Dispatches from Guadalajara


Above is a great trailer for a book that I sure wish I could read…it’s going to be awhile until my Spanish is good enough for me to read this all the way through, but it looks funny.   The book is Cat Food by Pedro Casusol and comes out of borrador editores.  If I am understanding it correctly, it is a collection of short stories that the salesperson told me was ‘listo’.  Claro, senor.  Of course it is.  How was he to know anything about my undying love for cats?


Libros Del Zorro Rojo Infantil had me drooling over their children’s selections.  Not only do I hope to carry this is Spanish, but also hope some of them get translated into English.  They focus so strongly on pairing the best of illustrators with high quality literary texts that it’s difficult to think that children wouldn’t love any of these books.  And that also goes for adults. 

Because the fair was limited to industry professionals, it was easier to try to navigate through the aisles and peruse the books.  After a meeting in which I turned down a Peruvian photography book(it was for tourists the author/publisher told me and that Americans buy hundreds of them), I roamed back to Sexto Piso.  They gave me a free t-shirt…mediano. 

The panels I visited were equally interesting and very different.  The first was a panel with Stephane Despatie, a Quebecois based in Montreal, who is an editor of Exit (Quebecoise poetry magazine), poet, literary critic and now director of his own publishing company, Ecrit des Forges.  I have a video of him reading one of his poems which hopefully I will have up before I leave.  There were four other poets there who spoke Spanish and translated his poetry into Spanish.  I only caught this by recognizing limited words that I knew in Spanish.  Apparently, the headphones to hear the English translation never made it to the room, so I was struggling with the native speakers.  Nonetheless, it was beautiful.  It speaks so much to the power of poetry that no matter what language the words are spoken in, the lyricism and emotions, shouting or whispering,  rise above the constraints of language to convey love and loss. 

The finale of the evening for me was the crowded room for the L.A. Surrealism panel.  Featuring the fantastical stylings of Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Jerry Stahl, Aimee Bender, Salvador Placencia, Mark Danielewski and moderated by the NEA’s energetic David Kipen.  And as soon as the introductions were finished, pretty much the whole panel voiced their disdain for the term ‘surrealism’ or ‘new surrealism’.  And after much commentary and debate, a new term was not decided on nor was it likely that any of them would agree to fall into one particular category ascribed by a term.  Overall, the evening had many quips delivered with exquisite timing by Jerry Stahl who represented the ‘crude side’ of L.A.  Although he didn’t discuss his writing much, the others did give a few insights to their writing and how it fits into the Los Angeles literary landscape.  Uncomfortable with idea of being pigeonholed by the term ‘surrealism’. Sarah said that she felt the same way when she and Aimee were on a panel together entitled, “Women of Slipstream”.  I amened that with a good guffaw. What I thought about he idea of L.A. becoming a new home to a burgeoning neo-surrealism scene was that it is not so much as a group of writers from a place deciding to write according to certain constructs, but more the place where these writers chose to reside reflected a characteristic of a type of writing that is welcome and successful here.  Imagination, writing outside the borders, and hallucinogenic  parallels of reality may thread these authors’ works together, but there is not the similar rejection to realism as in surrealism.  Aimee did speak to using dreams as a way to invigorate her writing – using dreams and reality as a blend, a bridge to story.  Mark made a good point about surrealism as it is used in today’s literary world – anything that wasn’t real was surrealism.  He added that describing their writing as ‘surreal’ indicates that in some way it is not real.  I was intrigued by the concept that ‘surrealism’ specifically had a connection with dreams.  Although I have read many writers who read as if they wrote it as a dream, I didn’t associate with surrealism.  Also, I found the term a bit unusual as a title for the panel because the surrealists were so closely connected to artists and that is one thing I notice about today’s writers is that there is not that intimate relationship with visual artists or art.  The influence is not there, or at least recognized or discussed.  It is more about incorporating media as art into the a form of writing or how it can enhance a written text.  My thoughts aside, it was a great panel and I wished it could have gone on longer.  I did tape it so perhaps I will have more impressions at a later date.

I did speak momentarily with David Kipen after the event as we walked over to Fondo De Cultura Economica together on his way to his next panel, a discussion with Curtis Hanson about L.A. Confidential.  David is the unber-brain of NEA and it was a pleasure to meet him.

Tomorrow I will give some impressions of the fair itself and the publishing biz.  Stay tuned for my two cents.