Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bits and Pieces of the King's Gold

Michael Sedano

2010 Festival de Flor Y Canto Call for Writers & Artists

Planning is now in the definite maybe stage for a literary and arts festival at the University of Southern California in 2010 during fiestas patrias observances, celebrated in the United States as "Hispanic Heritage Month" in September and October.

Linked here is the first call for participants. If you are a surviving writer or presenter from the 1973 Festival de Flor Y Canto, please click and send your contact information. The festival looks to showcase the growth of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino literature since 1973, so contemporary writers need to click, too, and send along your contact information.

La Bloga will continue reporting on developments of the upcoming floricanto. For some background, see this post.

And thinking of that 1973 cast of artists, Daniel Olivas' Monday column reported Christopher Buckley's tribute to Luis Omar Salinas. The portrait in Dan's article shows Salinas at an advanced age. Here's a photo of Salinas, left, with Alurista, when both appeared at the 1973 Festival de Flor Y Canto.

To view additional photos of Flor Y Canto of 1973, see this page. The full collection of photos will be part of a gallery show at the 2010 event, including a portrait series I call "¡Presente!" featuring images of writers, like Omar Salinas, who have died since that first Flor Y Canto.

Front Range Paper Leading the Way

Who hasn't witnessed the shrinking space newspapers allot to literature and book review sections? One paper, The Rocky Mountain News, is showing the big rags east and west how to do literature honorably. Celebrating its 150th anniversary--and the city of Denver's 150th--The Rocky Mountain News is showcasing local writers by commissioning original fiction. As the paper observes:

This November, the city of Denver celebrates its 150th anniversary. In April, the Rocky follows with its own 150th. To commemorate both, we're celebrating the creative spirit that has marked our city since 1858, with a special series titled A Dozen on Denver: Stories to celebrate the city at 150. For the series, we've commissioned 11 Colorado authors to write original fiction. We asked the authors to choose a different decade of Denver's history, to mention Larimer Street at least once in their stories and to keep it all to 2,500 words.

Today's Dozen on Denver featured writer is La Bloga co-founder Manuel Ramos. You can read his piece by navigating to The Rocky Mountain News' "Dozen on Denver" page here; m
ake sure to listen to Manuel's interview linked on that page. Here's a link to Manuel's story, "Fence Busters".

The King's Gold Doesn't Quite Fill A Formula

Arturo Pérez-Reverte. The King's Gold. NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008.
ISBN 9781436240598

They say the memory's the second thing to go, when you get old, and I don't remember what the first thing is. Or maybe it's inattention. A few weeks ago, Daniel Olivas cited Rigoberto González' review of Yxta Maya Murray's new novel, The King's Gold. Only the title stuck in my mind. So when I browsed the new books shelf at the Pasadena Public Library, I saw that title, something triggered in my memory. and I picked it up.

The King's Gold I held is the work of Arturo Pérez-Reverte, not Yxta Maya Murray. Ni modo. Manuel Ramos turned me on to Pérez-Reverte, and I enjoyed Pérez-Reverte's The Sun Over Breda hence walked away happily with with my borrowed novel. You'll share the sentiment if you find your own copy.

It's a confection of a novel. With Fall hard upon us, it's time for sitting by a fireplace with something to pass a few hours. Nothing heavy, puro adventure. This one fits that niche. If some kid were to ask for a definition of the world "swashbuckler" I wouldn't bother with a dictionary, I'd give the reader a copy The King's Gold.

Sixteen years old, Íñigo Balboa narrates the story of his and Captain Alatriste's return from Breda to Seville, Spain. War, the pair learn, is a simple affair of point and slash. In Spain, nothing is nearly that obvious. Moreover, mid-17th century Spain is a mess of political intrigue complicated by old enemies, old friends, petty local cops, Moorish slaves, whores and crooks, and royalty.

The story's a reminiscence of an old man. Balboa alludes to his own high adventures and heroics yet to come, and much as he builds the larger-than-life character of Alatriste, Balboa magnifies the reader's affection for Alatriste by reminding us that the hero will be slayed in some upcoming adventure. This interplay of future against current events is an interesting technique to be on the lookout for, or have your emotions toyed with:

By God, it's been a long road. All the people in this story--the captain, Quevedo, Gualterio Malatesta, Angélica de Alquézar--died a long time ago and only in these pages can I make them live again and recapture them exactly as they were. Their ghosts, some loved, some loathed, remain intact in my memory, along with that whole harsh, violent, fascinating time that, for me, will always be the Spain of my youth and the Spain of Captain Alatriste.

The King's Gold is a work of translation, with the attendant cultural traps of vocabulary. These are reduced by the technology and setting of 1626, and the skill of Margaret Jull Costa. "The bluebottles," the cops, is so frequently used that I'd like to see the Spanish to see if this is a cultural substitution or a literal translation.

Irrespective of one's historical knowledge, Pérez-Reverte and his translator provide a vivid portrait of gritty hand-to-mouth existence of soldiers thrown into a world without a Veteran's Administration. To survive, some turn to thievery and murder. Our heroes accept a mercenary job to turn pirate and capture a treasure ship freshly arrived from Mexico. Sadly--because it would be such fun--the author misses an opportunity to draw out his story with the formulaic recruiting of his warriors like the movies "The Dirty Dozen" or "The Magnificent Seven". There's a colorful visit to a condemned killer and a fleeting glance at a couple of recruits. But drawing out character studies would take away from the focus on swordplay and bloodletting, and half of them will be killed in the raid, so we get a list of names and descriptions of their blades.

And use their blades they do. That's what swashbucklers do.

Book Give-Away Winner

Last week's winner came as a late entry, a Denver resident who discovered La Bloga by reading Manuel Ramos' bio in the Rocky Mountain News. Hachette / La Bloga are happy to recognize Marie Madrid's 100% correct responses to Saturday's questionnaire. Marie is receiving by US Mail these eight outstanding titles:

Dream in Color by Linda Sánchez, Loretta Sánchez
Gunmetal Black by Daniel Serrano
The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters by Lorraine López
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Brownsville by Oscar Casares
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea
The General and the Jaguar by Eileen Welsome
Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago

Look for your opportunity to win the final set of eight this weekend.

And that's the antepenultimate Tuesday of October, 2008. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except, we are here. Thank you for reading La Bloga, and gracias de antemano for your comments on this, and any, La Bloga column. To comment, just click on the Comments counter below. And remember, La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. If you'd like to share your thoughts on books, arts, culture, or respond to something you've read here, click here to declare your interest in being our guest.

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