Clemente Palma

In looking for more background on The Invention of Morel, Clemente Palma‘s name turned up. He was a Peruvian science fiction writer, influenced by Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, the Frenchman who popularized the word android in the 19th century. I think that i recall Huysman referring to him, but i didn’t pay close enough attention.

Guess what?

Nothing by Palma is in English translation, and very little of Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s work is. Damn it to hell.

I confess that i’m more interested in Clemente Palma for the moment. I found a book by Nancy M. Kason titled Breaking Traditions: The Fiction of Clemente Palma, a critical overview of his work, and a Spanish language summary of XYZ that attempts to fend off the labeling of Palma as a racist. XYZ apparently has some ugly black stereotypes, mixed into the story about cloning homunculi from Hollywood stars of the Twenties and Thirties. Also, from what little i could read of Kason’s paper, there’s a story titled “La ultima rubia” that could be interpreted as a dig against racism, as it is set in a future in which all races have blended (and speak Esperanto,) and the protagonist sets on an insane quest to find a blonde woman so that he can make gold, or it could be interpreted as actual racism, warning of the “danger” of miscegenation. To be honest, without reading the actual story, i can make no sense of the author’s intent.

Where Palma was politically might be another factor. Palma wrote XYZ while in exile, after a coup led by Colonel Sánchez Cerro in 1930, against Augusto B. Leguía. Since Leguía was opposed by both ARPA and the Communist party, if Palma was aligned with Leguía, he’d probably remain deeply unfashionable for a long time, whether he was a racist or not.

It also seems that Palma didn’t win any love by trashing the poet César Vallejo as Vallejo was emerging on the scene.

Most likely though, Palma remains untranslated to English just because he’s just kinda obscure. Trying to guess why various authors are not translated seems like a fun game.

Is Palma one of the authors Bolano was mocking in Nazi Literature of the Americas?

Caral now dated as oldest urban site in Americas

Or not. Looking at that story about Patiti, this claim could be refuted in a month or two, but the research seems far more solid here.

The Caral site in Peru has been dated at 3,500 BC,  contemporaneous with urban sites in Mesopotamia and Egypt (and India too, i reckon.) Here’s the AP article:

LIMA, Peru (AP) — A team of German and Peruvian archaeologists say they have discovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5,500-year-old ceremonial plaza near Peru’s north-central coast.

Carbon dating of material from the site revealed it was built between 3500 B.C. and 3000 B.C., Peter Fuchs, a German archaeologist who headed the excavation team, told The Associated Press by telephone Monday.

The discovery is further evidence that civilization thrived in Peru at the same time as it did in what is now the Middle East and South Asia, said Ruth Shady, a prominent Peruvian archaeologist who led the team that discovered the ancient city of Caral in 2001. Shady serves as a senior adviser to Peru’s National Culture Institute and was not involved in the project.

The find also raises questions about what prompted “civilizations to form throughout the planet at more or less the same time,” Shady said.

The circular, sunken plaza, built of stones and adobe, is part of the Sechin Bajo archaeological complex in Andes foothills, 206 miles northwest of Lima, where Fuchs and fellow German archaeologist Renate Patzschke have been working since 1992.

It predates similar monuments and plazas found in Caral, which nonetheless remains the oldest known city in the Americas dating back to 2627 B.C.

The plaza served as a social and ritual space where ancient peoples celebrated their “thoughts about the world, their place within it, and images of their world and themselves,” Fuchs said.

In an adjacent structure, built around 1800 B.C., Fuchs’ team uncovered a 3,600-year-old adobe frieze — six feet tall — depicting the iconic image of a human sacrificer “standing with open arms, holding a ritual knife in one hand and a human head in the other,” Fuchs said.

The mythic image was also found in the celebrated Moche Lords of Sipan tombs, discovered on Peru’s northern coast in the late 1980s.

Walter Alva, the Peruvian archaeologist who uncovered the Lords of Sipan tombs, said the plaza found in Fuchs’ dig was probably utilized by an advanced civilization with economic stability, a necessary condition to construct such a ceremonial site.

The excavation was the fourth in a series of digs at the Sechin Bajo complex that Fuchs and Patzschke began on behalf of the University of Berlin in 1992. Deutsche Forschung Gemeinschaft, a German state agency created to sponsor scientific investigations, has financed the most recent three digs.

The find “shows the world that in America too, human beings of the New World had the same capacity to create civilization as those in the Old World,” Shady said.

Her discovery, Caral, made headlines in 2001 when researchers carbon-dated material from the city back to 2627 B.C., proving that a complex urban center in the Americas thrived as a contemporary to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt — 1,500 years earlier than previously believed.

It’s rather interesting that this early urban site is in South America, but nothing analogous has turned up in North America. Were the remnants of early civilization destroyed so thoroughly in European colonization? Yeah, probably… It seems a little odd that humans would have colonized both continents, yet first became urbanized much further geographically from where they appeared. Then again, it might not just be about the European colonization, but subsequent waves from Asia that disrupted the established cultures in North america.

Hillary is mom jeans

Please don’t ask me to explain. I just scrubbed the bathroom and inhaled a lot of bleach. I remembered the site Hillary is Mom Jeans, and i wound up coming up with far too many. My brain has become an archive for lame internet memes and personal peeves.

  • Hillary seeks the Rachael Ray endorsement for the 30 minute voter.
  • Hillary eagerly anticipates the live-action GoBots movie.
  • Hillary has more experience in drinking your milkshake.
  • Hillary has a plan to bring back Diet Pepsi Blue.
  • Hillary finds a popped-collar fresh and sexy.
  • Hillary is not prepared for Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.
  • Hillary wishes Jeff Foxworthy would revive HeeHaw.
  • Hillary wants to know who let the dogs out.
  • Hillary thinks Tupac is really dead.
  • Hillary believes a hybrid Hummer would be the bomb-diggity.
  • Hillary has dancing & poplocking to your mom’s Zune.
  • Hillary cut her legs shaving with Occam’s Razor.
  • Hillary believes Lost is strictly a Biblical allegory.
  • Hillary talks her friends into throwing Pampered Chef parties and then steals stuff.
  • Hillary does not know what the Golgi Apparatus is for.
  • Hillary feels enlightened by Paulo Coelho’s books.
  • Hillary is purported to be “down with the sickness.”
  • Hillary wants us all to just leave Britney alone.
  • Hillary tunes in to see if she’s smarter than a 5th grader.
  • Hillary wants to know why there are still monkeys around if humans
    allegedly evolved from them.
  • Hillary thought Burt Reynolds was sexy in Deliverance.
  • Hillary is salivating at the thought of a new Nickelback album.
  • Hillary thinks Gene Simmons’ ass didn’t look that bad.
  • Hillary likes the cars that go boom.
  • Hillary weeps at the beauty of the paintings of Thomas Kinkade.
  • Hillary gets choked up looking at Anne Geddes photos.
  • Hillary only reads the books that Oprah tells her to read.
  • Hillary voted for the war on Iraq to stop cameltoe.
  • Hillary is eying a cozy investment in an aquifer in Argentina, next to
    the Bush compound.
  • Hillary thinks that the Walrus was John.
  • Hillary is still wondering why Nelly sang a song about sandals.
  • Hillary still finds that talking dog that wants Taco Bell thigh-slapping funny.
  • Hillary thought Gary Cherone was awesome in Van Halen.
  • Hillary writes slash fiction about Buffy.
  • Hillary doesn’t get why Kanye is hanging out with French robots.
  • Hillary has all of the update boxes checked on her Facebook profile.
  • Hillary buys her peanut butter and jelly premixed.
  • Hillary killed Cock Robin.
  • Hillary asked, “But who is Keyzer Soze?”
  • Hillary constantly quotes lines from various Johnny Depp movies in character.
  • Hillary is begging you for you to watch her bust a move and drop some of her freestyling on you, like a nuclear bomb.
  • Hillary wishes that Disney would toss Walt’s frozen head in the dumpster and put Eisner’s head in cryogenics for the Future.
  • Hillary is so stoked about hearing Perry Farrell’s next project.
  • Hillary proclaims that she will not drop out, because like her close personal friend Stanley Burrell, is Too Legit to Quit.
  • Hillary is a Dumbledore-Snape shipper.
  • Hillary promised to cook dinner, and brought home a mess of soggy, cold chitlins from the gas station down the road.

Bleach. It does a body good.

Nazi Literature in the Americas

There is something amusing in the dust jacket having hot pink accents. Checking the sticker on the back, the book must have been on the shelves for weeks now, but i probably wasn’t to read it before now. The book could not have made me more happy. It was a little uncomfortable buying it here in Hammond, as there are real Nazi fetishists here who might see the book in my hand as a reason to strike up a conversation. I’ve already had enough trouble in the past being naturally bald, having people think that i am a skinhead because i choose to shave off what little hair i have left so that i don’t look like Bozo the Clown.

In every review that i’ve read, Borges is namechecked. Nazi Literature in the Americas definitely owes a debt to A Universal History of Infamy, but it doesn’t feel like a direct one. Perhaps it’s because i just read Garde, Ashes, but Nazi Literature in the Americas seems to owe more directly to Danilo Kis’ A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, in which the entries of dead revolutionaries are woven together into a shared universe. The Complete Review nails the connection to Stanislav Lem’s A Perfect Vacuum in the first sentence of its review too. Now that i’ve read Nazi Literature in the Americas, i have no doubt that Bolano was well familiar with Lem, as he seems comfortable describing science fiction. Borges’ A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain might have been Lem’s inspiration, but the lineage of this Bolano is not one step directly from Borges. This is a very good thing.

This is not a book about monsters, although there are a couple of monsters in it. Most of the characters are misfits and failures. Some are even sympathetic, to no surprise. Overall the book seems more absurd than tragic. All of the misplaced idealism and floundering works are more representative of literature in general than any statement on fascism.

It’s my new favorite Bolano book… until the next one anyway.

back on track with my reading this February

Managed to finish three books in the past three days. Considering that Saint Glinglin was wrapped up, as was Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, Today I Wrote Nothing, and those books of essays, i might catch up with my misspent teens one of these years, and cram my head with some decent books.

A Russian Doll & Other Stories. Adolfo Bioy Casares.  This is the second book of his that i’ve read, the first being The Invention of Morel. The odd thing about Bioy Casares is that i don’t enjoy reading him all that much, but the ideas stick with me. Reading short stories seems to be the most effective means to approaching his work. The ideas don’t weave together like Borges though. They float like buoys in the water, to be navigated. However, i prefer his solo work to his collaborative work with Borges. Obviously i’m going to have to re-read this in the future, as this seems a little off.

Garden, Ashes. Danilo Kis. It’s a library book, and now i’ve resigned to the fact that i must buy it. This has become one of my Great Books. I’d read it halfway through in recent weeks, but lost my place, so i happily began on the first page and read every word with the same pleasure. I began to bookmark pages to copy passages at a later time, only to realize that some of the key passages went on for pages. It’s one of those near perfect books, and the translation by William Hannaher is near poetry. I’d pigeonholed Kis into a Borgesian, as i’d read two collection of short stories. Now i’m kicking myself for being ignorant of how much Kis loved Bruno Schulz. This piece on Danilo Kis by Aleksander Hemon explains much. I’d been avoiding this book for so long, as i’m a coward when it comes to anything bearing the label of “Holocaust.” I was a fool.

Moravagine. Blaise Cendrars.  I started this book about a year ago, but it kept getting tossed to the bottom of the pile. Blaise Cendrars the man is more interesting than this book. It’s not bad by any means. It’s good! It’s great! Henry Miller owes Cendrars! (well, a little…) It’s a wild, world-spanning adventure (but not nearly as madcap and transgressive as i’d been led to believe.) It covered the sickness of the early 20th Century very well, but the tour from the degenerate Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Russian revolution, to American grift and exploitation, to the insanity of World War I.. it seemed a little short. I love a short book, but something seemed lacking, like the episodes were too slight. When i read Cendrars’ essay at the end, on how he wrote the novel, i felt cheated, as i felt that he had lost and excised large portions of the work in his years of abandoning and revising it. When he got on a tear painting a portrait of the social landscape, the book was awesome, far more than waiting for the next episode of Moravagine’s insatiable depravity. Still, the library has Cendrars’ memoir Sky, and i intend to check that out next week.

Roberto Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas was in the bookstore last night, and i snagged it. I’m already halfway finished, trying to take my time digesting it. Yep. It lives up to the hype. Reading 2666 later this year will probably just be an afterthought.

mapping the relationship with sci-fi and fantasy

In listing the books on Good Reads, i realized that the science fiction and fantasy come from different places.

Science fiction is what i read first. My mother is who turned me onto Clarke, Bradbury, and Heinlein, among others. She in turn picked these authors up when she was a child. Her father was a mechanic on ships that came to the port of New Orleans on the Mississippi. When he went on board to work on engines, he’d pick up a lot of the books that the sailors were finished with to bring home to my mother, still a teenager. I need to ask if only science fiction was brought home, or if that was what was filtered down to her, because of her interest in astronomy. I doubt whether my grandfather was into science fiction.

She still had her tattered copies of Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and Dandelion Wine that she passed on to me.  It’s Heinlein that i read first, around age 9, probably Star Beast (which left me ambivalent,) then Red Planet, and then Space Cadet. I know that none of them are great literature, but i have to give them at least four stars each, as they came into my life at a perfect time. Bradbury and Clarke were sprinkled into mix as the rest of the early Heinlein books followed. I wouldn’t trade anything for the sense of adventure that i had in reading those books at that age.

Probably the first fantasy book that i read was T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. It frustrated me, as it wasn’t the Arthurian stories that i already thought that i knew. (I was dogmatic like that, fiercely sticking by the first interpretation that i encountered.) Otherwise, my first fantasy novel was The Hobbit, which i bought from school, from Troll Books. The memory of the smell of the ink of that particular copy of The Hobbit makes me wistful. Because it was cheap, it was probably toxic. I began to “play” Dungeons & Dragons around this time, if one coudl call me and my brother reading the rule books like novels, and then shuffling the papers and dice “playing.” It seemed harmless at the time, and we had fun as we grew into it, but i wish that i walked away from far earlier it like Travis did.

In junior high, i had “friends” though, not like the real friends that i later made in high school that i still have to this day, but some people that i wound up being stuck with at lunch tables because we fit in nowhere else. Two of them were rabid fans of Michael Moorcock, picking him up from older siblings. It felt like there was something faintly degenerate about those Elric of Melnibone books even before i read them.

I’d already been exposed to some peculiar stuff as early as age 7. When i rode the school bus from first to third grade, an older neighbor would let me read the comics in copies of Heavy Metal to and from school. (It turned out that he had borrowed or stolen them from my cousin, an arch-nerd who lived just down the road yet had little contact with me.) Heavy Metal made me feel peculiar in ways that i still cannot articulate, and no, very little of the peculiarity had to do with the sex. I now realize that Jean Giraud fucked with the landscape of my dreams for a very long time, and that i’d probably read something by or influenced by Moorcock without knowing it.

Anyway, Elric of Melnibone very much threw me off course. The idealism and wonder of the sci-fi that i had been reading didn’t mesh well with this sour decadence, but i gobbled it up nonetheless. I wanted to be cool, like these worldly kids that i aspired to be friends with. Then they pushed me into the unrelenting crapfest that is Piers Anthony, stole my D&D books, mocked me for being a sucker, and talked older developmentally challenged teens into fighting me at recess for the rest of my years at that school. Ah, good memories. Even though Moorcock and Fritz Leiber were better than Piers Anthony in retrospect, i clung to the shallow whimsy of Anthony and others to get me through some unhappy times, and didn’t kick away the crutch until years after it was needed.

Yes, there are regrets. There are islands uncharted here (Robert Anton Wilson, Edward Abbey, and Gerald Durrell,) but in filling in some of these blanks, the long path of books that i’ve stumbled through is making more sense.

Can you declare enemies on Good Reads?

I’ve found one. To debate him would be a mistake, as i’m lousy with defending positions, but in his reviews, i discovered that i hate this man. He heaps contempt on The Savage Detectives, makes irrelevant assertions about the punctuation in Blood Meridian, talks a lot of shit about Joyce while proclaiming to have read Ulysses twice as well as a biography on the man, reads a lot of books about finances, and tries to make up for his affection for boxing. He’s a “serious thinker” who seems to lean conservative, but doesn’t reveal many political books, aside from an indiscretion in mentioning Jonah Goldberg without contempt. Most of what he reads are the American Canon that i have so little use for, with the obvious 19th Century Russians and late 20th Century Englishmen.

Fuck him.

It would be easy to explain why i’m staggering around other people’s profiles, instead of writing my own comments on books, but i’m still getting my feel of the place.

discovering oneself through Good Reads

Because of that mild flu, i faltered in logging my books on Good Reads. However, i remembered a phase that was nearly forgotten, of deliberately not reading fiction because “real life” was more important. During this period in my early to mid twenties, i chose to read only history and science books. It’s something i see echoed in some of the posts of certain science bloggers today, crying out that fiction is for wusses and science is always more interesting. I wince every time i see someone trumpeting that now, as it’s childish and i too fell prey to that belief. It’s the kind of belief that makes scientists into technicians, instead of scientists.

My teen years were misspent. Most of what i read was pure escapism, without any regard to quality of the writing. It wasn’t so bad that i wasn’t reading proper “literature,” but to read entire series that bored me in the first place, instead of striking out in pursuit of new authors was hardheadedly conservative…. even cowardly.

How the hell did i read so much Piers Anthony? Actually, i suspect it was because it was one of the few recognizable, tolerated authors at the parish public library. For a long time in the ’80s, there was little more than stacks of series romances and westerns on spinners. It’s still unsettling. Of all of the crap that i’ve read, this stuff makes me want to cleanse myself in some way. I still have fond memories of reading the stories, but there will probably always be some shame in these memories.

From the age of eleven to twelve, i was more ambitious than i was to be for many years to come.  This is when i read a big hunk of Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, and waded through Moby-Dick with minimal comprehension. Wrestling with the problem of what went wrong, aside from the simple answer of puberty, hasn’t turned up anything. It wasn’t apparent until now that this was my main exposure to the American literature canon. The 20th century is still dead to me.