The Latino Boom: The Felipe de Ortego y Gasca Lecture

In early October 2019 I gave the inaugural Felipe de Ortego y Gasca lecture in honor of my great friend and Chicano legend, who passed away in December 2018. I spoke about Latin American literature, more specifically the Latino Boom. The Boom was the period of about ten years, from the early nineteen-sixties, in which…

Dispatches from Spain: Radio interview/Entrevista en la radio

Yo y Alexandra fuimos entrevistados en la radio regional de Asturias. Hablamos de nuestras vidas aquí en España y otras cosas, como las diferencias entre los Estados Unidos y España, la politica, mi trabajo, etc. Hablé un poquito sobre mi novela Damnificados y tambien me preguntaron quién es mi escritor favorito. Naturalmente, mi respuesta fue…

Dispatches from Spain: Libroviedo

I’ll start by confessing to my almost complete ignorance of contemporary Spanish literature. Besides Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Javier Marías, I can barely name a Spanish writer who hasn’t been dead for eighty years (Garcia Lorca, Unamuno, Machado). So what a pleasure it was to attend Libroviedo 2019 and to try to update myself. The…

RIP Mark Medoff (1940-2019)

Playwright and screenwriter Mark Medoff was giving a presentation in 2017 when someone asked him, “How do you write a screenplay?” Mark replied: “Hands up if you’ve ever watched a film.” Everyone put their hands up. “Then you know how to write a screenplay.” If, in reality, it wasn’t quite that easy, Mark, with his…

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,…