Monday, August 30, 2010

At Summer's End Blogging On (Whither Books?)

It's been a crazy summer of way too much travel, shovelfuls of e-mails (if I owe you one, bless you for your patience), marvels, wonders, discovering the Anat Baniel method, ukulele playing (but not with these guys), and dog walking--- and working on the Bhima translation (that page to be updated shortly.)

In the midst of all this, many a time I have wondered, what am I doing as a writer with all this blogging? (I'm blogging Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays here, and over at the new Maximilian ~ Carlota blog on Tuesdays.)

Recently, I redesigned my decade-old website and realized that much of my writing in the past year is not for the printed page--- or, if for print, it appeared (appears) simultaneously on-line (e.g., "Twitter Is" for Literal and "A Traveler in Mexico: A Rendezvous with Rosemary Sullivan" for Inside Mexico). So the redesigned website has a page for my books, and another for other print publications--- and then a page for the blogs, and another for podcasts. I should have added yet another for the videos (right now, these consist of book trailers, but a longer video-story, based on "What Happened to Thelma," is in progress.)

And as for books, from my conversations with friends, it looks like, whether in the iPad or Kindle, e-books are taking over... Right now, only my novel is available as an e-book. There should be news about the others soon.

In another five years I doubt we'll be reading as many books in print format. It's getting interesting as things blend, video and audio and photos just a click (or touch) from the text itself.

One project I'd love to do: the e-book of Miraculous Air with not only text but photos, audio, video, Q & A, a reading guide, and interactive maps (including a map app like the one Julia Sussner did for Impressionist Paris).

P.S. Check out this blog post and this eye-popping talk by marketing guru Seth Godin on the future of the book industry.

More anon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Black Robes in Paraguay by William F. Jaenike

This magnificent, deeply and scrupulously researched book will always have a place of honor in my library. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Latin American history--- and that includes the history of Baja California because of the parallel stories of their Jesuit missions. Visit the author's (and the book's) website at This one goes on my annual top 10 list. More anon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blogs Noted: Blue Dog Rose, RAVE, John Oliver Simon, Mexico City

Blue Dog Rose
By artist and dog mom Nakisha Vanderhoesen

RAVE: Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition
By Miguel Angel de la Cueva, conservation photographer

John Oliver Simon
This is new blog turning out to be one of the best po-blogs on the web. Check out his series on forgotten poets, including Cleveland's d.a. levy.

Mexico City: An Opintionated Guide
By writer, artist and Mexico City resident Jim Johnston

Note: This "blogs noted" post is moving to every other Thursday. Check back again September 2nd. Regular posting again next Monday, August 23rd.

So, more anon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Agustín Cadena in Mexico City: Las tentaciones de la dicha

For many years now I've been a big admirer of Mexican writer Agustin Cadena's fiction. One of his short stories, "Lady of the Seas," appears in my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2006), and another was the first Tameme Chapbook ~ Cauderno, Carne verde, piel negra / An Avocado from Michoacán (Tameme, 2007). A third translation of mine, his story "Parque Murillo," is forthcoming from Small Beer Press, in a collection edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo. I strongly feel that many more of Cadena's works deserve to be translated into English. For those of you who read Spanish, check out his blog, El vino y la hiel. And if you're in Mexico City this week don't miss the launch of his new collection of short stories, Las tentaciones de la dicha (Editorial Jus), with presenters Eve Gil, Miguel Couturier, and Luis Bernardo Pérez, this Thursday at 7 pm, address: Donceles 66, Col Centro (entre Rep Chile y Palma). The event is free and open to the public.

Here's the jacket text:
Hay, en las historias de Agustín Cadena, un diálogo con los aspectos tristes de la vida que sin embargo nos arrancan sonrisas y complicidades para envolvernos en la oscura magia de sus desgracias. Los cuentos que componen este libro son una muestra de ello: viejos vampiros en busca de inquilinos, una pareja que al vacacionar en las playas del mar Negro encuentra a un hombre con un misterioso maletín, un castillo convertido en hotel de lujo donde se dan cita personajes excéntricos. Una a una las historias de Las tentaciones de la dicha nos seducen, nos vuelven cómplices, nos hacen reír mientras veladamente asistimos a la pérdida de la inocencia del mundo que nos rodea.

P.S. Cadena, I am truly honored to say, is the translator of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which comes out next month as El último príncipe del Imperio mexicano, with Random House Mondadori.

More anon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guest-Blogger Harry Morales: Flowers for Mario Benedetti

Harry Morales is not only one of the best but also one of the most tirelessly and scrupulously dedicated translators of Spanish literature. He has accumulated such a long list of publications I couldn't begin to cover it all, but suffice it say, it is a great honor for me that my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion includes two of his superb translations, of a short story by Ilan Stavans and an essay by Alberto Ruy Sanchez. For many years, Morales has dedicated himself to translating the wide-ranging works of Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti. In 2006, Morales published a landmark collection of Benedetti's poetry, Only in the Meantime and Office Poems. Shortly thereafter, Benedetti passed away. (If you haven't heard of Benedetti, to give you an idea of how enormous an event his passing was, check out these pictures of his funeral.) This month, Morales is scheduled to bring out another landmark-- this time, a collection of Benedetti's short stories. Over to you, Harry.

More than six months after the renowned writer Mario Benedetti’s death at the age of 88 in Montevideo, Uruguay on May 17th, 2009, I received a familiar light brown, and deceptively flimsy large envelope from my pal Gonzalo in Buenos Aires. Over the years, Gonzalo has mailed me envelopes containing some interview or article about Benedetti and his work. For some reason or other, I had forgotten that I had especially asked him to mail me the many obituaries and tributes which would surely appear in every major newspaper in Latin America-– probably all of which published his syndicated column. The contents of the envelope was a mix of the standard AP wire service articles about his death and several very touching short essays about Benedetti’s many amusing habits and his very close and dedicated friendships with other writers and editors. I was quite touched by the personal reminiscences and was subtly reminded that perhaps my work as Benedetti’s translator for the last 20 plus years has been a vital venture all along.

In August, Host Publications will honor Mario Benedetti, and by extension, me, when it releases The Rest is Jungle and Other Stories, a volume of 45 stories in my English translation. It is my hope that this volume will serve as a humble, but fitting and just tribute to a true “man of letters” who authored more than 90 books and was widely adored throughout Latin America. Just imagine the following scene which is recounted by Hortensia Campanella, a Uruguayan journalist and literary critic, in the prologue of her biography of Benedetti – which appeared in Mexico several weeks after his death – titled Mario Benedetti: Un Mito Discretísimo (A Very Discreet Myth):

“There was a queue of people, in two’s and three’s; almost all of them rowdy, twenty-year old men, and then there were also those who look like survivors from the sixties. It extended for meters and meters, turned next to the Cibeles fountain, heading up Alcalá Street. Many had books, and all of them, patience; there had not been much publicity, but the news had been passed on with euphoria: Mario Benedetti was going to be 80, and although there was a week of homage’s in the Casa de Américas de Madrid, on that Thursday he alone was reading his poems.

When I accompanied him across the garden I saw the smiling looks, and like him, heard the spontaneous greetings. Suddenly a very young girl approached him with a flower, it was a spikenard, I think. She handed it to him, and when the writer, a little confused, gave it to me, I asked her why it had occurred to her to do that. And she answered: ‘I didn’t want to ask him for anything; he’s given me so much that I thought the only thing I could do was bring him a flower.’”

The Rest is Jungle and Other Stories is my flower of multi-colored petals to Benedetti, which I place at his feet, followed by a deep bow and bent knee.

--- Harry Morales

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

P.S. Read this review of The Rest is Jungle in Hayden's Ferry Review. Includes some excellent background and links about Benedetti.

And here's the book's catalog description:

In this exquisite new short story collection, celebrated Latin American writer Mario Benedetti affords us a beguiling glimpse of a world in flux. Addressing subjects ranging from love and middle-class frustration in the city to the pain of exile, the stories in The Rest is Jungle transport the reader from the cafes of Montevideo to the fault lines that divide nations and people. Whether poking fun at the pretentions of the contemporary literary scene, or offering a moving portrait of multi-generational family life, Benedetti discerns the irony, humor and heartbreak in every situation. From the hilarious depiction of an office worker battling with bureaucracy, to a domestic tragedy recounted from the perspective of an eavesdropping family pet, the stories in this playful and provocative collection throw light on that curious realm where our public and private lives intersect. The Rest is Jungle is a remarkable showcase for the work of a writer who sought to speak of love, power and commitment as directly and passionately as possible.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maximilian von Mexiko Website Redesign

Update on the Maximilian ~ Carlota blog about the Maximilian von Mexiko website redesign --- here's the link. Every Tuesday.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Website Redesign

It's sort of like the house: once in a while you want to clear out the clutter and repaint, move the furniture around, and maybe add a sofa or three. This week, aside from a brief and serendipitous visit to the glass-encased remains of San Pedro Claver in Cartagena (dome pictured right, via Blackberry, that's why it's so fuzzy), has been all about fixing my website, It's a decade old, and now that I have published several books and more essays and articles than I can count... not to mention the workshop material... just changing the menu is no small undertaking. Well, it's a never-ending work in progress. More anon.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Monday, August 02, 2010

Book Trailer for Miraculous Air

The book trailer for my travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico, is now online here. I find book trailers fascinating, in part because they are so new and wildly heterogeneous. Read about my "draft of a taxonomy" here. (And do click on the Martin Atkinson + amigos trailer.)