Book Notes: Castellanos Moya’s Moronga

The novel is very recent, so there is no translation yet. I’m sure there will be because this author gets translated, although I have no idea what the title can be in English. (Moronga is a very vulgar Central American term for a penis.)

It’s a fantastic book, folks. Castellanos Moya is definitely part of the new generation of Latin American writers I talked about earlier this summer who write about Latin America honestly, directly, and without the cloying cutesiness of the Boom and the post-Boom. The writing is also a lot more realist than anything we’ve seen from the previous generations, which I definitely like.

In Moronga, a Salvadoran professor teaching at a US college goes to the archives to do research on a famous poet. But he’s Salvadoran, so of course the journey to the archives in DC ends in a shootout in Chicago between drug gangs.

This is a novel about immigrants who, whether exquisitely educated or barely literate, exist in a world of their own, feeling puzzled and intimidated by everything around them. A legal status, a fancy job, education and credentials do nothing to stave off the terror because its source is not anything we usually suspect. You know that old expression, sticking out like sore thumbs? Salvadorans in this novel are the sorest of thumbs. That is, until you get to the part about Guatemalans.

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Quirk for Sale

From a very worthwhile article:

The important thing is to be interesting. What better way to demonstrate that you’re not a humdrum worker bee, afflicted with a lackluster personality, than to carefully and selectively express the right kind of righteous indignation?

Yes, it’s all about showcasing your quirk.

What’s Missing

What’s really missing from my life is an opportunity to teach Castellanos Moya’s Moronga in class. And it’s not because he’s Central American and I’m a Peninsularist. I could create a really great course on novels about ETA on the one hand and Central American guerrilla on the other.

Instead I get to teach “my name is, today is Tuesday, how are you?”, which nobody needs a PhD or even a Master’s to do. I don’t care about teaching the way I do about research, so I’m not massively heartbroken about this. It would be fun to do something at least a bit challenging in the classroom, that’s all.

Artistic Freedom

As I read Castellanos Moya, I keep thinking how wonderful it is that, unlike literature in English, books written in Spanish are not castrated by fear of Twitter mobs, charges of cultural appropriation or political incorrectness, fretting over representation and identity, and the rest of the ridiculous garbage we keep seeing in the English-speaking world.

This truly phenomenal Salvadoran writer I recently discovered writes with such freedom and such evident joy that I can only hope that its fear of artistic freedom and of language is something this country never manages to export.

Poke in Illinois

I decided to try a local poke bowl, and discovered that it compensates with aesthetics everything it loses to the Seattle poke bowls in terms of freshness, taste, price, and size. The Seattle poke is about 2,5 times bigger. But ours is definitely prettier. I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with all the lemons, though.

I’m having a self-care day: gym, office, Walgreens, Japanese restaurant for lunch, hairdresser. And I do things from my Korean beauty subscription box while I drive from one place to another.

Violence in Chicago

It’s even worse than in St Louis, which is pretty bad:

The violence reached a peak early Sunday, when 30 people were shot in a three-hour span between midnight and 3 a.m., an average of one every five minutes or so. Eight of the shootings during that period had three or more victims. Over the weekend, 14 children were shot and two, both 17, died. The youngest victim was 11 and the oldest was 62. The shootings were concentrated on the west and south of the city, leaving the downtown area, where thousands attended the Lollapalooza music concert, largely unaffected.

I’m quoting this here because completely trivial, idiotic issues get a lot more coverage than this relentless carnage.