Book Review: Heart Berries

Love is tactile learning, always, first and foremost.

Back in February I intended to write about how the Slate Audio Book Club basically went on a hiatus. The podcast was hosted by Katy Waldman, and she moved from Slate to The New Yorker. I think they didn’t find anyone else who wanted to do it. If I’m honest I’ll say that I really didn’t like Katy Waldman’s tone, I found it boring most of the time, but I agreed with her almost always, and I admired her clarity and her evident passion for books and literature. Also, Slate’s ABC Podcast was very important for me, during my reading recovery, so when she said she was gone and then there were just two other episodes before they stating officially that the book club would be on a hiatus, I was crushed.

Fortunately, almost synchronically I found out about another book club. I’ve been following Guerrilla Feminism account on Instagram for years. I love how Lachrista Greco just says it as it is. No bullshit. And I love how many things she’s made me learn, especially about my own privilege. She started a feminist book club in her Patreon, and when I found out about it I wanted in. Unfortunately the first book they read was Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and there was absolutely no way for me to get it at a reasonable price in time to read it. Amazon Mexico didn’t have it, it always said “out of stock”, Amazon.com charged me half the price of the book just for shipping, Book Depository has always taken +6 weeks to get me books, Gandhi almost doubled the price for “importing fees”… So I decided to wait until the next book.

And it was Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot. It’s such an amazing little book. I feel bad for using positive adjectives, because reading it was a harrowing experience, but I loved it. Mailhot is a writer from an indian reservation and in Heart Berries she wrote a coming of age memoir with such lyricism and imagery… Of course the book deals with “white women”, but not in a way to “make them realize”, I actually don’t think it’s written for white people. But it’s painful to think on all that discrimination, that is the same that indigenous people live in Mexico. Systemic, bureaucratic, permanent. Even if we don’t want to face it.

The book is incredibly sad, incredibly lonely. But in the sadness and loneliness it founds beauty, an excruciating beauty.

What I must say, though, is that as much as I marked passages and underlined sentences, I also kept looking how many pages were left until the end of the chapter. I’m not sure if it was because it talked about things hard to read (death, suicidal thoughts, rape, infidelity…) or just the language was heavy. In the GF discussion I compared it to honey, so dense and even painfully slow moving, but delicious. But it definitely isn’t a sweet book. I wish I had a better analogy.

Self-esteem is a white invention to further separate one person from another. It asks people to assess their value and implies people have worth. It seems like identity capitalism.

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Spanish/English

This is just a quick post for anyone who might be following this blog. For professional reasons I will be writing all my posts both in Spanish and English. The English translation of the posts will be below the Spanish text.

Thank you so much, world.

April wrap up! (a little late)

I know it’s a little bit late, but here’s my April wrap up post XD

I’ve had lots of proofreading and translation work. Of course I can’t talk much about it, because of privacy and confidentiality agreements, but what I can say is that I do have a project with an old lady who discovered she loves writing at 74. I’m excited with her book and I hope I can show it to you soon.

So, anyway, April was crazy, but not as crazy as the beginning of May hehehe. I read three books in total.

These were interesting books. You can read each of my reviews if you’re interested. The only thing I regret is that they were only male authors 😦 I think I shouldn’t let this happen. Hopefully in May I’ll be able to turn things around.

Here they are:

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Books read: 3

  • Zona cero: Breve memoria de los sismos 1985-2017, Rafael Pérez Gay
  • Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov
  • Dejen todo en mis manos, Mario Levrero

 

Male: 3

Spanish: 2

Translated from a language other than English: 1 (Russian to Spanish)

Challenges prompts completed: 3 :-/

Leave everything in my hands, by Mario Levrero

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April was a month of book coincidences. On the International Book Day I went book shopping of course. I had to read Dejen todo en mis manos, by Mario Levrero for the radio show “book club”. So I bought it, and as the bookshop was celebrating they were giving away free books with every purchase. The book they gave me was Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler. I’ve never read anything about him. And then that night, when I opened Dejen todo en mis manos, the epigraph was a quote by Raymond Chandler!

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Anyway… Dejen todo en mis manos is a short book about a writer who’s looking for the author of a manuscript that his editor received a while ago. The connection to The book of mirrors is instant (especially the second part, which has basically the same premise of an editor hiring a writer to look for a lost author).

Mario Levrero is an obscure Uruguayan writer who became a cult writer later. I loved his style. I don’t think there are any translations, but he’s such an amazing writer. He’s unclassifiable, and fast paced, and kafkian, and surreal… I will be looking for more of his books definitely.

Is Oblomov a millenial?

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It took me a while because I’m swamped in work, and just today I decided to take the morning off to write the two reviews I’m missing. The first one will be about Oblomov, by Ivan Goncharov.

This book was published in 1859 in installments in Russia. I don’t remember loving Russian literature this much when I was studying, but I’ve read two books already this year and I want to read more and more. I even want to give Crime and Punishment a second chance.

The book tells the story of Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, an indolent, a generous slothful nobleman. During the first part —11 chapters!— he only moves from his bed to a chair and back to his bed. Almost 200 pages!

He falls in love of an active and modern young woman, but is unable to do anything to solve his current situation to finally marry her. She loves him, but is certain that if he doesn’t actually *do* something, nothing can really happen between them.

In the end he lets her go, she marries Oblomov’s best friend (who is an active, diligent, and modern half-Russian half-German man used to work and travel), and Oblomov dies having had a son with his landlady. Oblomov’s best friend takes care of his son.

I loved this book. It talks about so many important things that we still live right now in the 21stcentury, 159 years later. The characters feel sooo modern. I couldn’t help but think that Oblomov is what older generations think about millenials, they think millenials don’t do anything and are in bed all day everyday. But this book also talks about weddings, and feminism (without saying the word, of course). It talks a lot about writing and writers (Oblomov kinda could be one, if he chose so). And it also talks about a burden that we still have in our society: bureaucracy.

I loved the relationship of Stoltz and Olga (Oblomov’s best friend and his love interest). It feels so current. There’s one part where Olga feels mad for every book Stoltz reads without her, isn’t that like Netflix cheating now? And she desires for everything to be accessible to her, just what I feel in 2018.

I remember I HATED my European Literature of the 19th Century classes in school. I didn’t finish ONE Russian book. I’m sorry, it’s true. But I’m rediscovering these authors and I’m falling in love with them. I don’t think I’ll read anymore Russian classics this year, but I’m excited for the years to come…

As a side note, something [I think] weird happened during my reading. We were watching a French movie (Delicacy, La Délicatesse) by David Foenkinos with Audrey Tautou. And suddenly, she’s there, lying on the couch reading Oblomov! Perhaps it’s something common, but it had never happened to me that a character in a movie is reading the same book as I! 😮

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This is my entry for Back to the Classics challenge prompt: A 19th Century classic 🙂

The tremor in our hearts moves our country

(In Spanish below / en español abajo)

I’m still not able to [really] write about the 2017 earthquake. Few weeks after it I started reading books about earthquakes voraciously. But Zona Cero is actually the first book I read about the earthquake that happened on September 19th, 2017.

Rafael Pérez Gay is a writer I admire a lot, and this little book is very personal and intimate. It kind of builds a bridge between a scary reflection. Two of the deadliest earthquakes in Mexico City happened on a 19th of September, 32 years apart. September 19th, 1985 and September 19th, 2017.

It made me cry, it made me angry (did we not learn?), it made me hopeful. We are entering election times in my country and these are daunting times. The earthquake 32 years ago gave birth to a politically engaged society that lead us to the progressive society we have now in my city. I can only hope we, now as a country, can emerge from the rubble with our eyes looking to where our heart is.

This is my entry for the 2018 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge: April, Read locally.

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El temblor en nuestro corazón mueve al país

Todavía no me siento capaz de escribir sobre el temblor del 19 de septiembre del año pasado. Cuando pude concentrarme lo suficiente para empezar a leer de nuevo, algunas semanas después del temblor, empecé a devorar libros sobre terremotos. Murakami, Villoro, Monsiváis. Pero este es el primer libro que leo de el temblor.

Soy muy fan de Rafael Pérez Gay, y me encanta que haya hecho Zona Cero tan personal e íntimo. Construye un puente entre este paralelo terrorífico, este reflejo aterrador del 19 de septiembre de 1985 y 2017. Treinta y dos años de diferencia entre dos de los terremotos más mortíferos de Ciudad de México.

Zona Cero me hizo llorar, me hizo enojar (¿en serio no aprendimos?), me hizo sentir esperanzada. Ahora que entramos a la época electoral, navegamos por terrenos pantanosos y atemorizantes. El temblor del 85 dio origen a una sociedad políticamente comprometida que llevó a la izquierda al poder y de la que surgió la ciudad progresista que tanto amamos y que tanto protegemos. Lo único que puedo esperar (y desear y soñar) es que ahora, como país, salgamos de entre los escombros viendo hacia donde está nuestro corazón.

March wrap up

March started as an incredibly busy month. I was swamped with work and by the end of the month I thought I was barely going to finish two books. Fortunately, things cleared up and I was able to read a couple more. I’m still trying to catch-up from last month’s one book, but I’m still behind by two for my yearly goal. This month’s books were very interesting, and diverse (not in a Diversity with capital D way, but varied and different), and I enjoyed them very very much. I’m happy with my speed at the end of the month, I wish I can keep at it for the coming days.

So these are my March books:

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Books read: 5

  • The Book of Mirrors, E. O. Chirovichi
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon, Jules Verne
  • A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
  • The Witches, Roald Dahl
  • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman, Anne Helen Petersen

Male: 4

Female: 1 (fuck)

Spanish: 3

English: 2

Translated from a language other than English: 2 (Japanese and French)

Translated from English: 1

Challenges prompts completed: 9/107

What an amazing storyteller is Roald Dahl

When I was seven years old (probably eight), I watched one of my absolute favorite childhood movies: The Witches. I remember being mesmerized by the Grand High Witch and terrified to see the little girl trapped in the painting getting old. Back then in 1990 (probably 1991, because back then movies didn’t travel as fast as today to other countries) I had no idea that the movie was based on a book, I don’t think that Roald Dahl was translated in Spanish even, I really don’t know.

But then, some years later, I found out The Witches was an adaptation, and I wanted to read the original book. I was so happy to find out that it was published in 1983, because I could put in my Birth Year Challenge list.

It was an amazing read. The Witches is positively scary, and funny, and intelligent, and light, and deep. I love how Roald Dahl writes to children, with so much respect… From equal to equal. One of my life goals is to read all Dahl, because his voice is like a light in a dark forest. Whenever I feel down, or stressed, or whatever, I always go to him and I feel better instantly.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.

Pages: 201

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

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I read this book because I signed up for the Kitty Lit Reading Challenge, and this was one of the first books I found. I’m so glad about this challenge, I have found a bunch of books about cats that I want to read, and I’m also incredibly happy about this choice.

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women (I read the Spanish translation directly from the Japanese by Ryukichi Terao and Ednodio Quintero titled La gata, Shozo y sus dos mujeres), by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, was published in 1936. Tanizaki was one of the most important writers of the modern Japanese literature. In this little book that can be read in one sitting, he tells us the story of a tortoiseshell cat named Lily that is the object of the dispute between an ex-wife and a husband, involving the new wife and the mother in law. It’s such a simple and fun story. You can’t read it without smiling and crying a little, especially if you have a cat, of course.

There are dialogues where the cat actually answers, and with that I’m completely sold.

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I adored this book, I always want to read more of all the Japanese authors I get my eyes on. I’ll try to look more by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. Do you have any recommendations?

The Book of Mirrors, by E. O. Chirovici

I completely forgot to write the review about a book I read this month. I want to be held accountable, so I’ll write it now.

Every person who loves books loves books about books or libraries or writers, so when I learned that the book of the month of my pseudo-book club for the radio show A Todo Terreno was going to be The Book of Mirrors, by E. O. Chirovichi, a Romanian author, I was excited.

I did like it, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to the hype. It’s a fast reading book, as every crime novel should be, and it’s interesting. It’s divided in three sections, each narrated by a different person. First, it’s the editor who receives this manuscript titled The Book of Mirrors (oh! A book within a book, it has to be good!), claiming to be a tell-all account of the unsolved murder of a Princeton professor back in the eighties. Then, it’s the journalist hired by the publisher to find out the rest of the manuscript or the real story, because the author died before sending the last part. And then, it’s the ex-police officer who makes it his quest to solve the mystery.

I expected so much more, after reading that even Iceland bought the rights of the book before it had been published (and tried) in the US and UK markets. It’s a good crime book, I can totally envision a movie based on The Book of Mirrors, but I don’t think the characters are that likable, and in the end, the resolution seems so unimportant… which isn’t necessarily bad, though. I can see how the editors felt the particularity in Chirovici’s voice, and I wish they translate him more, because I believe it’s important to enrich the global market with diverse voices. But, at least for my taste and extremely personally because books about books are my absolute favorite, it just didn’t fulfill my expectations.

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Have you read Chirovichi? Have you ever read any of his Romanian novels? Are they better than The Book of Mirrors?