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The lute lies rusted in its green case odor of pines is synthetic; sweeteners artificial; even salt!  our tongues crave something dif...

Friday, May 30, 2014

Don Perlimplín

Look how Alfred Leslie imagined the character of Lorca's don Perlimplín.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Don't Know Much About Theater

I guess I don't, because I'm discovering more and more Lorca in American theater. Albee's Lorca Play appears not to have ever been published, though it has been performed. I knew of it before finishing AL but I never could find it. Now I still can't. Apparently it was performed in Houston, then withdrawn by the playwright. It is promised for vol. 4 of his collected plays, which hasn't come out. Critics describe it as "rambling." No trace of it in World Cat.


I dreamed that I was debating the relative merits of Keats and Frank O'Hara with a friend of mine, the poet KI. (I'm sure that the KI of my dream does not hold the opinions that he expressed in my dream, but no matter.) He argued for the vast superiority of Keats, and I made a quasi Harold Bloom type argument that of course, O'Hara had it much more difficult, because he was writing in a world in which Keats already existed.

My own argument does not even represent my own waking views, but no matter. I'm not sure I even believed what I was saying in the dream. I remember doubting whether what I was saying was really true. The discussion was quite heated.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Adding a Chapter

What Lorca Knew

Chapter 1: Hermeneutical Introduction** 1
Chapter 2: What Lorca Knew**
Chapter 3: Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Poetics of Cultural Exceptionalism*
Chapter 4: The Grain of the Voice: Poetry and Performance*
Chapter 5: An Anatomy of Influence: Lorca in Contemporary Spanish Poetry**
Chapter 6: New York Variations: O’Hara, Motherwell, Strayhorn**
Chapter 7: A Poets’ Theater: Lorquian Drama in the US
Chapter 8: Queering Lorca
Epilogue: Elegy For Modernism

Now I've added a chapter, [chapter 7] simply because I can. I'm giving myself to the end of 2014 to finish this book off. One * means a completed chapter, two ** mean I have notes, translations, and references completed.

It no longer feels like a minor footnote to Apocryphal Lorca, but as a book as solid as that one was.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lorca seminar outline

Lorca seminar

1. Introduction. Lorca as Protean figure. "Pathways of influence and reception."

2. Neopopularism. Machado y Álvarez / Manuel Machado / Antonio Machado. Poema del cante jonde. "Arquitectura del cante jondo." Music of Manuel de Falla. La Niña de los Peines.

3. Sonetos y Diván.

4. Romancero gitano

5. Poetics. "Juego y teoría del duende."

6. Musical interludes. Flamenco based on Lorca's poetry.

7. The New York Poetry.

8. Theater 1. Early works. // Visual arts: Lorca's drawings.

9. Theater 2: Rural tragedies.

10. Theater 3: Avant-garde plays.

11. Afterlives I: Spain: Dámaso Alonso / Luis Cernuda / Carlos Rojas.

12. Afterlives II: US. Lorca on the stage.

13. Afterlives III: US. Lorca and US poetry.

14. Afterlives IV: Lorca and film.

15. Conclusions / Evaluations. Paper due.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lorca Seminar

So I am slated for seminar in the Spring. My thinking was to do the short form seminar, but then I noticed there were two seminars offered. So I thought of doing Lorca instead, chickening out and thinking that I wouldn't get students for a course in aphorisms and haiku.

I think maybe, then, the short form course will be my next undergraduate senior-level course instead.

3 days

How can I go in three days from: I don't know if I have enough to say for a twenty page article to

I don't know if I can fit everything I have to say in the 20-page limit.

While recovering from an anaesthesia that is making me still a bit groggy.


I had a minor medical test yesterday which required some heavy drugging. This morning as I was about to wake up I had a dream of writing a poem. It went something like this:

The dreams of my dreams--
Arguing with my mother about the plausibility of Dragnet plots
While toothpaste dried in the bathroom sink
This is what I do

In my dream I arose from bed to the microphone of a poetry reading. I checked to make sure I was dressed and saw I had boxer shorts and some kind of shirt, so I was fine. Although I hadn't written down or even finished the poem I was confident I could just improvise the rest of it, which I did. I explained it as a parody of a certain kind of trivial poem that was being written nowadays. A pop culture reference, the meaningless image, etc... The poem went over quite well with the audience, not surprisingly, since the audience was in my own dream.

My dream was lucid enough so that I could not only write a poem, but relate it to the context of poetry writing today in a clear-headed way. I still feel a bit drugged.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Missed Encounters: Lorquian Theater in the US

Federico García Lorca, one of most notable European poets and playwrights of the twentieth century, has had a strong presence in North American letters beginning in the 1930s (Mayhew, Apocryphal Lorca). His influence, however, is far stronger on poetry than on the theater. Lorca’s plays have certainly been translated, published, and brought to the stage in the US. What is missing is the deeper level of engagement that poets have brought to Lorca’s work in their translations, creative adaptations, and apocryphal fabrications. My own neglect of Lorca’s theater in my previous work on this topic results from my sense that I didn’t have a story to tell about Lorca’s practically non-existent influence on American dramatists. But perhaps there is an interesting story in what did not occur...

Gender & Sex

I once had a senior colleague tell me that Judith Butler had introduced the idea that sex and gender are different things. I had a hard time not laughing in this face. This is not Butler's idea, but one long predating her. Butler's ideas are much more radical, presenting the sexual, too, as socially constructed. Everyone already knew that gender is a construct.

This is not particularly complex, but I'll give it a try, making what is an essentially pre-Butlerian argument.

First, there are differences, like "men have penises and women don't." That's not a "gender" difference but a basic sexual dimorphism.

Next, there are secondary characteristics, like, men can (typically) can grow full beards and women can't. These differences are often difference in degree. For example, women have facial hair, but not as much of it.

Thirdly, there are differences having to do with bodies that are more gradated, like height and vocal pitch. To say men are taller is not exactly true. Rather, if you graphed out the difference between men and women in a given population, you would find that men are taller, on the average, but that any given man might be shorter than any given woman. In other words, men are not all between five nine and seven, and women are not all between four-eleven and five eight.

Now what gender does is to take whatever differences there may be, and run with them, imposing social meaning on them. It views all difference in behavior, dress, etc... as the natural consequence of a biological given. In other words, it confuses having a penis or a beard with the meanings that those things have. For example, I could have penis and carry around a woman's purse. There is nothing about this leather object, convenient for carrying around shit I might need throughout the day, that has anything at all to do with having, or not having, a penis.

In any given society, the treatment of the body varies by gender. You could imagine a society in which women and men have the same length of hair. A society in which only men, or only women, or both men and women, or neither sex, has tattoos on their body. But men have penises! Yes, we know that. That's not what we're talking about here.

Then we have social roles. They are organized around gender categories as well. They can be divided up differently in different cultures.

There are (at least) two extreme schools of thought that want to trace all gender categories back to biological sex. One is evolutionary psychology, one of the classic bullshit fields of all time. It is anti-feminist in its inclinations. The other is so-called "difference feminism," which to my mind is not feminism at all. What these tendencies do is take an overlapping chart of difference and make that difference essential and non-overlapping. So instead of seeing an alto and a tenor voice as pretty much two varieties of the human voice, one a little higher than the other, they divide all human voices into sopranos and basses. Since traditional gender roles assume the idea of non-overlapping behaviors, dress, and psychology, an ideological construction of these differences reinforces these gender roles even more, leading to a vicious cycle. After all, as long as people conform to these roles, it is easier to argue that they reflect innate differences.

The caricature is that feminists argue that there are no differences at all, or that men and women are the same. While some people might seem to believe this, nobody really does. Everyone recognizes that people have different genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics, that there is a difference in statistical distributions in things like height and vocal pitch. Everyone also recognizes that there are differences in traditional social roles. So nobody on the planet thinks men and women are "the same." All we ask is that we don't exaggerate differences in order to enforce stupid rules.


I've left out two things here. One is sexual attraction to the same or "opposite sex." The term "opposite" here is very loaded. The other is the body that is not easily classifiable in terms of sexual dimorphism.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Writing What You Don't Know

I am trying to figure out what I know / whether I know something significant about Lorca's theater that I could develop into an original article. Basically, the idea is a very simple one: why did Lorca's poetry resonate in the US whereas his theater did not (to the same degree)? So I started making some notes. I have to elicit from myself my knowledge / thinking about this. I have a question to answer, so then I need a hypothesis, and answer to this question. I need to show, also, why the history of something that didn't happen is also interesting. I need some examples that illustrate my points. Here are the first notes I made:
Lorca theater project

*Less evident than poetry in American reception, because playwrights are less interested in him. Those that were, tended to be poets also. The reception is through a poetic views of the theater.

*Dichotomy of realist vs. experimental theater?

*Spicer’s sequel to El paseo de Buster Keaton.

*Strayhorn’s music for Don Perlimplín.

*Albee’s Lorca Play. In a 2005 statement for PEN, he wrongly situates Lorca’s death at the end rather than the beginning of the civil war, constructing a tale about how all the other intellectuals had already left Spain. *^((^%$!
I agree that to write the article, I first need to know what I know. Then the writing of the article will follow a very concrete and disciplined path.

Strikingly Ignorant

Wow. Albee gets so much wrong in this short statement it beggars belief. He said he "did his research." *&^$!

*Albee says that Lorca was killed when he was 37. He was 38.

*He strongly implies that Lorca was killed toward the end of the war. He was killed in August of 36, and the war began in July of that year. How was the war "reaching its terrible climax" after just one month?

*He says that all Lorca's friends told him to leave Spain. Not true. Albee constructs a narrative in which Lorca stayed in Spain when other intellectuals "had left," out of love for the country. But, really, a lot of intellectuals remained in Spain in the Republican zone for the entire course of the war.

*He has Lorca's friends telling him to leave Spain because "you're gay." Never happened. I don't believe he was with Buñuel and Dalí on the eve of his return to Granada.

*He says that Lorca went to Granada during the war. Not true: he went there shortly before the war began. What has Albee confused is that his friends thought it a bad idea to go to Granada from Madrid, where he would have been safer. It makes zero sense for Lorca to go from Republican controlled Madrid to Nationslist controlled Granada during the war! Of course it was spectacularly bad timing for him to go there the day before the war started.

That's not an exhaustive list of errors in Albee's 5-minute statement, just the beginning.


Lorca play by Albee.

This is why I didn't write about Lorca in America theater, sticking to poetry.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


I saw a clip on CNN (on one my devices) about a young woman who lost more than 100 lbs so she could work at Hooters. She had been in a bar wearing a hooters t-shirt and a guy told her she didn't look like a Hooter's waitress. The story was presented entirely as a feel-good human interest story. "Isn't this great?" was the entire tone and message. Even the guy's rude comment to her in the bar was presented as just the wake-up call she needed so she could lose the weight and actually work there. That was her own perspective too. She is getting a Master's degree.

All this to work at a place where the food is of fast-food quality, but with higher prices based entirely on the perceived attractiveness of the wait-staff. I guess it tells something about me that I even clicked on this story. I won't link to it but if you really want you can copy and paste this into your browser:


High Brow

An ex-minister of culture for Zapatero, a poet whom I knew a little bit back in the day, said that he was "high brow" and that they wanted somebody more low-brow. He used a rather strange calque from the English ("ceja alta"), or high eye-brow. He had a whole bit going about the lowering of the eyebrow. Yo era de la ceja alta y se pasó a la ceja baja.

Look, you don't describe yourself as high-brow in order to get people's admiration. It gives new meaning to the word supercilious.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Pullum on Brecht

If you want to see what the very worst of the usage and style recommenders say, it is always a good idea to turn to Strunk and White's The Elements of Style first. Sure enough, on page 71 of the 4th edition, they say: "Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs." As usual, moronic advice, and impossible to follow. And in the very next sentence they use adjectives themselves, of course. (An indecisive disjunction of adjectives, in fact: "weak or inaccurate". Well which is it? Be clear, they would say to you if you wrote that.)

What do these writing experts think they are doing trying to take something as subtle as how to write well and boil it down to maxims as simple as the avoidance of one particular grammatical category? Are they... Well, I'm really going to need an adjective to say this... Are they insane?

Look, you don't get good at writing by deleting adjectives. Writing is difficult and demanding; you can learn to get moderately good at it through decades of practice writing millions of words and critiquing what you've written or having others critique it. About 6% of those words will be adjectives, whether you write novels or news stories, whether they're good or bad.

The exception is that if you belong to the academic chattering classes --- the literary experts who tell other people to avoid adjectives --- the frequency goes up to over 8% in your academic prose. As in so many other domains, the very people who tell you not to are doing it more than you are. As Bertold Brecht put it:

Those who take the meat from the table
Teach contentment.
Those for whom the taxes are destined
Demand sacrifice.
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.
It's interesting, because I've found that Borges uses probably much more than the 6 or 8 percent that Pullum mentions.


María Victoria Atencia has won the Reina Sofía prize, one of the major ones given to poets of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. Amazingly, she is first woman from Spain to receive it, and only the fourth woman period:

1992 Gonzalo Rojas
1993 Claudio Rodríguez
1994 João Cabral de Melo Neto
1995 José Hierro
1996 Ángel González
1997 Álvaro Mutis
1998 José Ángel Valente
1999 Mario Benedetti
2000 Pere Gimferrer
2001 Nicanor Parra
2002 José Antonio Muñoz Rojas
2003 Sophia de Mello Breyner
2004 José Manuel Caballero Bonald
2005 Juan Gelman
2006 Antonio Gamoneda
2007 Blanca Varela
2008 Pablo García Baena
2009 José Emilio Pacheco
2010 Francisco Brines
2011 Fina García Marruz
2012 Ernesto Cardenal

We find Chile represented (Rojas, Parra); Brazil (JCMN); Colombia (Mutis); Uruguay (Benedetti); Portugal (Sophia de Mello); Argentina (Gelman); Peru (Varela); Mexico (Pacheco); Cuba (Fina García Marruz); and Nicaragua (Cardenal). It is possible that the list as a whole is less impressive than the work of the five or six poets on the list who really mean something.

Here's a version I did of MVA a while back:

Now that so many hours are shifting to the back
and I forget already their shape and property
I once again feel-- in the flash of wings behind the panes
that begins to undo the darkness of the sky--
as if, with their wings of major poets,
the petrel and the kingfisher had come to let me know
that this thread of life in which I succeed myself
has not changed more than the precise degree necessary.

It is not read for prime time, but I feel it captures some of the tone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

If you catch an adjective, kill it

Clemens was also anti-adjectival, in theory, but:

While Tom was eating his supper, and stealing sugar as opportunity offered, Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of guile, and very deep—for she wanted to trap him into damaging revealments. Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she was endowed with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low cunning. Said she:
"Tom, it was middling warm in school, warn't it?"
"Powerful warm, warn't it?"
"Didn't you want to go in a-swimming, Tom?"
A bit of a scare shot through Tom—a touch of uncomfortable suspicion. He searched Aunt Polly's face, but it told him nothing. So he said:
"No'm—well, not very much."
The old lady reached out her hand and felt Tom's shirt, and said:
"But you ain't too warm now, though." And it flattered her to reflect that she had discovered that the shirt was dry without anybody knowing that that was what she had in her mind. But in spite of her, Tom knew where the wind lay, now. So he forestalled what might be the next move:
"Some of us pumped on our heads—mine's damp yet. See?"
Aunt Polly was vexed to think she had overlooked that bit of circumstantial evidence, and missed a trick. Then she had a new inspiration:
"Tom, you didn't have to undo your shirt collar where I sewed it, to pump on your head, did you? Unbutton your jacket!"
The trouble vanished out of Tom's face. He opened his jacket. His shirt collar was securely sewed.
"Bother! Well, go 'long with you. I'd made sure you'd played hookey and been a-swimming. But I forgive ye, Tom. I reckon you're a kind of a singed cat, as the saying is—better'n you look. This time."
She was half sorry her sagacity had miscarried, and half glad that Tom had stumbled into obedient conduct for once.

Here are about twenty-five, not counting ones used as adverbs like "powerful" or "middling." If you really found a sparing use of adjectives in any writer then you would find maybe whole paragraphs or even long sentences without them. If you count all adverbs too you notice that Twain is making modifiers do some heavy lifting.


This morning I taught myself to play the 6/8 Cuban bell rhythm in one hand while playing the same rhythm twice as slow with the other. This is a useless skill, admittedly. The only reason I bring it up is that it is reflective of my recent change of pace, in which I'm teaching twice as many hours and twice as many days a week for about six weeks. It is quite possible to do this. If I were a little better organized I think I could be "all in" in many facets of my professional life. I'm sure there is a fallacy in my thinking but I'm a little tired.

The basic rhythm is

1 3 56 2 4 61 3 56 2 4 6

The other hand plays

1 5 35 31 5

Or what is essentially the same rhythm in quarter notes.

Monday, May 5, 2014


I recently came across the claim, quoted without objection by one scholar from another, that Borges rarely used adjectives. I somehow knew that couldn't be right. Here's the opening of a story. I've bolded the adjectives, just mainly the descriptive ones, not demonstratives:

Lo recuerdo (yo no tengo derecho a pronunciar ese verbo sagrado, sólo un hombre en la tierra tuvo derecho y ese hombre ha muerto) con una oscura pasionaria en la mano, viéndola como nadie la ha visto, aunque la mirara desde el crepúsculo del día hasta el de la noche, toda una vida entera. Lo recuerdo, la cara taciturna y aindiada y singularmente remota, detrás del cigarrillo. Recuerdo (creo) sus manos afiladas de trenzador. Recuerdo cerca de esas manos un mate, con las armas de la Banda Oriental; recuerdo en la ventana de la casa una estera amarilla, con un vago paisaje lacustre. Recuerdo claramente su voz; la voz pausada, resentida y nasal del orillero antiguo, sin los silbidos italianos de ahora. Más de tres veces no lo vi; la última, en 1887... Me parece muy feliz el proyecto de que todos aquellos que lo trataron escriban sobre él; mi testimonio será acaso el más breve y sin duda el más pobre, pero no el menos imparcial del volumen que editarán ustedes. Mi deplorable condición de argentino me impedirá incurrir en el ditirambo —género obligatorio en el Uruguay, cuando el tema es un uruguayo. Literato, cajetilla, porteño: Funes no dijo esas injuriosas palabras, pero de un modo suficiente me consta que yo representaba para él esas desventuras. Pedro Leandro Ipuche ha escrito que Funes era un precursor de los superhombres; “Un Zarathustra cimarrón y vernáculo”; no lo discuto, pero no hay que olvidar que era también un compadrito de Fray Bentos, con ciertas incurables limitaciones.

So close to 30 in a single paragraph of 250 words, or more than 10 percent of the words. That's about how many verbs there are too, but the verbs are not as varied. I chose this at random. I just thought of a story I knew and googled it, and took the first paragraph as my sample.

So what's going on here? I think people think that good writing does not use many adjectives, or uses them very sparingly. So people don't bother to check whether that is actually true. The claim sounds plausible if you don't think about it for more than 2 seconds.

Borges also moves them around, using them before the noun once in a while, or in the ASA construction, like vago paisaje lacustre. (ANA).


I have a friend, living far away from me, and I might have changed details here to disguise the person's identity, but his writing is bland. The subject matter is fascinating, the person knows what he is talking about, but I just find no passion there, no perspective or point of view, aside from "here's some different approaches to this interesting thing." So and so sees an intersection between race and class, or gender and nationality. The writing is formulaic and the conclusions bland.

I regret the way I feel about my friend's writing, and I would never say this personally or publicly, but there it is.

Let me never be bland like that.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Physical Pleasure

There is a physical pleasure for me in certain accents in Spanish, but only when spoken by certain individuals with nice speaking voices. It could be any accent, really, Andalusian, Castilian, or Caribbean usually, in my case. For obvious reasons (obvious to me, I mean) women's voices give me this almost erotic thrill more often. All this is purely subjective, of course, so there is no point in arguing with me about this. I doubt you could convince me that I don't like something that I do, in fact, like.

The last time I experienced it was in a woman introducing a lecture that I listened to on my ipod, from the Fundación March. I don't know who it was, probably Lucía Franco, the director of lectures there.

Why wouldn't you listen to that and try to imitate it, that beauty?

Friday, May 2, 2014

All In

Being "all in" means dedicating a lot to several spheres of academic life:

Active research program

Attention to teaching and curricular development, etc...

Departmental life & Service

Campus life / administration

National organizations, editing journals and professional service, etc...

A web presence, blogging, tweeting, etc...

I have limited energy so I can't be "all in" in all facets, all the time. It's interesting, though, that teaching, what some people outside of academia would see as the job, is just one segment of all this. Being president of University Senate is about the equivalent of an extra class. Being director grad studies is about another half of a class. Bear in mind that everything except teaching & research is worth 20% of my time (officially, that is). Someone who really is all in would be doing about 60% service, and the hours would expand accordingly. Or some might get a teaching-load reduction.

I would settle for good teaching, active research, a web presence, and one major responsibility.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


If by dull rhymes our English must be chained,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fettered, in spite of painéd loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrained,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gained
By ear industrious, and attention meet;
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay-wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own.

There is a theme in English romantic sonnets of the "contraintedness" of the form. There is this one by Keats and some others by WW: "Nuns fret not ..." The idea that the sonnet is narrow, a constraint. Shakespeare and Donne (or Milton) would not have thought about it that way. I've italicized some words that emphasize some negative aspects.

See Frost's "The Silken Tent," which continues the theme of ties, and bondage.

Lorca y Machado

According to a children's book or textbook that has made the news:

Machado: "se fue a vivir a Francia con su familia" [he went to live with his family in France]

Actually, he died on the border trying to escape into France, accompanied by his mother, at the end of the civil war. [Here I was the one being inaccurate: he died shortly after having escaped into France with his mother.]

Lorca: "murió cerca de su pueblo durante la guerra de España" [died close to his village during the Spanish war]. Actually he died by getting shot after being arrested.

No mention that these poets were the victims of the war.


ON the one hand, I have to be fairly tolerant of imperfect pronunciation. The idea is not for every student to be perfect, at a native speaker level. I have even had colleagues who were quite bad, though not in my present job. As usual, I think "worse than me = unacceptable." So if I'm not perfect, that's ok, but I wouldn't want to have colleagues a whole lot worse than me.

Still, a significant portion of students in advanced level Spanish courses (junior / senior level, for us 400 and 500] really need improvement. Let's say there will be 5-7 students like this in a class of 20.

What I would like to see is:

--correct accentuation. Everyone is capable of emphasizing one syllable of a word over the rest of them, and learning what syllables that is.

--approximate phonemes. That is, the o of posible doesn't have to be perfect, but it cannot be the o of the English "possible." You should never pronounce u like the u of English umbrella. They don't have that sound in Spanish. Everyone is capable of this too. That is, pronouncing Spanish at least with the closest equivalent phonemes in English.

[Once the phonemes are more or less approximate, then the student can work on improvement.]

--basic ability to read aloud a correctly written Spanish text in a way comprehensible to a native speaker unaccostumed to English. Everyone can do that.

--elimination of English tags: um, like, you know... [when speaking Spanish]

What is needed is:

--Enough input. The students have to have sufficient exposure to good, authentic models.

--Knowledge of spelling conventions of Spanish. Students should know things like: h is silent.

--Knowledge of what phonemes exist and don't.

--Practice reading aloud; auto-critiques of recordings.

A phonetics course is great, but a course can lead to sophisticated knowledge of allophones, regional differences, and many other interesting things, without necessarily improving the student's pronunciation. I don't really care what exact accent the students are striving to emulate, as long as they hit basics common to all dialects of Spanish.

A student should have to produce a tape, to be judged anonymously by a knowledgeable person, at an acceptable level.

Borges on Hawthorne

“Un hombre rico deja en su testamento su casa a una pareja pobre. Ésta se muda ahí; encuentra un sirviente sombrío que el testamento les prohibe expulsar. Este los atormenta; se descubre, al fin, que es el hombre que les ha legado la casa."

That's Borges quoting Hawthorne. An idea for a story that could come right out of Kafka. "A rich man leaves a house to poor couple. They move there and find a sombre man-servant that the will forbids them from dismissing. He torments them; it is discovered, at the end, that the servant is the man who has left them the house."

The essay goes on, with all of Hawthorne's ideas for bizarre plots. It makes you realize how Hawthorne and Poe are behind Borges and Cortázar.

Short Form: Sonnets and décimas?

Are sonnets and décimas forms of the "short form"? I would say that sonnets are short, 154 syllables Spanish. Décimas are 80 syllables. I'm not sure brevity is the point of these forms, though. All short lyric poems are not examples of the short form. Brevity itself has to come into play.

I'd be glad to be corrected if you have a better idea.

Formative (19): Borges

I don't remember when I first read Borges, but he was part of the mix in American "postmodernism" (metafiction) and behind or underneath the Latin American boom. Everyone had read Labyrinths, a book that does not exist in Spanish. I really went to school with Borges, reading all of it, poetry and prose, going back to works that he later suppressed, etc..., and reading parts of what he had read. I am more Borgesian than Borges.

Borges is a great innovator whose theory of literature is that innovation does not exist. Everything has already been invented. His beef against Hispanic avant-garde poetry was the narrow emphasis on the creation of new metaphors. For B, a valid metaphor had to be one of a narrow set of universal metaphors. You couldn't just arbitrarily forge new ones. In this he anticipates the cognitive science approach to metaphor developed much later. He is also one of the main translation theorists, with a perspective more useful, even, than Benjamin.


I won't have many posts on individual writers in this series, but I believe Borges was formative for me.

Why You Can't Trust Wikipedia


Speaking of Borges, though, I think an encyclopedia in which all the entries are hoaxes would be great. Hoaxapedia?

Missing the Point on Borges

I was reading a book on Borges that purported to connect him to the European avant-garde. The problem was that it kind of missed the point by construing the question in very narrow terms: his engagement with ultraísmo. Surely the point is not that he retained his ultraísmo later, but that he found his own way to be avant-garde, a way that seemed, in some ways, hostile to the avant-garde itself. There is an interesting paradox here, but one completely invisible to the typical Hispanist.