Exploring American Authors 2010

AMERICAN –əˈmɛrɪkən– adj.
of or pertaining to North or South America;
of the Western hemisphere (dictionary.com)

If you’ve been reading Regular Rumination for a while, you might remember a couple of months ago when I said that I had a new feature in the works called “Spotlight”, in which I would theoretically spotlight Latin American authors.  Well, obviously, that never came to be and I’ll tell you why: because I chickened out.  I really didn’t feel like I had any authority, outside of some class notes, to really do any of these authors justice.  You might also know that I am going to begin writing my thesis in the fall.  I have decided on the novel 2666, which I read with a great group of readers back in the spring.  I don’t feel like my knowledge of the books that have influenced Bolaño and American literature in general is sufficient to really write that thesis yet, so I have a few months to educate myself.

That’s where Exploring American Authors comes in.  Every month for the rest of 2010, I am going to be reading the books of one author from the Americas, with a focus on authors who either speak Spanish or are of Mexican, Central or South American descent.  I have a tentative list through June, but if you have any suggestions, please let me know!  Here are my selections so far:

March: Octavio Paz
April: Roberto Bolaño
May: Julia Alvarez
June: Carlos Fuentes

My goal, right now when I’m bright-eyed and eager, is to read one book a week from the author I have chosen for the month.  Some of the books I will be reading in Spanish, some in English, depending on what is available at my library.  I’m beginning this week with The Labyrinth of Solitude by Ocatvio Paz.  It is a collection of essays about Mexican culture and I have talked in length about one of the essays, The Sons of Malinche, here during my discussion of one of the sections of 2666.  I will be revisiting 2666 and other works by Roberto Bolaño in April for class, so I will chronicle that here as well.

What does this mean for you?  Well, you can sit back and relax and learn along with me, because I will be posting about each book I read.  Or… you can participate!  I would categorize this as a readalong, rather than a challenge, because there’s no set number of books you have to read, just a focus we will have every month.  You don’t need to read 4 books, you could read more or less if you like.  The goal of this is to become acquainted with these authors.  So suggest authors!  I am open to all sorts of suggestions, as long as the author of the book meets two qualifications: 1) They live or were born in the Americas. 2) They either speak/write in Spanish or are of Spanish-speaking descent.  (Though that’s tentative as well. I’m very open to reading Brazilian authors!)

Comments and suggestions and questions about this project are greatly appreciated and I’m looking forward to reading these authors!

14 thoughts on “Exploring American Authors 2010

  1. Great project! I’m sure you’re familiar, but I was intrigued by Bolaño’s own list of authors he found influential, which Frances shared over here. And Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela had aspects that SRONGLY reminded me of Bolaño when I read it a few weeks ago. Good luck!

    1. Emily: I am going to be using that list, if not for this project, than for my thesis itself. I read Rayuela a couple years ago but might have to revisit it again for 2666.

  2. Sounds like fun! I’m sure I’ll join you with at least one book a month. 🙂

    I already tweeted you, but I feel like my two main suggestions are really obvious: Isabel Allende and Jorge Amado. They’re both really neat though, so I thought I’d toss them out there!

    1. Eva: I’ve read a little Isabel Allende, just House of the Spirits for school. I’ve never read Jorge Amado though, so I’m going to have to check him out. So glad you’re joining us!

  3. Since Bolaño has one of his short story characters say that Argentinean literature was the best of the entire twentieth century, Lu, I’d make sure you dip into a least a couple of writers from there (note: my wife’s from Argentina and although she doesn’t influence my reading choices, I may be a little biased myself!). He was a big fan of both Borges and Cortázar as I’m sure you already know, but “lesser-known” Argentineans he also mentions here and there incl. Roberto Arlt (’20s and ’30s), Rodolfo Walsh (’60s & ’70s), and Rodrigo Fresán (’90s thru the present). Ricardo Piglia and Juan José Saer, the first of whom at least was somewhat of a friend of his, are also great writers you might want to consider for links to Bolaño if you’d like to explore the Latin American crime novel (“crime” in this case not only including the trad crime genre but “political” stuff like the subject of the disappeared and Latin America’s military coup decades) and the intersection between literature and repression in general. If any of these authors interest you, let me know and I’ll send you specific title recommendations: all have masterpieces among their bodies of work. Juan Carlos Onetti, from Uruguay, is another ríoplatense author who’s had a profound impact on Bolaño’s generation of writers for his nonconformist/outsider tendencies. Anyway, great project, as Emily has noted, and I’ll definitely be back to see how things are going with it. ¡Suerte!

    1. Thanks, Richard! There are so many authors in here that I will be checking out, even if they don’t all make it onto this particular list. 😀

  4. I’ve already learned so much from this post and its comments…Paz, Fuentes, yum! So I will make Eva feel better with my truly obvious choices: Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, and Manuel Puig (who is at least Argentinian). I haven’t yet read Bolano, so don’t know if any of these are appropriate. Sounds like a fun–if challenging–thesis topic. Best of luck!

    1. ds: I think I will absolutely be including Vargas Llosa and Manuel Puig. I’ve read a lot of Garcia Marquez, so probably won’t be including him here. Thanks for the recs!

  5. Manuel Puig is a MUST, since he was a nomadic writer, just like Bolaño.

    Borges, Cortázar, and Onetti are clear influences on Bolaño.
    Ricardo Piglia will help regarding detective fiction, and Mexican Salvador Elizondo’s *Farabeuf* will be good to know Bolaño’s experiments with narrative.

    But do not forget to find out more about Bolaño as a poet, and his participation in infrarrealismo in México, and his influential relationship with poet Roque Dalton.

    1. Professor: Thanks for the recommendations. Checked my local library and they had Ricardo Piglia, but I will check the school’s library for some of the other reads. I’ve read a lot of Cortázar (including Rayuelas), but Borges is one I need to explore more. I checked out some Onetti too.

  6. I want to join in! I’m practically illiterate when it comes to authors from south of the US. I’m going to aim for a book a month. The Paz book that you mentioned sounds interesting…and score! My library has it.

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