Sunday, June 7, 2009

we are very poor

I haven't been feeling very well lately; there's been little I've felt like recommending other than please, please curing my migraines and sending me money so I stop worrying and having daily, horrible anxiety attacks about how I have absolutely no safety net in the vile, rapacious capitalist society in which I live and also please send reassurance that the world isn't hurtling towards an apocalypse, or at least that it's fast & soon & relatively painless. Full stop.

But that's not much of a recommendation.

Instead, apropos of that:

Today's recommendation is another underrated writer. Today's recommendation is Juan Rulfo (c. 1917-1986), for his brutal depictions of poverty, for his haunting (haha) novella Pedro Paramo. His books were ones I left with "friends" for "safe-keeping" when I moved overseas and never got back; for this reason, they're tinctured with nostalgia and I don't care if I'm slightly wrong; I haven't read his works in years. I'm writing as I remember and that seems somewhat in the spirit of Rulfo himself. His works are brutal and decentered and decenterING. He was a photographer, and his short works, in the way they effect you, in the ways they leave you with an image, in the ways they don't just tell a story but tell a society, a fractured, post-apocalyptic society - really show that. His works always reminded me of the computer and video games I played growing up, where without explanation you were suddenly hurtled into a scorched-earth world, forced to unravel a mystery, forced to talk to characters and unravel riddles, and even then it made little sense, but it was the world, it was the only world, and you had to unravel it, you had to work with it, because it was the world - now. Rulfo's works were short, elegant, brutal, each word a carefully-chosen economy, even in translation: they said what they had to say and only later, I'd pause and shudder and think about just how brilliant and perfect they were.

Thus, I Recommend them to you.

The Burning Plain & Other Stories can be purchased at Powells Books
Pedro Paramo can be purchased from Powells (alliteration is key to an understanding of the world).

N.b.: Confession: I have only read Rulfo in translation; I am sure if you can read his works in the original Spanish you will get even more out of it.


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