La Bloga welcomes journalist Lydia Gil to our roster of guest columnists. Ms. Gil teaches Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of Denver. She reports on cultural and literary news for the Hispanic News Services of EFE and is the author of Mimí's Parranda/La parranda de Mimí, a bilingual children's book.
Luis Alberto Urrea stopped in Denver last Tuesday to present his new novel Into the Beautiful North at the Tattered Cover, as part of an extensive book tour, which started in Kankakee, IL on the 20th. Urrea has been on the run since, reading in Denver, Tempe, Philadelphia, NYC, DC; tomorrow in Portland; the 4th in Seattle... You get the picture.
The reading was great, mostly because the actual reading was minimal and it was more like a long, chilled conversation with the audience. And also because he brought goodies: cardboard abanicos and postcards with the logo of Tacho's "La Mano Caída" restaurant and internet café... Yes, not only is he a wonderfully skilled writer, with 14 books and tons of awards to his name, but also a marketing wiz. And you thought multi-city book tours were dead...
Urrea seems super dedicated to his fans... To those unhappy with the lighter tone of Into The Beautiful North "because it's not The Hummingbird's Daughter " he promises a sequel of the latter for next year and this, in addition to the film version, directed by Luis Mandoki and starring Antonio Banderas and Ivana Barquero. And, to those who think that The Hummingbird's Daughter should be considered typical of his writing, he insists that it was, indeed, the exception.
He said that after Hummingbird and The Devil's Highway, writing his latest novel was a treat. He wanted to have a good time, a sort of literary holiday... And from what he told us, a very well deserved holiday. It turns out that his previous work was a long, introspective look at growing up in the Barrio and at breaking what he calls "the secret codes of machismo"... It was rejected by his publisher. So you see, even writers with long lists of awards and Hollywood credits get their manuscripts rejected. So, gente, keep writing!
Several of the many anecdotes Urrea shared with the audience were not surprisingly about the writing life. How, for instance, he's a long-distance writer, going pretty much from the computer to the chiropractor... Readers seem forever curious about these things: when do you write, what's your favorite poem, they ask, as if the answer could shed light on a coded passage of fiction or revive a moribund writing routine... So while answering one of those questions, Urrea explained that many of his ideas for narrative have actually come from poetry. When he's in between writing projects, he says, "that's when stacks of poetry books start to take over the house..." What a nice image.
Estoy leyendo... Purgatorio by Tomás Eloy Martínez. Not your typical story about desaparecidos during the Dirty War in Argentina. In 1976, Simón Cardoso, a cartographer, is detained by the military and never seen again. His wife, Emilia Dupuy, unconvinced of his death, awaits his return amidst the predictability of her suburban life in New Jersey. Three decades after his disappearance, Emilia, now a middle-aged woman with distant memories of her youth, runs into Simón in her neighborhood and recognizes him instantly, as he seems oddly to be frozen in time... A good read, so far.