Books

You are currently browsing the archive for the Books category.

In relation to the Fifth Comment:

Here in Sweden, Swedes can’t see beyond my ethnic look or what their eyes tell them I am. A brown person. So the idea of an American has also been hijacked by color lines. Although, much to my surprise Swedes don’t see themselves in those color lines though their idea of what an American is certainly is tainted by color. So they have a hard time seeing that there are Americans of brown disposition.

So it irritates me a tad that they can’t acknowledge my gringo side. I hate the fact that they are not able to see beyond my so called Spanish background.  It makes me feel incomplete.

In A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles1 a seldom researched area is taken to task, namely, that of assimilation of Anglos in what is a predominantly Spanish-Mexican dominated territory era. Anglos converted to Catholicism and abade by Hispanic customs. So is the case also in Jovita’s book2. There is a lot of intermarriage with Anglos or Americans. Despite the rhetoric of the text that pits Anglos and Mexicans there is acceptance of Anglos in the community. I suppose that a lot has to do with this idea within mexicans that one must improve the race, or as is known in Spanish, mejorar la raza. A little unknown and zealously kept and guarded dirty secret we bear upon us.

Yet one has to wonder if this tactic of intermarriage wasn’t orchestrated or is a little forgotten blip in our history. Who knows. Research certainly is needed to shed light here.

I somehow can’t accept coincidence in California and Texas.

______________________________________________
1 Dakin, Susanna Bryant, A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles, Berkeley, 1978.

2 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

Carmen Fought has done a remarkable job by giving us a structured form of ChE. I haven’t read Chicano English in Context through and through though but I have stopped in certain passages where my eyes have noticed the value in the observations or the examples. One such example that has drawn my attention is on page 104 within the title of the paragraph Part II: Semantic/lexical features of Chicano English and under the subtitle General lexical items. In example 6 we have American, meaning ‘European-American or white’. So up tp this day we still regard ourselves as not American.

I have argued throughout this blog how deeply important it is that we feel American. I have argued for an americanness of our own.

We have for far too long relegated America to the gringo, the blue-eyed even when we ourselves and our kin may have blue-eyes. It’s enough. We are Americans, regardless of nations and regardless of political divisions. It’s time to reclaim what’s ours. As Don Juan Preston in Jovita Gonzale’s Dew on the Thorn we must reclaim our heritage, our position in society.

We Xicanos need to put an end to the centennial bickering Mexicans and Americans have had since inception days. We the children can no longer take sides we are Mexican and we are American no matter what ye old blood feud says. Let Mexicans fear the Gringo; we Xicanos cannot do that. Let Gringos fear the Mexican; we Xicanos cannot do that.

We need to tire of taking sides to move forward, backwards for to remain ackward is no longer an option.

By mistake I wrote Dew of the Thorn and once realizing my mistake I came upon a significance for the title of the book. I realized that dew is one of those things that is reminiscent of a new start. A new morrow if you will. Once I corrected my spelling error I proceeded to thank the gods of letters for my discovery, not. But yes, this is nice, this interpretation of mine. Dew on the Thorn allows us to see the new and allow us to realize the thorn in the eye before us. I always wondered why this string of words was a preferred choice for a title and I suppose I found my own interpretation for the book. So there.

_____________________________________________________________________

1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

I have fallen in love with page 150 of Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1. It’s a chapter entitled The New Leader and it’s about the second Fernando of the Olivares family, born 1871. He is a half gringo and a half Mexican.

Fernando grew up, and realizing when very young that he had American blood, felt very different from the rest of the boys. He had a feeling of resentment against his heritage that made him feel he was an outcast among his friends. Doña Ramona’s teachings […] made him feel that he could never have anything in common with his American grandfather. (p. 150)

Gotta love the reverse mestizaje in play. The reverse crossborder where it is the gringo in us that yearns to crossover.

Beautiful.

_____________________________________________________________________

1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

The authority of Tío Esteban, the new mail carrier, in “a forlorn-looking two wheeled vehicle” is an interesting passage. There is a palpable break. A sign that the Usted and borderlines of the Spanish language have ceased to permeate the everyday life of the community. It no longer applies as a rule. We must heed obidience to a new language code. As a mail carrier, a US postman, Tío Esteban has switched language masters’ (p.107)

In the backdrop of the early 1900’s in Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1 technological advances are no threat to the lifestyles of the ranchers who are in no hurry to catch up with the ever changing landscape nor is it rejected either. two wheel vehicles and trains are viewed with the eye of distant curiosity as if seeing an odd object. This product of the mind is not rejected by racial lines, indeed, we are curious no matter whence it cometh from. As always, and as most history insists in telling to our deaf ears. Technology is accepted far more than the gringo is or ever will be. So reading Chapter IX The Cupid of the Brush Country is quite interesting. These two phenomena: the ranchers still trying to live a lifestyle of old, ever refusing to let go of their glorious past, and the imminent change and the mechanical knowhow of the Yankees advance, flow in opposite directions yet together posit a mystery.

All this is reminiscent of Don Quijote who insists in living a long lost time in a present that has surpassed him beyond recognition.

_____________________________________________________________________

1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

In Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1 the color of races play a significant role, gringos have blue eyes and servants are dark. Yet more interesting is the fact that the Caste system plays a role in the late 1800’s as is evident that society revolves around the color of the skin. Add to this the fact within the narrative that these Mexicans of the late 1800’s in Lower Texas had never seen a negro in their midst and you got yourself a decent cocktail to churn out all kinds of speculations.

But what bothers me the most in Jovita’s narrative is that her main Mexican characters are not considered to be Americans. This binomial bothers me. They Americans and We, Mexicans. I don’t know, I just can’t seem to place myself in that narrative.

_____________________________________________________________________

1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

In Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1, the Anglo plays a rather significant roll not because we are not familiar with the eternal binomial in Chicano narrative between gringos and Chicanos but because it is an early ground we have walked upon before. Jovita is a predecessor of Aztlán geography and topology. It is a common ingredient in Chicano narrative to see the gringo in the distant. Way before we begin to deal with the gringo we have began to see Them. Jovita does this well. It details the aproximation of the inevitable, that is, the gringo in our midst. Then we deal with it. We can see this same technique in Ana Castillo’s novel So Far from God: The Peacock raiser encroaches in the consciousness unannounced. We have only heard of them and then we see them to lastly seek them.

_____________________________________________________________________

1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

In this essay I will use New Historicist Literary Criticism to try and understand a little better Robertson Davies What’s Bred in the Bone. This particular school of criticism lends itself quite nicely to this book because the milieu, embedded history and social components give enough material to see it through the lens of New Historicism. I will apply some of the concepts that are explained in New Historicist Literary Criticism as outlined in the book by Keith Booker. I hope to gain insight in some of the social attitudes that are drawn in What’s Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies, in particular how respectability influences the main character of the novel, Francis Cornish.

There are a few concepts from this school of thought that I would like to delineate first. I will be referring to them in my observations I gather from the text in question. I am particularly drawn to the idea of shaping identities. I recur to the following citation to better understand Francis Cornish:

Greenblatt ultimately concludes that most of these writers shape their identities for themselves within the context of submission to some authority: ”God, a sacred book, an institution such as church, court, colonial or military administration” (9). (p.139) Booker.

Although Greenblatt is talking about writers I believe that this can also be applicable to the novel’s main character. Hence, I intend to remark on some of the social forces that shaped Francis Cornish identity during the course of this essay. I will also be recurring to the following citation as well

New historicists believe that it makes no sense to separate literary texts from the social context around them because such texts are the product of complex social ”exchanges” or ”negotiations”. Booker (138)

This last citation demands outside help for the text to support my observations. Lastly the word respectability will appear quite often so I should define that word as well. The best approach is to use the sense within the text. Respectability is then an act of keeping up with appearances. In the novel, the best example of keeping up with appearances is presented by Arthur Cornish. He absolutely abhors the idea that his uncle, Francis Cornish, might be associated with criminal activity as Arthur’s wife Maria points it out: ”Anything that challenges the perfect respectability of Cornishes stirs him up.”

I will also like to add to the definition by including what respectability has meant for this period of time. This is a synchronic view of the term taken out of The Journal of British Studies.

[Geoffrey] Best calls respectability “the great Victorian shibboleth and criterion,” a means by which to judge strangers on the basis of their appearance and behavior. Provided a person was sober, conventionally dressed, clean, and polite on Sundays, he could attain respectability and with it the sanction of society. (Cordery 1995 p.37)

Although the book’s geography is Canada, Canada has had great influence by Britain and is part of the British Commonwealth. Hence the definition applies aptly to Canada because of the long traditional and historical ties Canada has had with Great Britain.

What’s bred in the Bone

In What’s bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies we are introduced to a set of divergent issues dealing with Francis’ Cornish respectability. This can be observed right off from the start. We have a threesome discussing research for a biography of the main character of the novel, Francis Cornish. There is an impasse because the biographer, Reverend Simon Darcourt, can’t seem to get enough information about the subject at hand and worst yet there seems to be some shady background behind the man that is being researched. This shady background cannot and should not be allowed to be published because it might damage the Cornish name. Upon threatening to cancel the project, the biographer then suggests to go public by his own means and curiosity about the subject is the only thing holding the respectability of Frank Cornish untarnished. This is a curious set of events because even after Francis Cornish death the issue of respectability haunts his deceased ens. It is also curious to observe that while it is perfectly acceptable to be eccentric (Davies p.5), miser (Davies p.6) and lonely, the idea that Frank Cornish might be homosexual, a thief and a conniving liar is not because this will certainly bring about problems, specially damaging the banking industry we are told (Davies p.4). Respectability, even in an era that prides itself in acknowledging that being a poofter is aceptable, is risqué. Respectability can make or brake fortunes we are understood.

How did Francis Cornish acquire his respectability? Well, Francis Cornish was born under a rather dark and unpure ambiance that bespeaks ill deeds. All to sustain an aura of respectability. All under a period in time that prides itself for being respectable. The logic is that respectability was to be maintained by all means necessary, the norm in Victorian times. It was in order to maintain a respectable appearance that before Francis Cornish was born, the death of his brother was simulated to cover up a stain of the past, something he discovers himself later on (Davies p.58;131). However this stain was not covered up sufficiently it seems because the school that Francis attends as a child everybody seems to know that something is being hidden in the family attic. We obtain this bit of information from the lips of the bully Alexander Dagg:

D’you know what I’am going to tell yu? There is something funny about your house. People see lights where a light’s got no right to be. My Maw says there is a looner in there somewheres. […] People wonder a lot about your house. (Davies. p.94)

Alexander Dagg speaks of Francis the First. Francis Cornish brother who is hidden from public view because he was conceived out of wedlock and suffers a physical ailment that renders him anormal. The act of conceiving out of wedlock was unthinkable in an era where Victorian values still held sway over people even during the relaxed reign of Edward VII. To admit fault betrayed appearances. In order to save face this meant hiding any stain that might tarnish the name of the Cornish family and this is how Francis comes to being, out of an effort to sustain an aura of respectability. Although there was a price to pay for keeping up with appearances. Respectability has a price after all.This entailed a series of complex social ”exchanges” or ”negotiations” (Booker p.138). In order to keep Mary-Jim McRory respectable, Francis Cornish mother, the Senator, Honourable James Ignatius McRory, had to strike a deal with another seemingly respectable person, in this case Major Francis Cornish whose respectability lies solely on the pins of his titles and past. Major Francis Cornish outlined a deal that profoundly astonished the Senator’s sensibilities because ”it hit him very hard in his Highland pride” (Davies p.42) yet he went along with it in order to keep respectability intact. The other paid price was that the whole town knew there were strange and odd things going on in Francis’ house. Though this seems to matter little for the Cornish family, so long as rumors are kept in check what the town knew was of little concern.

“Ah – for Francis the Looner was a lifelong reminder of the inadmissible primitive in the most cultivated life, a lifelong adjuration to pity, and a sign that disorder and abjection stand less than a hair’s breadth away from every human creature.” (Davies p. 207)

The first parts of the novel are the backbone of the title since the omniscient voices retelling Francis Cornish life argue that in order to narrate his life it is what is bred in the bone that matters. Respectability, then, is what is bred in the bones of Francis Cornish albeit a questionable sorts of respectability though very well in tune with what society prescribed as respectable in those times. This can be discernible when Francis Cornish decides to paint the myth of Francis Cornish. (Davies p.359) He decides to go ahead and paint a fake painting and he weighs in the consequences yet for the sake of respectability he chooses to do the wrong deed.

Although this should not come as a surprise since there are all sorts of outside social forces shaping Francis Cornish life. Both exterior and interior forces. For example, the first hundred pages of the book rob him of a say in an age were William James’ stream of consciousness is an almost du riguer technique. It is a curios aspect of the novel that in order to narrate Frank Cornish life the use of an omniscient voice, or voices in this case, are used to explain who Francis Cornish is. This in fact seems to add to the illusion of maintaining respectability. By not allowing Francis Cornish to have a stream of consciousness we keep the illusion of respectability intact. He is not responsible for his acts. Had the writer resorted to stream of consciousness god only knows what ideas had we formed about Francis Cornish. One can even question the choice of the omniscient narrators for Francis Cornish. They free him of all flaws, he is nearly immaculate. Frank Cornish is an exercise in immaculateness. Indeed, there is no real assertion of independent self because all the strings are being pulled for Francis Cornish. If the demigods aren’t tinkering with his self then there are the constraints placed before him by society. The nearly absent parents, the overzealous caretaker, Aunt Mary-Ben McRory, the school and even when there is a glimpse of assertion it is Dr. J.A Jerome who gives him the permission to fight back (Davies p.89).

However, being raised under the shadows of respectability radically determines Francis Cornish identity. He learns to keep secrets and learns the codes of respectability that seem to prevail in a society steeped in Victorian values. There is no doubt that respectability manages to shape Francis Cornish identity even to his own detriment. He is a secret agent for MI5 and manages to fake paintings although he can’t acknowledge that his is the author of them. He just fantasizes to tell the truth:

It was at this point that Francis, who had been suffering for two days and a half the torments of an inflamed conscience, […] felt that he should rise to his feet and make a speech in the manner of the late Letzpfenning: ”Gentlemen, I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little paint box.” (Davies p.393)

He does tell a lie of course and he seems to pay for it dearly. He is after all considered eccentric, rumors fly about his integrity and remains a loner the remaining years of his life sharing almost a similar fate that his brother faced. The looner ended up secluded because he wasn’t respectable enough to be seen in public view. They both hide behind the illusion of respectability. Francis has many defects that need to be kept secluded as well, MI5 for example. Respectability was sown and he reaped a dark and secretive life for it.

All in all we have a set of authorities deeply shaping Francis Cornish identity. Dr. J.A, MI5, the elementary school via Alexander Dagg and other persons as well. When is Francis Cornish himself though? Oddly enough it seems almost curious to observe that the only time Francis Cornish ever is himself is through the mechanism of forgery. It is in the realm of deceit where we experience a real Francis Cornish with his own stream of consciousness. A place were Daimon Maimas and Lesser Zadkiel are tending the needs of Francis Cornish.

Bibliography

Booker, Keith M. A Practical Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism. Longman
Publishers USA 1996.
Robertson, Davies. What’s Bred in the Bone. Viking Penguin. Elisabeth Sifton Books. 1985

Cordery, Simon. ”Friendly Societies and the Discourse of Respectability in Britain, 1825
1875” The Journal of British Studies 34 (1995): 35-58.

One hardly sees so many subtitles on a book, but in Greg Grandin’s book, Empire’s Workshop, we do. More aptly, we are bombarded by the word Empire, just in the cover book we find it three times over. I resisted this term because I have a hard time believing that the US is a design meant to be an Empire, not yet anyhow. Our western narrative has made sure that empires are not good, that its ultimate destiny is to unravel into oblivion. Asimov what not. For a country based on Republican values this tends to send shivers down the spine of the few who retain nostalgia for the Old America.

Even more appaling regards visuals in the book is the flag of the US in an upside position which to most knowledgeable people means distress. Perhaps the more succint example of this kind of flag use is best described by the movie titled the Last Castle where Eugene Irwin (Robert Redford), “a military hero by all accounts, is killed for calling attention to atrocities committed by ugly Americans.”

In Empire’s Workshop, Grandin describes the US as grappling for its very soul. Grandin’s book is a refresh button for us that have enough RAM that stretches back a while. A fortysomething book perhaps, a book for the ageing X generation or university students taking foreign relation courses. It is intented to be provocative not because it opens old wounds but because it details how the wounds were opened in the first place. Both physically and spiritually.

Grandin analysis how Latin America has served as a training ground for its Empire designs. I suppose I am to be appaled by the atrocities being commmited or that were comitted, documented and all; pondered upon, at times, in huge swaths, in Grandin’s book. [He tends to get ahead of himself at times]. Yet the fact of the matter is that personal psychology helps little in this case. I can feel disgust at what the narrative so vividly brings fourth, but let us face the facts, I was not in in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras nor belong to the upper echeleons of the Latin America créme de créme hence little simpathy can be drawn from me there either. I have long known that the rich class of Latin America is far from being the patriotic ideal spoused by any decent country in the world whose foundations are based on Republican values.

Suffice to say, after reading the Latin American passages I find it rather ironic that those very mercenaries the US trained during the Cold War are now at the service of the mexican mafia, Kabiles I believe they are named. Or that Ecuadoreans are serving as hired guns to protect the Green Zone. Which is kind of actual as we speak now.

On a slight humoristic side, we are reminded of that great actor of our times, Ronald Reagen, in an astonishing manner tha it provokes the imagination to believe that perhaps Reagen kept its senses to the end while we believe it to be otherwise, purposesly or not. Is Elvis in the house?

Spiritual wounds are ones whose core is always open. There is no closing. Grandin maps, however crude, America’s eternal mana, predestination. The problem with predestination is that it never achieves a climax. There is always more one is predestined to do. But allow us to assume that we have achieved the goal set. And this is where the problem begins because the job is never done. So we are asked to envision the unimaginable. Worse yet, Grandin assures us that the US Empire design proyect is unfullfilled. Except that perhaps we have now turned a corner, flipped a coin what not. Lull before the storm etc.

Like I said, I suppose that one can be appaled by the atrocities Grandin describes in Empire’s Workshop, it is, after all, in our christian nature to deplore crimes against humanity. Consistent with our times open debate about christianity in our present time, I suspect Grandin also suggests, however slight, that predestination mechanisms are being used for ill purposes. Our modern day theocracy maluses the most common drive in America: the belief that we are meant for something aka we are predestined for schemes alien to the founding fathers intentions of our beloved land. Grandin never mentions the Calvin in all of us who nurture America in our hearts, but somehow he insuniates in the narrative that we are a herd whose leaders are awry.

Lastly, I was amused by the Mary Shelley prologue quote. Shelly warns us that resurrection is futile. No matter how grand our proyect. Yet Frankenstein remains in our minds, forever, no matter how monstrous the beast is. Is Grandin suggesting that Empire is not a business the US should not be resurrecting?

As an American myself I have always mulled the fact that we are a new race of people. It would behove us not to imitate the dirty concoctions of our European ancestors. We ought to come up with grander designs for our continent. I hope we do so.

I am miserable. Some bug decided to house itself in my body and alter the course of the daily affairs. I thought some whisky would kill it but it didn’t work. When it comes to colds I should just stick to my old ancestor’s household remedies, either tequila or mezcal. Some people would have a hard time swallowing the latter, specially in these Dr. Phil days but it’s true. Mezcal does the job.

I got a book from the Agonist team. Empire Workshop. I have just finished reading chapter one the preface, last night. And I already got some reservations about it. The front cover has a little Old Glory on it, albeit upside down. For those in the know the sight of such a flag implies and SOS. Then there is the Mary Shelley quote from her book Frankenstein. Frankenstein did not have a life of its own. This is contrarian to Manifest Destiny ideology.

This just might be a book about the Ugly American in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly American.

My ideas are starting to fly around, I want so earnestly to see if the author delves in the complex mechanism of language differences of Spanish and English and the power hierarquies between the more personal, one to one, we are all equal attitudes of gringos and more formal relations that characterize Latin American societies where, in essence, the Thou address is alive and thriving.

Like I said, I already have reservations. I have loads of history from México both at the book level and what my relatives have told me about gringos.

Greg Grandin doesn’t delve so much into it in the first chapter but the US prior to the Mexican Revolution owned huge swaths of land all over México. To mention just one guy we have the Hearst family which practically owned Chihuahua. Lore from my family used to tell that whenever the Hearst family wanted to over their domains they needed over two days in train to cover their land possesions.

***

Chapter One: it’s not for the layman. It is stricly an academic chapter which requieres heavy historical baggage and a lot of pity. It’s a me, me, me tale of US power. Lopsided if one wills.

The optics focus heavily on what the US foreign policy has caused in LA through its business proxies throughout the 19th century.

The enemy that has fought the US merits no more mention than the footnotes on top of diverse and selected words.

This chapter has a thin veil of approval of that sureriority that its is spoken of at the beginning of the chapter.

***

Several optics at looking at his: (1): you are an American and say: God, how can my government be capable of these atrocities (2) You are a Latino and say, Goddamnit! I knew these mutherfuckers had no heart and I hate them the more for so, (3) Grandind is building a case for himself, that is, trumping up credentials in the event the American government makes an about face in foreign policy (doubt it) and suddenly a Carter Like figure comes along (4) You admire Grandin’s narative and not think about the many religious references Grandin uses to make his case.

***

Chapter 2: Where in the hell is Belize in all of this? I have a hard time believing this narrative about American imperialism without America’s fave poodle in the court.

Even the title of the movie is ambiguous: Something the Lord Made, with Alan Rickman and Mos Def, both, without doubt, astounding actors who contribute to their art in many ways. The movie is set in the Jim Crow era when blacks had to seat at the back of the buses and when blacks had to pee in coloured designated bathrooms, hence the ambiguous title.

I do love a flick that manages to cast subtle critique at academia. Frankly speaking, I think academia is the last bastion in modern society that still safeguards old hierarchical values. Academia is infused with so many ceremonious bullshit that while its arguments á la Pound and its tradition arguments are solid, the fact that it hides an order is quite obvious. An order that sets a system well into place where it really shouldn’t be anymore, not now, not in this age, not this era I live in.

Academia is a frustrated limelight seeker that gives two dead rats over humanity. In academia everybody wants to be a star and everymotherfucker that steps unto its aisles is made to feel it is next in line to see God and hence a natural superstar that just needs to wait a bit before humanity bestows accolades upon accolades for nearly making it to the realm of the gifted ones.

It is nearly to the point of being poignantly ironic that at the end of the movie, Vivien, the star of the flick, gets its portrait hung amongst white intellectuals who are donning the cloth of academia while Vivien was painted wearing a suit. There are multiple interpretations to this dress code but it isn’t easy to not notice the snob.

I don’t like academia, specially the rules that surround its institutions. Academia is a very nasty beast that is a Golden calf that needs to be overthrown, a false God that cares not for humanity nor the advancement of humanity. Specially nowadays. The lifeless bloodsuckers that stand guard to its interiors are but a pack of bitter beings who are loath to admit their jobs are no better than a bureaucrat at the county offices of any county seat. These useless leeches have to go over a mountain of papers before they get any close to the chambers of God and while they peruse the stacks of papers they bitterly argue against their lot and how a waste of time their mundane chores are, that is, correcting papers made by mere mortals, Lord forbid they had anything they would be willing to teach humanity.

Well I’ve been slacking.

I was forced upon a swath the size of the Congress Library of work to do, and what did I do today? Slack, that’s right ese! so yeah, and my own personal protestant guilt tormentor from Queen Elizabeth’s time is beating the living crap of any shred of self-steem that still manages to eek a wriggle out of me (Cromwell, is that thou?) for being a slacker. It’s a mammoth sentence I know, so don’t get me started buckwheat!

So i’ve been reading loads of chicano literature in spanish. In spanish you might say raising an eyebrow or two, three would make you a freak. So yeah, Peregrinos de Aztlán by Miguel Méndez which is rapidly becoming a must read and taunted along the lines of Juan Rulfo which is to say a lot.

So my line of studies consists on focusing on the institutions and the making of the destitute in the novel.

In both cultures, because the characters revolve around Aztlán, which gives a huge boost to my theory that Aztlán lies south of the border as well, the institutions partake in the making of the destitute, that have no rights. It spells out in the desert, Califas and Tijuana.

The characters, the downtrodden mock the institutions that are supposed to protect them. The characters speak of the hypocrisy that the servants of the law engage in, specially those servants of the law in the United States which see the Chicano as nothing but a nuisance in all their protestant pulchritude. In fact, the Chicano character in the novel who is sentenced to jail by the judge whose story is detailed in french fetichism can not speak to the judge in the same language because he speaks chicano, not english.

There is also a mockery of the law institutions in México whose servants of the Law only serve the money God. They are depicted with even more desdain since at one point there is girl being used and raped and as she asks for help the police only tell her she is going end up in the can if she doesn’t stop the yelling.

The church institution is also made a mock of here because the outstanding citizens that abide by the laws of the christian Lord do not pay attention to the destitute.

The medical establishment is also made fun of here since no poor person can ever receive the same treatment as those destitute souls ans o eah, you get my drift.

The Republic of East L.A. – Stories (2002) by Luis J. Rodriguez

I am invariably always surprised at the ease with which I can understand Chicano literature. I can see right throught it. I figure it must be the cultural baggage. I mean I understand every concept, image, and connotation implied in those letters. I, at times, can’t help but feel sorry for those who aren’t acquainted with the fine letters my people are churning out, much to my delight, I can sit on any given midnightsummer day and just let the evening run its course while my head roams the loving fields of Aztlán, well, in these case the streets of LA.

I, incredibly enough, along with the Cisneros Caramelo book, bought these books here in Sweden, Stockholm to be precise, yes folk, our literature is going international!

So yeah, this fine fine book maps out rather nicely some of the territories that the Xicano soul has traversed in its relatively young culture. Rodriguez stories handle despair, hope, misfortune, treks, confrontation with the now defunct migra (INS), the confrontation and disregard that gringo institutions have given us, blue collar worker lifestyle (gloomy) have given us and well, the list goes on. His characters all have this snappy survival attitude to them and one can easily relate to them.

He even touches upon the different sorts of chicano manifestations that arise from our unique culture such as chicanos who dislike mexicans and who feel cheated because according to them mexicans from proper México give a bad name to american (USA) chicanos.

There are 12 short stories in this book and I personally loved reading My Ride, My Revolution, Las Chicas Chuecas, Oiga, Miss East L.A and La Operación, this particular one touches upon the migrating patterns of some indigenous people who are forced out of their homes in the Sierra Madre mountains in Chihuahua by drug lords and then by the migra once in the US, in essence, how they live only to be repressed by their governments and discriminated by their fellow brethen both in México and the USA. Heck, there is even one story there about my hometown Tijuana, I liked that one rather much I must say.

Rodriguez is a master storyteller, no doubt, but he has some flops in there but be they flops they are ok regards the theme they present. He uses a lot of chicano language that arises particularly along the border, I can even go so far as to say that southwestern spanish is nearly absent but I won’t. I was certainly surprised to see many words in there that we appearently use all the way up to L.A. This is not just english sprinkled with spanish words, there are unique chicano/pachuco words like wino (although I dislike this spelling since I think that it does not render the full phonological essence of the word. I think it should be why-no, whine-o, or wayno, but since the book is intended for an english audience I suppose the editors thought that this was the best option), neta, qué hubo, (I didn’t like this either, it should be Qvo), cagando el palo, rifar, and the likes of zafada. It is this sprinkling of full phrases in spanish (mind you, surprise! no translation is offered except in one or two cases!) that add its pizzazz to the telling and at times a rather amusing touch to it all.

Oh, and did I forget? He wasn’t born in the USA.

Some crazy ass shit, white man’s preoccupations and the plight Africa underwent.

So here at the university of Stockholm English Institute one of their favorite texts is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The idea is to dissect the text and look at it through the prism of many researchers eye and even to shed some light into what others think about it, now please, bear in mind that I am Mexican, worse yet, am a Xicano, so whatever argument dished these guys up and the interpretations they make out of it is like watching two kids fight it out in the street for the mere pleasure of standing there and see the fight, in other words, as Tina Turner would say it succinctly, what’s love got to do with it? Even more I believe they give this text out for the sole purpose of entertaining the swedes as the swedes are central to this text’s narrative.

The text in itself is really about some old geezers sunbathing in the Thames one late evening in August and really there is nothing more than the comparison of two empires at play here, one, the Roman Empire and the other the British Empire.

However, there is a sense, a dimension at play here that is akin to an apology, a justification of sorts, a catholic/anglican church mea culpa, a Pontious Pilatos washing of the hands.

This text has a bad rap and I can see how the Africans are enraged by the narrative of this text, regardless of the value of the tale, its sole purpose is to whitewash the sins of the fathers. In other words, this text is merely apologizing for crimes committed against the people of Africa, (Judge Garzon, where are you when you are really needed) worse, making the British people have a heart of sorts, furthermore, and most disturbing, and whence the governments claims innocence of the acts of their subjects, is that they can claim innocence and distraction of their duties and play the good cop routine.

A perpetuation of the empire by benign means is at play, in others words, while crimes were committed in the name of the crown, the crown can always and always has the option of disclaiming itself from those crimes by alluding that its good intentions were hijacked by bad elements, and this is the case with this text, Joseph Conrad is apologizing for the acts of his people to the African folk, atonement, in English manners.

Curiously enough most of the critics in this book we are made to read are and have germanic last names, whether they are white, or black I have no idea, but it doesn’t stop me, a Xicano from finding this aspect as curious. Even more interesting, there seems to be a belief amongst critics that so long as one has a valid criticism about the text it is valid in all its aspect regardless of race, never mind that those races happen to be, for the most part, of the caucasian persuation.

« Older entries