This new work schedule, teaching mornings-afternoons-and-evenings, has me standing before a class of eager language learners about forty hours a week, breaks in between classes, so that is most days leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. and coming back at 9 o’clock at night. It ain’t easy, though thrilling, but definitely makes me think twice before venturing out to catch a night-time reading during the week, or fold before gambling a Saturday not devoted to laundry, friends, self-care, fun stuff, out of town guests, the essential joys in life — can’t you tell I fantasize of doing it all?
Granted. I did make time last month to attend the largest confluence of writing minds and page turning books: the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept 16th. How could I miss seeing my professor, Sigrid Nunez, who has just been nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award (way to go!), share her thoughts on friendship and suicide (and a big ass dog, the Great Dane at the center of her new novel) alongside actor/writer Michael Imperioli and novelist Laura van den Berg, all seated for a panel titled “Fractured Lives.” Somber to say the least. Enlightening to say the most.
After their talk, I of course approached my professor to say hello and hug, but I also had the chance to speak with van den Berg, who was more than happy to talk. “What parallels do you find between the healing process and writing?” I asked her, remembering a spark of truth she had mentioned during the Q+A. “Something,” she replied, speaking freely. “At the end of writing, you feel something. That’s the connection.”
Of course there are myriad events, so many even at this Book Fest, to miss. New York is too fabulous sometimes. Like the talk hosted by the Center for Fiction at noon that day would have been divine, titled “Writing after Loss.” A friend of mine who attended said Joyce Carol Oates, Meghan O’Rourke, and Jonathan Santlofer were nothing short of profound, in their discussion. It felt ironic to miss a talk on loss.
Earlier that month I finally caught up with Javier Molea, host of McNally Jackson’s monthly Spanish Book Lab, a critical reader’s circle, focusing on nothing but amazing Latin Literature. I met Mr Molea months ago at an event at the New School. “Vení cuando quieras,” was the open invitation to drop by for one of the book club meetings. In September, drop by I did. I was so blown away by his and the other readers’ responses to September’s books that I made it a point to buy October’s book, to attend that meeting. The book this month was La vida breve, by the Uruguayan modernist Juan Carlos Onetti. GOD DANG! That book rocked. In a pine nut-shell, the book opens with a man overhearing a conversation on the other side of his apartment wall, between a woman who will later become his mistress and a man who will later become his accomplice in murder. The protagonist-eavesdropper is a writer, who when asked to write about cinema, ends up creating a whole world, universe, around a character of his purest imagination. This imagined character takes over the protagonist’s life, and eventually, in writing about him, convinces the writer that must must create an alter ego for himself! I’ll stop here, because, as I mentioned, this book was blowing my mind left and right. But all this I write to express how excited I was to attend the book club meeting last week.
Even though I didn’t go. I traded it for the chance to hang out with my long standing buddy, hermano in arms, Juan. So, I didn’t feel to bad swapping a dead Juan, for a mo-fu alive and well Juan who always makes me laugh when we share book recs, love stories, and life advice. Till next time.
(Note, I want to make it to next month’s Spanish Book Lab. Universe, open the way! The book is Fiesta en la mariguera, by Villalobos.)
Not so literary, but I did attend a spectacular event in the Orozco Room of the 12th St New School building, hosted by its Observatory on Latin America, hosting the President of the Department of Housing for the City of Buenos Aires, Juan Maquieyra. I wrote about this for my brother, Axel’s Provisions Journal, an online culinary bazaar. Oh, and the following week, for sure literally literary, the Bowery Poetry has started producing films. They hosted a night of celebration right at 310 Bowery. I found out they host an open mic every Sunday. (Another note, mostly to self, make it one of these open mics.)
Alas. Alas. Alas.
It would be fun to do it all. Go, attend, chat, learn. But one must pace himself in some cases, pace herself in others. Until the book, THE SUMMER ABROAD, is launched in November, I’ll keep a low-profile, perhaps hide under incense smoke and lavender, or make an escape with friends upstate. The fresh air and green helps boost your immune system, they say. Stay sane, sane. Sane, stay, stay. Hey. Bye.