Centenario de “Los de abajo”

On Friday, March 13, 2015, Rice University in Houston, TX is sponsoring an outstanding conference on the centennial of Mariano Azuela’s Los de abajo. It promises to be an outstanding event with some of the top scholars in contemporary Mexican literature.

Rice Azuela Conference

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FILEY 2013 – Una relectura de la literatura tijuanense desde el rock

Esta semana se celebró en Mérida la Feria Internacional de Lectura en Yucatán (FILEY) y, como parte del programa organizado por los UC-Mexicanistas, presenté la siguiente ponencia.

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Hace unos años recorría mustios anaqueles en las librerías de viejo ubicadas en Donceles, cerca del centro histórico en el Distrito Federal. Buscaba ejemplares de aquellos textos clásicos de la contracultura sesentera y setentera: De perfil y La nueva música clásica de José Agustín, Pasto verde y En la ruta de la Onda de Parménides García Saldaña, Las jiras y Huaraches de ante azul de Federico Arana. Encontré algunos, otros siguen evadiéndome y otros, para mí desconocidos en ese entonces, me encontraron gracias a las amistades: Polvos de la urbe de Víctor Roura, Bocafloja de Jordi Soler y la antología Crines del rock organizado por Carlos Chimal, además de varios libros de crónica y textos de corte histórico. Todo esto forma parte de un proyecto de libro que actualmente estoy elaborando sobre el rock en la literatura mexicana que abarcará la crítica de rock de Agustín, los cuentos de García Saldaña, la enciclopedia de Arana, la novela de Roura, las crónicas periodísticas e imaginadas de Juan Villoro y el performance paródicamente religioso de Luis Humberto Crosthwaite. Sigue el hilo de la historia nacional desde los inicios de la contracultura mexicana hasta las transformaciones políticas y sociales que aparecieron junto con el advenimiento del neoliberalismo y la transición hacia la democracia, desde Agustín y compañía hasta los jóvenes que han publicado obras roqueras en Tierra Adentro durante los últimos cinco años. Así el libro se propone leer (y releer) los nexos entre historia, literatura y música. Pero al ir armando el andamiaje de este libro, me surgió una duda. Con excepción de los cuentos y novelas del tijuanense Crosthwaite, casi todos los libros que había coleccionado provenían de autores nacidos y radicados en la ciudad capital. Es decir, además de faltar escritoras que se ocupan del rock (lo que a mi parecer constituye un verdadero lastre que felizmente corregiré si alguien me hará el favor de orientarme hacia alguna), el proyecto tal y como lo concebí desde un principio parecía reproducir la lógica centralista que privilegia la producción capitalina sobre la de las áreas limítrofes.  Continue reading FILEY 2013 – Una relectura de la literatura tijuanense desde el rock

Mexico City Blues: José Agustín

This talk was presented during the Hispanic Transatlantic Studies symposium that was organized by José Luis Venegas (WFU) and José María Rodríguez García (Duke U) on Wake Forest University campus in April 2012. My thanks to them and to the members of my panel: Manuel Gutiérrez (Rice U), Ignacio Sánchez Prado (Washington U), and Oswaldo Estrada (UNC Chapel Hill), as well as to all who came up afterwards to shoot the breeze about rock and roll.

Mexico City Blues: José Agustín and the New Classical Music of Counterculture

José Agustín (Cuautla, 1994) was Mexico’s original drooling fanatic, an elite category of music listener defined by Steve Almond as “wannabes, geeks, professional worshippers” who are driven by a Benjaminian compulsion for collecting new albums and a Pauline zeal for preaching the gospel of their musical preferences to other people whether they are interested or not.[i] At 23, having already established his credentials as a talented novelist, Agustín took a job writing three articles a week on music and literature for the cultural section of El Día. In so doing, he effectively became Mexico’s first authentic rock critic. While Agustín is most well-known for novels like La tumba, Del perfil, and Se está haciendo tarde (final en laguna), or short story collections like Inventando que sueño where adolescent characters filter their perceptions of urban experience through the lyrics of American and British music, this morning I want to address his nonfiction writing about rock ‘n’ roll. I have chosen this approach because critical appreciations of Agustín’s narrative works have almost universally used rock as a cypher for the holy trinity of 1960s counterculture—sex, drugs, and rock and roll—instead of studying his approach to music as an autonomous category of analysis which allows for the construction of an ideal space for reimagining Mexican culture.[ii] My study of Agustín’s rock journalism borrows from Paul Gilroy’s assertion that, because national culture and identity projects are oftentimes grounded in and constructed through the deployment of popular music and “the broader cultural and philosophical meanings that flow from its production, circulation and consumption, music is especially important in breaking the inertia that arises in the unhappy polar opposition between a squeamish, nationalist essentialism and a sceptical, saturnalian pluralism” (Gilroy 185). To this end, as Susan Manning and Andrew Taylor have suggested, we might appropriate a Deleuzian notion of the open-ended rhizome as the guiding principle for the study of transatlantic cultural transactions, as a place where lives and cultural elements flow across borders without necessarily adhering to the standard routes of trade and commerce that have shaped our understanding of the region. Such a perspective allows us to look beyond the traditional lines of cultural influence that flow back and forth across the Atlantic between Mexico and Spain in order to see other connections or to imagine a new series of spatial relationships that mediate cultural production, diffusion, influence, and reception in the Mexico. Continue reading Mexico City Blues: José Agustín

Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction

I am pleased to announce that this month my book, Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction, will be available for purchase through Amazon and Palgrave. Here is the blurb:

Cult of Defeat in Mexico’s Historical Fiction: Failure, Trauma, and Loss examines recent Mexican historical novels that highlight the mistakes of the nineteenth century for the purpose of responding to present crises. Over the last twenty years, historical novels have become a mainstay for major presses, surpassing other fictional genres in publication and sales. As these bestsellers enter the public sphere, they engage in a massive rewrite of the country’s guiding fictions and national myths. This book argues that historical reconstructions of the nation’s foundational period acquire deeper meaning when understood as part of broad contemporary debates about globalization, neoliberalism, political legitimacy, and the crises afflicting Mexican communities today.

And for everyone itching to see what’s inside, here is the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: The Stellar Moments of Mexican History and the Rhetoric of Failure
  • Chapter 1 – A Mexican Comedy of Errors in Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s Self-Correcting Independence History
  • Chapter 2 – Cross-Dressing the Second Empire in Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del imperio
  • Chapter 3 – The Voices of the Master in Enrique Serna’s El seductor de la patria
  • Chapter 4 – Paralysis and Redemption in Three Novels about the Mexican-American War
  • Conclusion: Bicentennial Reflections on Failure

Maldonado: Temporada de caza para el león negro

maldonado_temporada

This is Tryno Maldonado’s latest offering and the only way I can deal with it is in terms of comparisons. In the spirit of complete honesty, I must admit that I like all my benchmarks more than this novel. In some ways, Temporada reminds me of a VH1 “Behind the Music” episode–the story of an artist whose fame carries him to the height of success before beginning the long, downward spiral into self-destructive behavior–but without the upturn at the end. Same thing goes for Luis Humberto Crosthwaite’s Idos de la mente, except Crosthwaite’s book is more entertaining and there is a relatively happy, corrido-esque ending. If Maldonado was hoping for biting commentary about the vacuity of nouveau rich investors in Mexico’s plastic arts scene, he came up short of Álvaro Enrigue’s Muerte de un instalador, a novel that I’m only lukewarm about, but found more interesting and well-written. That said, Álvaro’s later books have been thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the read, especially Hipotermia. If, on the other hand, the goal was to satirize the artistic circles, Enrique Serna’s Miedo a los animales has more bite. On the upside, some of the supporting characters–Orlando and Nostalgic Zebra–are at least entertaining.

El arte de la ironía: Carlos Monsiváis ante la crítica

monsivais_ante-la-critica Here is my review of El arte de la ironía: Carlos Monsiváis ante la crítica, which will be appearing in the Revista de Estudios Hispánicos.

Moraña, Mabel and Ignacio Sánchez Prado, eds. El arte de la ironía: Carlos Monsiváis ante la crítica. Mexico: Ediciones Era and UNAM, 2007. pp. 445.

From Someone to Nothing and Back Again: El arte de la ironía: Carlos Monsiváis ante la crítica

Jorge Luis Borges observed that in the beginning Elohim was a concrete, corporeal entity given to fits of anger and remorse. As the worship of this deity became institutional, however, his qualities were lost in a flurry of all-encompassing adjectives: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. The result was that God became “un respetable caos de superlativos no imaginables.” This, in many ways, is exactly what has occurred with Carlos Monsiváis. His texts are taken as gospel, his image is evoked in messianic ways, and his name is referenced as an unimpeachable authority. He is Mexico’s cultural lawgiver, his words etched in stone tablets by the almighty hand of the divine. As Christopher Domínguez Michael puts it, “La omnipresencia de Monsiváis en la vida política, cultural y literaria de México durante buena parte del último siglo lo ha convertido, dada la extrema originalidad de una figura tan poderosa como esquiva, en un gran desconocido.” Monsiváis, it would appear, has transcended the boundaries of mortality and taken his seat among the immortals.

Continue reading El arte de la ironía: Carlos Monsiváis ante la crítica