Thursday, August 04, 2011

Chicanonautica: La Cultura in the Library

Borders is crashing and burning. The final liquidation sales are on. In a few short months, it will all be gone. Looks like I ended my days as a bookseller there just in time.

Now I’m safely employed at a library, checking in, sorting and shelving books and “media items.” They call it Library Page, but I prefer to think of it Book Wrangler. Yippie-Tay-Oh-Tie-Ey!

One of the perks of the job is that I’m literally swimming in mind-stimulating stuff, finding things I wouldn’t have otherwise found. Or sometimes something I’ve been in search of for years is right there. Serendipity doo-dah daze.

Also, because our customers (the word “patron” is passé) are more and more of an Afrohispanic mix with touches of the Middle East, Asia, and Native America -- some people from the Eastside of the Valley of the Sun are afraid they might get shot here -- I get to keep up La Cultura.

We’ve got books, magazines and pulp westerns in Spanish, and they get checked out a lot, and not just by the gente I interact with every day.

Recenty I checked out Carlos Fuentes’ Vlad -- in which Dracula moves to Mexico City and finds that he fits in well, corrupting a respectable licenciado and his family along the way. Despite the look of the novella (it’s a little over a hundred pages), Fuentes’ isn’t trying to cash in on the current romantic vampire craze. This is a more traditional Dracula, with all of his political corruption intact, flourishing in a new environment.

And if you haven’t been in a library lately, they aren’t just about books anymore. They’ve become multimedia centers. The big thing is access to computers, and the Internet. There’s also CDs --our Latin section is impressive -- and DVDs.

The selection of movies in español is allowing me to catch up on Cinema Mexicana, from the alta clase art films, to monstros y luchadores. I recently checked out both Luis Buñuel’s Simon of the Desert (the title was in English on the Criterion package) and Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata in Atacan las Brujas (“Witches Attack”) and found that they made a good double feature.

Simon of the Desert is all about resisting temptation. Silvia Pinal plays the Devil trying to literally get Simon off his pedestal and seduce him. And there are miracles and demonic possession. Finally the Devil has to resort to time travel. All in forty-five minutes!

Santo (it means “saint,” get it?) also resists temptation in Atacan las Brujas. It begins with a dream sequence, and keep going like a strange nightmare. He even defeats a demonic horde while posing in crucifixion position. I’m not sure if the surrealism was intentional or not, but the effect is the same.

So, La Cultura is alive and well in my library, providing me with temptations that I can’t resist, as all good libraries, and cultures, should.

Now, if there were only more Mexican comic books!

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