Review: Jaime Manrique, Cervantes Street
Jaime Manrique. Cervantes Street. NY: Akashic Books, 2012.
ISBN-13: 978-1-61775-107-3, ISBN-13: 978-1-61775-126-4 e-ISBN: 978-1-61775-140-0
Readers of the engrossing Captain Alatriste novels might think they know what to expect from Jaime Manrique’s absorbing novel, Cervantes Street. Like Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s series, Cervantes Street is set during Spain’s Epoca de Oro.
That aside, Cervantes Street comes just in time to break up a bleak outlook beset by political lying. Jaime Manrique’s diverting, fun, swift odyssey into Cervantes’ travels that inform his famous work, puts tall tales where they belong, in capable fiction.
Miguel Cervantes and powerful nemesis Luis de Lara, are twins of a sort. Cervantes is the scholarship kid schooled among caballeros. Luis is one of the young gentlemen. Drawn together by literary affinity—they burn to write—they devote hours to wine and reciting and plotting novels.
Cervantes is the epicurean; voluble, productive, a liberal. Luis is the stoic; considered, spare, a conservative. The liberal is essentially an autodidact, while the conservative reaffirms the classical model of educating a kid through Greek and Latin studies, the trivium--grammar rhetoric and logic--and the quadrivium--arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy. Those are SAT questions.
Author Manrique’s recreation of Spanish literary style from 1569 to 1616 comes peppered with fantastic magical developments like cheating husbands turned into donkeys, opera buffo situations like a cuckold hiding behind a tapestry in a farcial comeuppance, grotesque ethnographies of gypsies, Moslem slavers, heretics burned at the stake by holy inquisitors.
Some of the fun Manrique lifts from Cervantes’ work. In the author’s Note to the Reader, he acknowledges eight elements Manrique hopes seamlessly fit into his own invention. Readers will detect a certain brilliance when they come across those paragraphs. If not, Manrique makes sure to remind readers where this stuff comes from and where it’s heading:
I could hardly believe that part of my past had really happened, because it seemed like a fantastical chapter in a chivalric novel written by a capricious historian with no regard for the truth. (201)
Cervantes, in turn, borrows from Arab storytellers—he owes his life to Arab invention and style. Enslaved in Algiers, he begs pittances for his recitations and strikes out. Another slave critiques him, telling the failing rhapsode, “that’s what I want from a story. The Arab storytellers know that.” When Cervantes adapts the style to his genius, he and fellow slave Sancho Panza enjoy a taste of psychic liberty.
The wild hippie Cervantes falls headlong through the misfortune cyclone that produces his Don Quixote Part I and Don Quixote II. The conservative Luis Lara, cuckolded by his false friend Cervantes, and ever the spare stoic, holds a lifelong grudge that culminates in a fraudulent Don Quixote Part II, under a nom de plume. Cervantes, and Epicureanism, win in the end, but not without acknowledging the utility of an occasional nod to the stoics. When Cervantes’ enslavement cages him at the bottom of a cramped hole, he finds solace thinking of the stoic Seneca.
Readers unprepared for belly laughs are advised not to enjoy a tasty beverage while reading this exploration of bulb-bursting Spring by the dedicated stoic Lara:
Beginning in late March, when the first daffodils broke the ground and the weeping willows turned from gold to light green, large crowd took up residence on the public benches. The women sat on the sunny spots of the plaza and picked lice from each other’s hair.
Readers unprepared for a good time will find double reward therefore if they’re lucky enough to stumble upon Jaime Manrique’s Cervantes Street. Readers who seek out Akashic Books' reliably entertaining releases will marvel that the publisher and author have a winner. If your indie bookseller stocks it—or will sell you the e-book password--Cervantes Street should be in your hands.
Banned Books Update
September 21, 2012, eleven days in the future, comes the Special Master's Report in the Federal oversight of Tucson schools.
Back in 2009, the court ended supervision of the district, acknowledging the district's assurances it would "operate for the advocacy and equal advantage of every child." TUSD lied. The court found the district acted in bad faith.
The September 21 release of the report contains the Special Master's proposal to run the district in a manner consistent with that "advocacy and equal advantage" commitment. Thereafter, the Court takes the report as a recommendation and the judge issues a decision.
Status Quo: The books are still banned. Old Glory has no reason to proudly wave.
"First Time in the Physical Universe"
That phrase jumps off the page in the most provocative claim ever asserted in a library exhibition:
The USC community has worked since February to bring this three-dimensional, mathematical art object into being for the first time in the history of the physical universe.
Fractal visualizations abound on the internet. They're what we used to call in the 1960s "psychedelic, mind-blowing, far out, trippy, groovy." This appears to be all that, and more. USC has created a three-dimension version of the mathematical expression, fashioning it from standard business cards.
The object and the exhibition come to public view on September 20. For more information, visit the object's site here.
La Bloga On-Line Floricanto • 2d Tuesday
Jan Michael Alejandro, Victor Avila, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Ramon Piñero, Maritza Rivera
Anchor Baby by Jan Michael Alejandro
Dream Zone by Victor Avila
Homelands by Andrea Hernandez Holm
When I Write by Ramon Piñero
Arpaio by Maritza Rivera
Jan Michael Alejandro
I was there when they handcuffed her
The frightened look on her face
haunts me most every night
I was only nine
when they peeled me off of her leg
and took her away
I started to run towards her
but I was stopped by a stranger
As they loaded her into the car
I had to close my eyes
She was crying so hard
I couldn’t watch
I was too scared
Nine years ago
and the last time I saw my mother
My foster parents said
your mother was an illegal alien
and you are an Anchor Baby
I didn’t know what any of that meant
but I know now
She wanted a better life for herself
She wanted a better life for me
But I think
I would have had a better life
living with her
I understand why many feel the need to flee their country
I don’t understand why they come to a place where they are not wanted.
Maybe they believed in this quote:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse
of your teeming shore.
tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp
beside the golden door."
by Victor Avila
I walk through a forest,
I'm swallowed by trees.
Leaves fall upon me
A night full of animals
stare from the woods.
Darkness surrounds us,
imagination steps forth.
Through valleys at midnight
a clear river flows.
Fields washed in moonlight,
asleep in the dream zone.
We discover coins
and hear tambourines.
We smell eucalyptus,
we've forgotten our names.
A lock of your hair,
a poem Lorca wrote-
we'll read in the fishlight
asleep in the dream zone.
When I Write
by Ramon Piñero
I sit to
write a poem
the feel of
a ball of
I sit to
write a poem
what a warm
meal feels like
when a loving
it seems that
when I begin
to write about
the joys of
some kid is
I'm ready to write
is found to have
from descendent to
who has morphed
when I hear
I want them
by Maritza Rivera
Abuse of power
lurking around the corners
of our barrios.
Jan’s dada, avant-garde, beatnik inspired CD was released and premiered at the Dada Poetry Salon IV in Greenwich Village, on March 18, 2011, and his spoken word book, “What’s Mine Is Now Yours,” was also released last year.
Jan’s produced plays & musicals include What’s the Play About?, Myjovi el Musical, Bad Dad, Letecia, Foreplay, No Rest For Santa, Mountain Road, Baking With Mrs. Claus, Ornament Exchange, Chin Up, Personal Space Invaders, and Common Bonds, which received “Critics Pick” from Backstage West.
Check out some of Jan’s work on www.youtube.com/user/jansplays and