Monday, February 14, 2005

From The Sublime To The Ridiculous

The Most Influential Book Written By A Mexican?

Could it be Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo? The book was published in 1955 so the 50th anniversary may be the appropriate time to consider this book’s power over readers and writers. Both the book and the author are legends. There are several excellent Internet sites about Rulfo; a quick google on his name will bring up some great material. For example:

this one (Spanish)

or this one.

A few interesting facts:

Rulfo’s reputation is built on only two books: El llano en llamas (1953, The Burning Plain), a collection of short stories, which included Tell Them Not to Kill Me!, and the novel Pedro Páramo. He also wrote several TV scripts and movie screenplays including the classic El Gallo De Oro that starred Lucha Villa and Ignacio López Tarso.

Lesser known are his photographs. Here’s one review of the book of his photographs that Carlos Fuentes helped put together: “The photographs, mainly taken between 1945 and 1955, do not tell stories: they present. The images of people and their land, women in their traditional dress, musicians with their instruments, capture the calm, quiet, inner rhythms of Mexico's rural population. Rulfo extracts unique moments through his photographs; his images of desolate, abandoned buildings, their walls destroyed by artillery shells, are expressions of his nation's painful history. His quietly dramatic landscapes recall the work of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston while displaying a style that is truly his own.”

Pedro Páramo is considered one of the foundational classics of magic realism, predating One Hundred Years of Solitude by more than a decade. Gabriel García Márquez relates in his memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, how he memorized and could recite the text of Pedro Páramo at will.

My questions for readers of this blog:

Where do you place Rulfo in the pantheon of writers?

The dreamy (or nightmarish) quality of Pedro Páramo certainly struck a chord with Mexicans- how about Chicanos? Is it too much to say that Tomás Rivera is Rulfo’s direct literary descendant on this side of the border?

Is Rulfo’s book an essential expression of Mexican-ness? Octavio Paz said that Rulfo is “the only Mexican novelist to have provided us an image, rather than a mere description, of our physical surroundings.”

Cheech and Chong Reunion And A New Movie

Cheech and Chong appeared together on stage for the first time in 20 years at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen on February 10. They apparently were a big hit and the big news from the reunion was that they are planning a new movie, tentatively titled Cheech and Chong Get Blunt or maybe Grumpy Old Stoners. One possible script for the project was written by Tommy Chong’s daughter, Rae Dawn Chong.

Man, these guys used to make me laugh until I had tears in my eyes. Back when, a great night of entertainment could mean listening to one of their albums, then a little bit of Santana, then a little bit of Cheech and Chong, then a little bit of Santana, then a little bit of ....

Meanwhile, this piece of news about Cheech from Westword:

Leaving Aztlán. The Center for Visual Art in LoDo (Denver) is presenting the provocative show Leaving Aztlán: Rethinking Contemporary Latino and Chicano Art. The show examines new trends being embraced by Latino and Chicano artists -- and by Latinas and Chicanas -- and in the process explores the convoluted relationships between art and ethnicity. Ten years ago this would have been an overtly political show, but now, although politics are still in the mix, there are also many pieces that express cutting-edge aesthetic theories. Artists from across the country -- including Jesse Amado, Connie Arismendi, Javier Carmona, Alex Donis, Diana Guerrero-Mácia, John Hernandez, Benito Huerta, Chuck Ramirez, Juan Ramos and Rubén Ortiz Torres -- were selected, but Johnson also chose two local talents, Carlos Frésquez and Maria Michelle Gonzalez. A reception for the artists, curator Johnson and collector Cheech Marin is scheduled for February 24 from 6 to 9 pm. Through April 23 at the Center for Visual Art, 1734 Wazee Street, 303-294-5207.

Comic, actor, art collector, Chicano icon. ¿A real vato loco, no?

Manuel Ramos