Dispatches from Spain 2: Salamanca

Some cities are distinctly literary. Buenos Aires springs to mind. It has the largest number of bookshops per capita of any major city and was home, at least for a while, to Borges, Ocampo, Cortázar, and Neruda. Of course there’s also London, Paris, and New York. Slightly less famous is Salamanca. Roaming around for a…

Dispatches from Spain: Museo Nacional del Prado

Las Meninas. Los Borrachos. The Garden of Earthly Delights. The Triumph of Death. Vuelo de Brujas. The Dead Christ Supported by an Angel. El Prado is a writers’ feast. The great and terrible themes that have obsessed humanity for thousands of years are all here in oil and stone: war, love, faith, power. It’s a…

“Abbott” by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, and Jason Wordie

In the opening panels of this graphic novel, we’re introduced to a heroine so heroic, sassy, and cool she makes J-Lo look like Mickey Mouse. She’s a black, bisexual, chain-smoking, brandy-swigging reporter. She has the swagger of a supermodel and she represents pretty much everything good that came out of the Sixties: civil rights, women’s…

“Colette” and “The Wife” – two films about not-writing

These two films hinge on the theme of non-writing male “writers.” The wives write the novels and the men take the credit. The films begin one hundred years apart, “Colette” in rural France in 1892, “The Wife” in the United States in 1992. Both depict marriage breakdowns mainly caused by the whale-sized egos and infidelities…

“Damnificados” – new French translation reviewed in Le Monde

The French edition of Damnificados is now available. Translated by Camille Nivelle and published by Les Editions de l’Observatoire, it’s entitled Les Dévastés. The novel was reviewed in Le Monde, France’s paper of record in January 2019. Some extracts from the review: “Extraordinary … Damnificados disorients the reader by invoking biblical, mythological, epic and real-life…

“When a Woman Rises” by Christine Eber

The cover of Christine Eber’s debut novel tells a tale in itself. A young woman, beautiful and strong, gazes unflinchingly at the onlooker (us). She is dressed in traditional indigenous clothes, but three strands of hair blow loose as if to tell us this woman cannot be tamed; her spirit will run free forever. Behind…

RIP Felipe de Ortego y Gasca 1926-2018

Felipe de Ortego y Gasca was a man apart. His life was a picaresque tale – part Charles Dickens, part Great Gatsby. He was orphaned as a child, never graduated from High School but became a university professor, served his country in three conflicts, met James Baldwin and Richard Wright in Paris, published prolifically, acted…

Southwest Festival of the Written Word: The Best Books we Read in 2018

Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt looks at Shakespeare’s power wielders – King Lear, Macbeth, Richard III, etc. – and shows that the days of psychotic strongmen ruling their nations is nothing new. For a brilliant dissection of how the west has ransacked Africa, look no further than Lee Wengraf’s Extracting Profit: Imperialism, Neoliberalism,…

Our Concentration Camps: An Open Letter in the New York Review of Books

To the Editors: In Tornillo, Texas, in rows of pale yellow tents, some 1,600 children who were forcefully taken from their families sleep in lined-up bunks, boys separated from the girls. The children, who are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, have limited access to legal services. They are not schooled. They are given…

Egypt’s Prophet: The Great Naguib Mahfouz

When I was 22, I went to live in Egypt for 18 months. I barely knew anything about the country but I did know about Naguib Mahfouz. Just four years earlier, he’d won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and my mother had so loved his work that she wrote to him via his publisher. To…

“Where You Happen to Be” poems by Leonore Hildebrandt

The title of this collection comes from a quotation by Buckminster Fuller, the genius who invented the geodesic dome. In his lifetime, Fuller was awarded 25 patents, wrote 28 books, received 47 honorary doctorates, and was such a globe-hopper that, legend has it, he wore four watches at once, each adjusted to a different time…

“The Fire This Time” ed. Jesmyn Ward

There’s a cartoon by Ben Sargent, called “Still Two Americas,” that achieved internet fame a couple of years ago. It has two panels. Both depict boys at their front door, and both boys are are saying, “I’m goin’ out, Mom.” One of the boys is white and the other is black. The white boy’s mother…