Saturday, April 16, 2011

Te quiero aun mas hoy que ayer

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I never made it to any of the films that were being sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Institute. This was due partly to the fact that I've been writing on weekdays when I don't have class, and if I know that I'll be leaving the house to go somewhere, I talk myself out of sitting down at my desk and "just doing it" because I'm distracted by my imminent departure or I won't have enough time anyway or I need to check the train schedule again and again or ascertain what time the film is starting or figure out where to have tea and cake or Indian food or hamburgers (Shake Shack?) or BBQ or . . . . Well, you get the idea. When I'm writing, Neurotic Crazed DBG takes over from calm, cool and collected DBG, and I have to fight the urge to use any excuse to run screaming from the keyboard. Add to this the general malaise the last two weeks' bad weather has instilled, and I'm lucky to get out of my pj's by 4pm when The Husband returns home from school.

But the main reason I didn't leave the house unless I absolutely had to last week was that I picked up Francisco Goldman's new novel Say Her Name after I saw it reviewed in last week's NYT, and I haven't been able to put it down.

Although it's billed as fiction, much of it reads as a memoir of his marriage. I have friends who knew his wife, a young woman from Mexico City, as a student in Columbia's Spanish program as well as a student in Hunter's MFA program (she was doing both simultaneously), and they were all very grieved when she died tragically in a surfing accident off the beaches of Oaxaca in 2007. I'm guessing he called his story fiction so that her mother and uncle don't sue him. Goldman's story is overshadowed by the mother's hovering omnipresence, not exactly malevolent, but suffocating. She wanted to have him arrested and prosecuted after her daughter's accident, so he's definitely getting his own back, and she comes off as truly god-awful.

But the focus of the book isn't vengeance but Goldman's struggle to clarify and sharpen his memories of Aura even as they inevitably recede. The writing is soul-stirring and inspiring, much of it so painful that I can't read more than 20 or 30 pages at a time. But memoir or novel, it's the most compelling book I've read in years, and I'll be sorry to come to the end of it.

I'm off to New Orleans by Amtrak Monday and won't be posting again until I return after Easter, but I'll be listening to my Spanish tapes and whipping through my flashcards. Buena Pascua/Passover!

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