whatever it is they are selling than do people who don’t. I don’t doubt that and I don’t dispute that. But I would rather have a root canal than send out little messages all day about this and that.

But what Great White-Bearded Committee in the Sky says it has to be "all day"? Why not post only on Mondays? Or, once a month?

A couple of weeks ago, I got started with Twitter, a social-networking thingamajig I'd thought beyond absurd until I read Seth Godin on the subject. If you want to follow me on Twitter, or "get the tweets," as they say, I promise not to barage you with news of my weekend plans, what I am eating, the state of my digestion, or the view out my office window. I don't use any of these social networking things (blog, facebook, twitter) to share my life per se, rather, I share books and links, in the spirit of what-goes-around-comes-around. In the past two years, my own life and writing have been immeasurably enriched by the information I've gleaned from the Internet. The challenge is to learn how to discern and dispatch quickly and effectively. And it is no small challenge.

Speaking of which, since I really don't have time for Twitter, I integrated it into the status bar of my facebook page-- two birds with one haiku, as it were.

Two quick links on the challenge:
-->To my blog post about Naomi S. Baron's book, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World
-->To poet, editor and web 2.0 diva Deborah Ager's blog post on Time Management for Poets

Maisel shares this link to a delightfully languid --- oh so antique--- interview with the King of the Absurd, (voici le wiki), Eugene Ionesco:<

The Mind

Via Design Observer.

Mexico Cooks! Named Number One Food Blog

Felicidades to Christina Potter's extraordinario "Mexico Cooks!" blog Madam Mayo is not surprised.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Translation on NPR

Via Boston Translation blog, NPR's Rick Kleffel on "The Art of Translation". Emphasis on "art."

P.S. Here's my own interview on NPR about Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, my anthology of 24 Mexican writers. On the NPR website you can read the excellent short stories by Araceli Ardon and Monica Lavin, and Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo. Makes a not only very enjoyable but very affordable--- and portable--- holiday gift, hint hint. Buy it here. More anon.

Leslie Pietrzyk's Essay in the Washington Post

Well worth reading: The other day, my amiga novelist Leslie Pietrzyk published a thoughtful essay in the Washington Post (read it here). More anon.

On the Writers Center Blog: Agents, Publishers & Book PR

My blog post for the Writers Center is up. Read it here. (The fog of war? How about "the fog of book publishing.") Comments welcome.
More anon.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Jorge Fernandez Granados y John Oliver Simon

Una nota acerca de su cuaderno en el blog de Malva Fores, Casa nomada.

Pat Holt is Back: Holt Uncensored

It's not all lousy news in the book biz, no way! Pat Holt is back! This is really something to celebrate. If you've been away, on say, Planet Mars, and haven't heard of Pat Holt, be sure to read her Holt Uncensored: The Beginning. P.S. Thanks, Peter Handel, for the tip. More anon.

James Howard Kunstler, Marion Nestle, Paula Whyman

Well, it's Monday, and it's the usual prescient doom-and-gloom over at James Howard Kunstler's infelicitously named Clusterfuck Nation blog. Alas, Madam Mayo recommends it. Related to the food scarcity issues Kunstler discusses is the rapid, widespread and largely unnoticed deterioration in the quality of our food supply. For more on that, be sure to check out Marion Nestle's latest, Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. (Nestle's website is Food Politics.) And, on a happier foodie note, check out my amiga Paula Whyman's blog post on Baking for Writers: Thanksgiving Edition. More anon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grace Cavalieri's The Poet and the Poem Radio Series at the Library of Congress

Read all about it here.

Buy Your Ticket to the Aura Estrada Benefit in Mexico City

Message to all in Mexico City:
This November 25th is the Aura Estrada benefit, which will feature good jazz, canapés, free drink and a reading of Aura's work at the Zinco club on Tuesday, November 25. There will also be a silent art auction featuring works by Francisco Toledo, Boris Viskin, Daniel Lezama, Phill Kelly, Yoshua Okon and Artemio. Tickets are 1,000 pesos in advance and 1,300 at the door. Poet and translator Tanya Huntington will be coordinating the art side, and novelist Alvaro Enrigue will be there as well. Here's Aura's website for more information:

Sergio Troncoso's New Blog, Chico Lingo

Excellent new blog by my amigo, writer Sergio Troncoso: Chico Lingo. P.S. If you missed it, be sure to read his guest-blog post on money and writing here at Madam Mayo. More anon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guest-Blogger Russell Cluff on Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

It has not escaped Madam Mayo's notice that one recent and otherwise very fine anthology of 20 Mexican short stories includes work by only three--- count 'em, three--- women. Are the mexicanas literarias all going around in burkhas or what? That's a subject for another blog post; suffice it to say for now that perhaps the greatest of all American literary figures was a woman born in a tiny Mexican town in the seventeenth century-- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Today's guest-blogger, Russell Cluff, first crossed paths with Yours Truly when he and his colleague L. Howard Quackenbush sent me their translation of an extraordinary flash fiction by Mexican writer Guillermo Samperio (which appeared, in both English and Spanish in the third issue of Tameme, back in 2003). When I heard that he had done something so original as to make a musical CD of the poetry of the greatest of Mexico's poets, I immediately invited him to guest-blog and am honored indeed that he accepted. Over to you, Russell!

Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: My Contribution

Background: After her death, certain figures in the political world of New Spain (Mexico) exerted a tremendous effort to erase Sor Juana’s memory from the minds of the populace. The principal players in this endeavor were her confessor, Antonio Núñez de Miranda, and Archbishop Francisco de Aguilar y Seijas. Her crime: her one and only foray into the area of theology (an exercise forbidden for women) in the guise of a critical analysis of a sermon by a Portuguese Jesuit by the name of Antonio Vieira. The result was that of the 300 plus years that Sor Juana has been gone, it is believed that most Mexicans forgot her for over one hundred years. However, since her books had been published in Spain, her memory sprang to life anew in the nineteenth century. From that time forward, she and her work only become more important by the day.

Reference: One of the quickest and most accurate bios on this incredible genius from seventeenth-century Mexico City (her dates are 1651-1695) is to be found in Margaret Sayers Peden’s introduction to her translation of Sor Juana’s prose: A Woman of Genius: The Intellectual Autobiography of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, second edition.

Why make the songs: It is Sor Juana’s importance—- and the musicality of her verse—-that inspired me to create a musical album that I call the “Return of the Tenth Muse...” My project might rightly be considered Quixotic, since I currently live in a world vastly disparate in terms of time, distance, language, culture, and musical tastes from that which saw the development of one of the Hispanic world’s greatest poets. Be that as it may, once begun this project was not to be denied…

Retooling: I have often told myself that making a musical CD with the poetry of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s poetry was one answer to a deep-seated need in me for a fresh, complete education. But, really, that would be an untruth! It’s the other way about-- the effect of a particular cause. As all artists know, the creative urge comes first and all subsequent actions required to bring the desired art to fruition present themselves--- each in it’s own time—demanding attention, never taking no for an answer.

Dream Talking: It’s as if a chimerical dialogue had blossomed right in my face: “Well, if you want these lyrics with chords to become a melody that other musicians can play, you’ll have to get a notation program and get it down!” / “But I don’t know notation…” / “Then learn it. You can download a program from the Internet like those sold by Finale, such as PrintMusic. And, of course, there are others. Do your surfing!”

For anyone making an album, this sort of exchange continues from composition to recording to marketing to disc production to placing the product for sale on the Internet-- in lieu of a record contract.

Phase by Phase: My choices for these Phases were the following:

Recording: this was accomplished in Rosewood Recording, a professional studio a block and a half from my house.

Marketing: for the CD front I paid a student computer guru about 300 bucks to morph me into a digital photo of the nun’s most famous painting by Miguel Cabrera (she wearing her robes, I wearing mine). For the back, I had him perch Sor Juana above me while standing in front of a Colonial shrine in Mexico City. In the first instance, I’m sneaking up on her; in the second, she’s observing me observing architecture that persists from her world). Photos of Cabrera’s painting can be found all over the Internet. (Note: that link is also a good place to download errorless Spanish versions of all her writings.)

Disc production: I chose Disc Makers.

Internet sales: CD Baby, now owned by Disc Makers. This was my choice because I can sell the physical disc as well as digital downloads all on the same page. However, let me clarify that the notion of “audience” is much more important to me than sales. Also, my music is downloadable at 18 different places on the Internet, such as DigStation, where the CD brochure can also be downloaded ( Beyond that, Google me, Russell M. Cluff.

Why Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz? From my studies as a student of Latin American Literature, I knew that Sor Juana had been a musician who had written a treatise on music (though it is no longer extant), she was the music director (cantora) for her convent for eight years, she has an important poem about music (generally designated as poem #24), and she once said that her music created to be played in the cathedrals had been accompanied by guitar and tabor (small hand drum).

Baroque music for a baroque poet: From start to finish, I intended to create a simulacrum of baroque music, based on the following elements: total respect for the text over the music (so as not to force a word into a space where it does not fit or stress a word in the wrong place), the use of instruments that were feasible for the 1600s in Colonial New Spain (insofar as possible), monody (a single melody), and the use of basso continuo. Tonality-- pitching the melody around the tonic chord-- is also a baroque value that was followed in this body of work. Where I willfully vary from baroque practices is with the use of more recent Latin rhythms, such as the bolero beat (ONE, two-two, One), the rumba, and one tune with a bossa nova beat. Among the instruments used, one will hear: hand drums, flute, recorder, penny whistle, piccolo, clarinet, guitar, mandolin, cello, and the four strings. I broke the rules a couple of times by using the piano (invented in 1711) and one or two other instruments, mainly to thicken the sound a bit.

Reference: For an excellent review of the baroque in music, see Nicholas Anderson’s book, Baroque Music: From Monteverdi to Handel (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994). According to this author, the two most important achievements of the baroque was the establishment of monody and the supremacy of the text over the music—an attempt to avoid the distortion of the words.

Composition: My choice of poems for this first volume-- boldly, I included the words “Vol. 1” in the title so as to goad myself into making Volume 2-- was guided by the knowledge that I would be the only singer on this album, a male baritone. Therefore, I chose (with two exceptions) poems with either a neutral or a male point of view. This will not be possible for Volume Two, since it will mainly be centered on the female point of view and will require women’s voices.

For this album, I used 13 sonnets (11 syllables each) and one romance (ballad: a narrative poem with eight syllables per line). Sor Juana never made titles for her poetry; therefore, I used shortened versions of the first verse as the titles (they will never match with English renditions).

More References: For the best poetically rendered English versions of seven of the 14 poems included in the album-- Regreso de la Décima Musa, Vol. 1. 14 Canciones con Letra de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz-- consult the following two books:

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Poems, Protest, and a Dream, published in Penguin Classics with an introduction by Ilan Stavans and all texts translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.

A Sor Juana Anthology, published by Harvard University Press, 1988, with a foreword by Octavio Paz and all translations by Alan S. Trueblood.

English versions-- mainly prosaic-- of the remaining seven poems can be found both in print and on the Internet. For the most complete study ever done on Sor Juana see Octavio Paz’s Sor Juana or, the Traps of Faith, published by Harvard University press, 1988, translation, once again, by Margaret Sayers Peden. It has been argued that this work tipped the scales in the decision that gave Paz the Nobel Prize in 1990.

-- Russell Cluff

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo's guest-blog posts, click here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hockey Mama for Obama

Via my favorite bee blog, Global Swarming Honey Bees. Golly, the election's over, don't know how I missed this one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Five Favorite YouTube Videos, 2008

Madam Mayo's annual tradition continues. Herewith my top 5 favorite YouTube videos for 2008:

1. Jill Bolte Taylor's TED Video
This will, literally, blow your mind.

2. Takagi Masakatsu
A fascinating and beautiful art video, which suggests the myriad possibilities for the form.

3. Trajan: The Movie Font
Smart and super silly. Love the chihuahua in the popsicle-blue Santa suit.

4. Alex Gopher's Motion Typography
Via Right-reading, one of my favorite and most eclectic blogs.

5. Fabrizio Moro's "Pensa"
Italian anti-mafia rap. Not for those prone to seasickness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Los Hermanos O'Gorman

Long chat today with a Mexican historian, who reminded me of the importance of Edmundo O'Gorman's Mexico: El trauma de su historia. P.S. Read a bit about about the O'Gorman brothers here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Madam Mayo Quite Dislikes Cell Phones

Will it blend? See for yourself.

Links at Literal Magazine

I'm a big fan of Literal magazine. And by the way, editor Rose Mary Salum just sent me an e-mail that they've updated their links page--- an excellent resource for anyone interested in literature, Mexican literature, literary translation, and more. More anon.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guest-Blogger Nicholas Gilman on Five Favorite Funky Foods and Where to Find Them in Mexico City

Gotta eat! Today's guest-blogger is Nicholas Gilman, author of Good Food in Mexico City: A Guide to Food Stalls, Fondas and Fine Dining. A painter and teacher, he has shown his work extensively in the USA and Mexico. He studied gastronomy at UNAM, cooking at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, and is founding member of a Mexico City chapter of Slow Food International, and is a member of IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). He was editor and photographer for Jim Johnton's Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler. He also writes regularly about food for The News in Mexico City. Over to you, Nicholas!
My five favorite funky foods and where to find them

I treat myself once in a while to flautas which are not on anyone’s diet. Flautas the quintessential Mexican antojito and my favorite one. Elongated rolled tortillas (hence the name “flute”) are filled, fried golden brown, then topped with cream and salsa verde, and sprinkled with grated queso fresco and shredded lettuce. Flautas are usually served with caldo de gallina, a chicken soup better than any Jewish grandmother can make, and they are a calorie-laden guilty pleasure. My favorites come from a nameless stand on Calle Chilpancingo (fourth from the corner of Baja California by the metro Chilpango stop). A chilled mango Boing is the perfect accompaniment.

In the middle of the Coyoacan market you’ll find a gastronomic art installation at Tostadas de Coyoacán--- dozens of huge plates of mouth-watering tostada toppings. Shrimps, chicken, crab, mole, the list goes on. I start with their succulent lemony ceviche, topped with bright green salsa, then move on to pulpo, then maybe cochinita pibil... I’ve eaten as many as four at a sitting, but I don’t recommend this. To drink, order agua de melon from the stand next door. (Be sure to choose only Tostadas de Coyoacán-- their competitors are not as good.)

I love a warm hearty soup on a “cold” winter D.F. day (how dare I complain about the weather here...) Two blocks from Santa Maria de la Ribera’s groovy old Kiosko Moro is the extraordinary La Casa de Toño (Sabino 144), a pozolería set in a 19th-century mansion. Rich, red hominy laden pozole with all the trimmings is the house special, although sopes. tostadas and other antojitos are also offered. At $34 pesos for a pozole grande you’ve got a real bargain, too. The appropriate maridaje is horchata.

“But eet ees confit!” my French friend exclaimed when I showed her a pit where carnitas were cooking in their own fat. They should be served unceremoniously on a plastic plate, with an array of red and green salsas, cilantro, onions and limón...and tortillas, of course. There are thousands of carnitas joints all over town, but finding a great one is a task. I was drawn by the crispy brown crust and roasty aroma of these porky treats at La Reina de la Roma, my current favorite. They’re located at Campeche 106 (in front of the Mercado Medellín) in Colonia Roma. Proper quaff would be a crisp refresco de manzana (in a vintage bottle), or beer.

Chef, researcher and high priest of Mexican cuisine Ricardo Muñoz Zurita created his Azul y Oro in the middle the UNAM campus. It’s a fabulous and inexpensive Mexican restaurant, worth the schlep down there. And they serve the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. His secret Oaxacan blend includes 30% almonds. Churros are gilding the lily; the chocolate should be drunk solo.

--- Nicholas Gilman

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo's guest-blog posts, click here.

P.S. Check put Nicholas Gilman's blog at: Also, he offers an extensive glossary of Mexican culinary terms on his website.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

This Blog Endorses Barack Obama for President

I'm going to be working for the Obama campaign in Virginia today and tomorrow. If you're undecided, ask yourself, if all that the McCain camp is saying (and implying) were true, would the Washington Post, New York Times, the Economist and the Financial Times have endorsed Obama? Well, wake up and google it, they all did. We need change-- desperately. And our next president is going to have to do the equivalent of herd cats, and simultaneously twirl plates and juggle a watermelon, a cement brick and eleven balls of mercury. Perhaps an impossible task for any human being. But I for one am grateful that a politician as tough, intelligent, discerning, and open-hearted as Barack Obama has shown such passion and commitment for the opportunity to try. More anon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fabrizio Moro: "Pensa"

Re: Alexander Stille's Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic. Though about the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, it's required reading for anyone aiming to grok the current Latin American narco-imbroglio. My amiga N. sends this link to Fabrizio Moro's rap video "Pensa". N. writes, "...he wrote it after seeing a documentary about [murdered prosecutors] Falcone and Borsellino. It won the young artist category at the Sanremo music festival the year before last. (Young is a relative term in Italy -- Moro was over 30 when he won the award.) The woman standing next to Moro at the end of the video is Paolo Borsellino's sister Rosa. Her face says it all."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guest-Blogger Tim Wendel: Red Rain and Other Secrets and Riddles

Tim Wendel's new novel, Red Rain, based on a true story, is about a long-held secret of World War II. I'm a big fan of Tim Wendel's because he's not only a great writer but he's prolific and he brings passion to his work. Check out his website which offers all sorts of information about his many works, including the widely-lauded Castro's Curveball and a long list of his articles for USA Today, Esquire, The Washingtonian , and more. He also blogs on Buffalo Nation and Red Rain Blog, and, in his spare time, teaches a very popular workshop at Johns Hopkins University's Writing Program (read what he has to say to his students here). Over to you Tim!

Red Rain and Four More Secrets and Riddles

The ability to keep a secret may be a lost art in our time of 24/7 news churn and gossip columns everywhere we turn. But in the waning years of World War II, thousands of Japanese fire balloons landed in North America. These weapons were made of paper, assembled by women and schoolchildren, and they rode the jet stream to our shores. Rigged with small incendiary bombs, they ignited forest fires throughout the western states.

All of this is true. The reason you’ve probably never heard about the Japanese fire balloon was our government’s ability to keep a secret. In doing so, silence ended the threat. That’s the backdrop for my new historical novel, Red Rain.

I’ve always been attracted to secrets and riddles. So, if the Japanese fire balloon was the best-kept secret of World War II, what else is out there in U.S. history?

Jimmy Hoffa’s whereabouts:
The Teamsters boss disappeared from a Detroit restaurant in 1975. Thought to have run afoul of underworld bosses, Hoffa’s body was never found. Rumored resting spots include Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

The Lost Colony of Roanoke:
Financed by Sir Walter Raleigh, the Roanoke settlement disappeared. Theories about what happened range from devastation due to a hurricane to the settlers being captured by Indians.

Robert E. Lee’s tactics at Gettysburg:
Unlike Roanoke, what happened in southern Pennsylvania in July 1863 has been well-documented. With one blow, Lee tried to break the Union’s resolve. But ordering nine Confederate brigades (approximately 12,000 men) across three-quarters of a mile of open fields, the famous Pickett’s Charge, proved to be too costly. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia never recovered and the balance of power in the Civil War was permanently altered.

Lee Harvey Oswald:
Before Oswald could be tried in the John F. Kennedy assassination, he was shot and mortally wounded by Jack Ruby on live television. The resulting loose threads spawned a cottage industry of conspiracy theories, as well as Don DeLillo’s classic novel “Libra.” Despite the avalanche of theories that have fingered everyone from the CIA to Castro to the Kremlin, I agree with historical novelist Thomas Mallon. In all likelihood, Oswald acted alone.

--- Tim Wendel

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

P.S. Apropos of Lee Harvey Oswald, be sure to check out Thomas Mallon's extraordinary Mrs. Paine's Garage.

Ten Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Writing Workshop

Now posted on The Writers Center blog. Click here for more resources for writers. I'll probably be offering a one day writing workshop at the Writers Center (Bethesda MD) next winter or spring. To be notified, join my mailing list. More anon.

2018 UPDATE: An expanded and improved version of this post is available on my website here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Iceland's Financial Crisis

Last January when I visited Iceland I was astonished by many things, from the art to the geothermal baths, but most of all the thriving economy. The first thing I noticed--- the first thing most visitors notice--- was Reykjavik's slick modern airport and the ubiquitous and even slicker bank advertisements. It was a mystery to me how such a tiny county (population equivalent to Palo Alto CA) could have become, in the space of only a generation, what appeared to be an island of paradise--- if with the crappiest weather outside of Fargo ND. As anyone who's been reading the news now knows, what I was witnessing was the bubble at its biggest--- just before the pop. So what's going on now? I've been checking in with Iceland Eyes and Iceland Review. Here's the latest, from The Daily Beast, by Arianne Cohen:

Is Iceland’s Collapse a Harbinger for What’s to Come in America?

I hear two things a lot here: “Kreppa,” which means “depression” in Icelandic. And, “We’re waiting.” That sums it up. Waiting. The first weekend after the crash, the partying was loud, as it always is. Then it got quiet. The AA meetings, always well-attended, have reached overflow capacity.

Iceland’s banking system was the first to go. You saw the same headlines they did on October 2nd: “Icelandic Banks Collapse!” “Billions Frozen!” “Icelanders See Icarus-Like Fall of Greed!”

The nation’s stunning economic implosion tipped off the domino chain that’s cascaded around the world. So does the aftermath of Iceland’s spectacular collapse foreshadow what’s to come for the rest of the world?

Until food and supplies run out, the country remains in the quiet before the storm...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tom Hilde's Book On Torture

On Torture, edited by my amigo Tom Hilde, was published last week by Johns Hopkins University Press. The contributors include Tom Hilde, Barbara Ehrenreich, Tzvetan Todorov, Alphonso Lingis, Ariel Dorfman, Rebecca Wittmann, Darius Rejali, Carlos Castresana, Adi Ophir, and others. Hilde writes:

The book is international in scope, but was originally prompted by the miscast framing of the so-called "torture debate" in the US during the past several years. The present collection is less about legalistic wrangling and instrumental reasoning and more an attempt to broaden the scope of the discussion over torture. Torture is wrong, of course, and this book collectively makes the case. But the central goal of the book is to expand our understanding, hopefully, of the multifaceted nature, causes, and implications of torture... This was not an easy book to do, and some of the writers took serious risks by contributing to it.

Note: Washington, DC on November 18th, Hilde will be participating in the symposium "On Torture," to be held at George Washington University (from 9am to 6:30pm). The keynote speakers are Santiago Canton (head of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and Aryeh Neier (President of the Open Society Institute, a founder of Human Rights Watch, and author of several books). Other speakers draw from the book, and also include David Luban (Georgetown Law) and Manfred Gnjidic (lawyer for rendition victim Khaled el-Masri). More anon.

UPDATE: Read Hilde's
testimony on torture before the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

C.C. Goldwater Endorses Obama

The political tsumani du jour-- and the biggest yet. Read it in her words here.
Update: But her uncle Barry Goldwater Jr. is none too happy about it. Read his essay here.
Oh well!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guest-bloggers Anna Leahy and Doug Dechow's Top 5 Aviation Museums

This Wednesday's guest-blog post should get you flying high. (The photo, by the way, is courtesy of my sister Alice, and it shows the waist of the Baja California peninsula.) Two guest-bloggers today: first, Anna Leahy is a poet, creative writing teacher, and aviation expert. Her book Constituents of Matter won the Wick Poetry Prize, and she teaches in the BFA and MFA programs at Chapman University. She is also the editor of a collection of essays, Power and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom: The Authority Project. Second, Douglas Dechow is an Instruction Librarian at Chapman University and holds a PhD in computer science. Together, they have written articles for the book Bombs Away and the journal Curator about how aviation museums represent WWII. Over to you, Anna and Doug!

Doug and Anna's Top 5 Aviation Museums

1. National Air and Space Museum (NASM)
If you go to only one aviation museum, NASM should be it. Since opening in 1976, the National Mall Building of NASM has been the most visited museum of any kind in the world, and the larger Udvar-Hazy saw its millionth visitor within seven months of opening. NASM is the world's largest collection of aviation and spaceflight artifacts, and both facilities have IMAX theaters.

Among the highlights at the National Mall Building are the Wright Brothers' original "Flyer," Lindberg's "Spirit of St. Louis" and the Apollo 11 space capsule. Udvar-Hazy holds "Enola Gay," the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima; a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird; and the space shuttle "Enterprise."

2. National Museum of the United States Air Force
Located at Wright Patterson outside of Dayton, this aviation museum documents the Air Force. The museum's own materials state their goal "to create realistic illusions of time and places with a real sense of atmosphere." This museum is a good stop-off on a drive across I-70 and Ohio.

3. Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
The Intrepid is one of New York's hotspots. Just renovated and returned to Manhattan, this aircraft-carrier museum reopens on November 8, 2008. The facility itself is the most impressive artifact; you can walk across the flight deck and into lower decks that house aircraft and artifacts. The collection is especially rich in jet-age aircraft and Cold War history and is home to a retired Concorde. The Intrepid recovered Aurora 7 and Gemini 3 astronauts and houses a replica of the Gemini 3 capsule.

4. Tillamook Air Museum
The Oregon coast boasts one of seven remaining WWII-era blimp hangars, the largest wooden structures in the United States. This naval station and its role in WWII is documented in displays, including one about the women who oversaw carrier pigeons. Tillamook's eclectic collection includes a 1938 Bellanca Air Cruiser (only five were built, only this one flies) and a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser "Mini-Guppy." The fries in the café are excellent, and don't miss the cheese factory in town.

5. Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
After years in pieces wrapped in plastic, Howard Hughes's HK-1-the largest plane that ever flew (for one minute)-dominates this spacious museum. What a story it tells! The collection includes a Douglas C-47 "Gooney Bird" transport and a de Havilland DH-4, the only American-made WWI airplane. Docents are friendly; a WWII-veteran discussed the B-17 Flying Fortress with us. Promotional materials capture what all aviation museums try to convey: airplanes "are not merely dusty machines, but expressions of man's desire to take to the skies so real and tangible that it is as if the planes, themselves, dream of the sky."

--- Anna Leahy and Doug Dechow

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

P.S. Madam Mayo also recommends San Diego Air and Space Museum, which includes an important archive on Mexican aviation history, and the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Black Elvis by Geoff Becker and The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund Take the Flannery O'Connor Award for Publication in 2009

Re: The Flannery O'Connor Award, for which I served as one of the first three judges. Series editor Nancy Zafris has selected two winners, and I'm delighted to say that one of them, Black Elvis, was in my very own Himalaya, I mean, pile of submissions (pictured left). As I plowed through, I had no idea who the authors were--- the manuscripts came to me (as to all the judges) stripped of names, addresses or any other identifying information. Well, now that's official, I know who wrote the zing-on fabulous Black Elvis. Geoffrey Becker, congratulations!

The other winner, The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund, was in the pile that went to my fellow judge, G.C. Waldrup. I am very much looking forward to reading it.

Runner-up was Mattaponi Queen by Belle Boggs.

More anon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guest-blogger Sergio Troncoso on 5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Money

The starving artiste (re: Why Are Artists Poor?) or story-writing for billions a la J.K. Rowling? Or? Ah, the eternal mysteries of art and the marketplace... Today's guest-blogger is an exceptionally fine writer, my amigo Sergio Troncoso. We have a lot in common: we were both born in El Paso, both used to be economists, and both now write fiction. Sergio Troncoso's books are a collection of stories, The Last Tortilla, which won the prestigious Premio Aztlan and the Southwest Book Award, and a novel, The Nature of Truth, about a Yale research student who discovers that his boss, a renowned professor, hides a Nazi past. He's a prolific writer of both fiction and essays as well--- most recently, a short story, "A New York Chicano," and the essays "The Father is in the Details" and "Apostate of my Literary Family". Madam Mayo hears that he has just returned from the University of Arkansas, where he gave a speech on "Latino Literature and the Role of the Writer" to a standing-room only crowd. Read about all his speeches and his writing and more on Over to you, Sergio!

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Money

The financial sky is falling, and so I thought I'd write about money and writers, and perhaps offer advice on what to do if you are a lowly writer, with just a few bucks to invest, or even a bestselling (or otherwise wealthy) author and you are watching your nestegg crack and ooze onto the Formica top, along with your dreams. I was chairman of the Finance committee of a writers' center for many years and briefly an economist before I turned fiction writer, and I thought I knew what I was doing, until the past couple of weeks of this financial meltdown. We could blame so many on Wall Street and in Washington, but the point is to survive.

# 1. Make sure you have enough cash to survive this economic downturn.
I have a money market fund at Vanguard, and it surprises me to learn how many writer-friends don't have this basic account for their short-term spending. 'Enough cash,' for me means at least six months for monthly bills and the like, and a money market fund, although not FDIC-insured, is usually a safe place to keep your spending money, with check-writing privileges, while it pays dividends.

# 2. Read Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, by Charles P. Kindleberger and Robert Aliber, a classic of investment literature.
You will quickly understand how the expansion of credit has been behind almost every major financial crisis, including the one we are in now, and how each crisis has played out over time with different, sometimes remarkably stupid, policy responses. The world never ends amid the turmoil, but alas, plenty of pain does follow the bursting of that proverbial bubble.

# 3. Invest, young writer.
If you are not crying over all the paper losses in your portfolio, if you are just starting out as an investor, as a writer, and if you have a strong stomach, invest. Market downturns are the best time to start mutual funds, the best time to start investing, and the worst time to even listen to anybody telling you to invest in the stock market. Be a contrarian, and have the best historic shot of making serious money, but also be careful. No one knows where the market bottom is, until ex post facto, so invest by dollar-cost averaging. That is, set aside investment money that you will not touch for at least five years, and drip it into an S&P 500 index fund over a 12- or 24-month period.

# 4. Never sign a book contract which pays you, the writer, your percentages from 'net price.'
Get your percentages from 'list price.' Net price is the discount (usually 40 percent) to the list price that a book is sold to the bookseller by the publisher. Do you want 15 percent of $12.00, or 15 percent of $20.00 for each book you sell? You would think everybody would know this, but I have read too many contracts that should otherwise be dumped into the horror bin.

# 5. Take heart, you are a writer, and you shouldn't really care about money, because if you did you would never have become this artiste.
Right? Right. Be a bottom-feeder and be proud of it: start a program to invest regularly in the stock market amid the chaos, and don't ever worry for more than a few minutes each day about how we are fast becoming a country that doesn't read.

--- Sergio Troncoso

--->For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

UPDATE: Sergio Troncoso now has a blog on writing and money: Chico Lingo.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Potomac Review: "The Darling of Rosedale"

The new issue of the Potomac Review is out and I'm delighted to say that it includes "The Darling of Rosedale," an excerpt from the first chapter of my novel, which is forthcoming this spring from Unbridled Books. P.S. Read a little bit (certainly not the whole story) about Rosedale on the Rosedale Conservancy website. More anon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Guest Blogger Zack Rogow: 5 Links re: The Cover of The Number Before Infinity

Zack Rogow is the only poet and literary translator I know who can make an entire auditorium erupt into howls of laughter over the word... embryo. Well, maybe you had to have been there. I was! It happened at an Associated Writing Association Conference panel on literary translation. We've also crossed paths in Montreal and most recently, his class on Latin American Literature in San Francisco's California College of the Arts. As he has just published a new book of poetry, The Number Before Infinity, (Scarlet Tanager Books), I invited him to contribute this week's guest-blog post. An honor indeed that he accepted: Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of seventeen books and plays, including six collections of poetry, three anthologies, four volumes of translation, and a children's book. He's the editor of an anthology of U.S. poetry, The Face of Poetry, published by University of California Press; and editor of two volumes of TWO LINES: World Writing in Translation. Over to you, Zack!

I know you can't tell a book by it's cover, but when Scarlet Tanager Books accepted my collection of love poems, The Number Before Infinity, my first thought was about the cover. I'd been admiring for a long time the work of Mona Caron, the artist who painted an amazing mural that stretches the entire length of the Safeway supermarket at the corner of Market Street and Church Street in San Francisco. The mural celebrates the creation of bike paths in San Francisco, and it decorates the length of one of those rights-of-way with a continuous ribbon of images that metamorphoses from a train to a road to a snake to the track of a bike at the beach looking out at the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

I enjoyed looking at that mural for years when my trolley home from work surfaced from its underground route right at the site of that mural. Then by chance I met Mona at the dedication of another mural she did right near where I was living, and found out she had also done the bike mural, as well as a poster for the Critical Mass bike rides that give us a monthly reminder that fossil fuels are not the future.

For the cover of my book Mona chose to illustrate a poem of mine called "A Map of You," a love poem that begins with the lines: You've become my map, my geography:the Black Forest of your hair, your alpine lake eyes, fathom after fathom, your mouth red as turned Carolina earth, those shoulders like Dover's chalk towers, your Sugarloaf breasts, by your peninsular arms

Mona's initial design faithfully reflected the lush descriptions of the poem. When Mona did the sketch for the cover, the publisher, Lucille Lang Day, who is also an excellent poet and prose writer, was concerned the cover might be too much of a cheesecake image, the usual woman as sex object. Mona modified it so it showed a woman literally sitting on top of the world, sensual but powerful as well.

I hope the book does leave you with that image of the beloved. It also has a number of poems that reflect on the difficulties of love, particularly when the lovers are already committed to others. Yes, it's that complicated a love story. Many people tell me they like poems but often find them dense or inaccessible. I try to write poetry in a way that reaches out to the reader. The book is like a novel or memoir in verse, where each poem is a chapter in the story.

--Zack Rogow

--->For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.
P.S. You can order Zack Rogow's new book from Small Press Distribution and also from amazon.