Friday, August 13, 2010

Gato and Gilb


Dagoberto Gilb has a provocative essay (does he write any other kind?) posted at the Barcelona Review, an international online magazine. Entitled The Hexagon of the Conquest, Gilb's article is a complex and questioning foray into concepts such as lost and found history, the clash of technology against artist sentiment, the unrecognized importance of the conquest of the Americas to the conquerors and the conquered, the need for investigation and curiosity, the preservation of the past as a doorway to the future, and why books can save a life. And so much more. Of course, the article also is about none of these.

Before he finishes, the author has taken the reader to pre-colonial Mexico, the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, and on board one of Magellan's ships. He tells the tale of a library romance between a former priest and his overweight lover; he jokes about his busted leg and imagines his own death; he remembers his youth, the Paricutín volcano, and an example of Cortés' strategy. And so much more.

Gilb opens with this paragraph:

I didn't like books when I was young. Or, better said, I didn't play much with books and they didn't play much in my life. I played baseball and football and shot hoops when I could find one. I was good, one of the two who always picked sides on all elementary school teams. I lived in that dirty house in the neighborhood, the one where the yard wasn't mowed or edged, bushes overgrown, the neighborhood where I would learn, especially from other kids' parents, that divorced and Mexican were words that were dirty too and that kept me from having friends in neat houses. Then a new boy from another state moved in near enough when I was around 12. My new friend wasn't athletic. He never talked about sports. I didn't care because at least I got to go over to his house, which was the dirtiest of them all, on a street with a traffic light, a house that was always for sale or rent. They rented. His mom looked like she drank, and his dad was a taxi driver. His dad, who was very quiet, sullen I'd put it now, lost his left arm working for the railroad. His dad could have been the one-armed man from The Fugitive! I never told my new friend how I smiled thinking it, not once, but it was always sort of there, making me feel like I was closer to a TV show world.

Read the entire article here. You can also find the piece in Callaloo.

The current issue of the Barcelona Review also has stories by Junot Díaz, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Gilb (all from Sudden Fiction Latino), a quiz on 10 Super Bad Guys in Contemporary Literature, and a review of Sudden Fiction Latino in which Daniel Olivas's contribution, La Guaca, gets special mention. All in all, quite impressive. You should read this mag.


Click on this link and listen to the opening paragraphs of The Ballad of Gato Guerrero, the second in the Luis Móntez series and a book that the Los Angeles Times called "a good, swift mystery and a sharp and telling look from within at being a minority in an often-hostile majority culture."

This audio file was a segment of the radio show Jazz Tales, the episode tagged Baile Mundo, which aired on October 12, 1999, produced by Andy O'Leary and Gary Hoover. Several writers were featured on this show including Aaron Abeyta, José Martínez, Carmen Tafolla, and Luis Rodriguez, as well as the music of The Latin Playboys, Los Super Seven, Ozomatli, and Yeska. The music for the Gato track is Blanca Rosa by Flaco Jiménez, Paletero by The Latin Playboys, and a snippet of La Misma Cancíon by Ozomatli.

The Ballad of Gato Guerrero was published in hardback by St. Martin's Press in 1994 with a cover that is one of my favorites. Two years later, the paperback edition appeared with a cover that clearly wasn't one of St. Martin's best - they tried to give a face to Luis Móntez but they didn't quite get it.

In 2004, Northwestern University Press reprinted the first four Móntez novels. (The Northwestern cover is the red job up above.) Ilan Stavans wrote an introduction that spanned the four books, and each book had a separate forward written by a writer I admired. I'm proud to say that Alfredo Véa wrote the foreword to Gato. With only a slight self-consciousness, I'll quote a few of Alfredo's words:

There on every page was that nagging internal dialogue, that philosophical insurrection, that dark counterweight to many of our cherished myths of the American dream and of a staid and polite society. ... There, mixed with the spice and ambiance of Chicano cultura and history, were the flawed and precarious people who daily wound one another, and the marred people who pursue them, unravel with blemished reasoning their defective crimes, and bring them to imperfect justice. Every mystery writer is a not-so-secret anarchist, reminding us darkly that entropy is the power that will win out when all is said and done. Yet the writer is mortally persistent in insisting that smatterings of order and logic count for something. It's the best that Luis Móntez can do, and he does it well.


Final Note

Tomorrow - Sabado - Make sure you check out Part II of RudyG's interview with Chicano sci-fi writer Ernest Hogan to see if you won the autographed copy of Cortez on Jupiter and how you can win a copy of his High Aztech novel.



msedano said...

totally cool. i'm sad i couldn't get to la bloga until the end of the day, but i'm glad i got to la bloga at the end of the day. grand reading!


Anonymous said...

what an intense, awesome read.  gilb wrote it like a dreamscape, unreal.  so much to admire. i too really like the cuentitos about the huge priest and his girlfriend and the one about cortes' horse but that section about touching the documents and that leading to borges was the most amazing.  gilb published an equally awesome short story in harpers (two months ago) at the same time there was another by him in the new yorker.  the man is in heat.  good post, so glad i looked. thanks.

raul g