The Author's Guild just sent me a request to join The Authors Legacy Society, i.e., to remember the Guild in my will. That reminds me of when I was working with the indefatigable Sandy Levinson in the Center for Cuban Studies, where she too thought legacies would be a dandy way to raise funds. But she wouldn't let me send out the follow-up letter I drafted: "Dear supporter of the Center for Cuban Studies: If you have remembered the Center in your will, have you considered the advantages of an early demise?"

I'm still working on creating another kind of legacy, in words. And I've decided against an early demise.


Recent reading
I just finished reading "the greatest international success of the Spanish novel" which is now (just since 2002) in its 39th edition. It's awful, as Spanish critics have been quick to point out. Spanish readers, however, love it. For my detailed critique (in Spanish), click on Ruiz Zafón, Carlos. La sombra del viento. Characters are one-dimensional, save one -- Fermín Romero de Torres, a marvelous comic creation -- and the spooky plot is ridiculously complicated and utterly implausible. The truly evil bad-guy and the crazy failed novelist trying to destroy his own books become less and less interesting as you get to know them, until finally you (or at least I) don't care much what happens to them. Except for the puzzle interest, which must be why the goofy mystery kept me turning the pages. Apart from Fermín and his hilarious monologues -- imagine a Catalonian Cantínflas -- the other thing I liked was the evocation of Barcelona in the early, fear-saturated years of Franco's rule. Coincidentally, Alex Cockburn's essay in the current Nation, written from Barcelona, also discusses the notorious prison-castle of Montjuic, which figures large in this novel.


Peeking out from my hedge
On Thursday I went off to hear a panel at the New School on "DEFINING THE NEW MAINSTREAM: THE GROWING INFLUENCE OF LATINOS IN AMERICA," to see old friends -- Univisión anchor Jorge Ramos and Lorraine Cortés Vázquez, both of whom I'd interviewed, and others -- and to see if there was anything new to say on the subject since my 1996 book, Hispanic Nation. Not really. Guy Garcia, author of The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer is Transforming American Business, made the same points I had eight years ago.There are now more Latinos in the US -- over 40 million, according to García -- and consequently more buying and potentially more voting power. But there still is no unified "Hispanic agenda," and not likely to be one. Hispanics biggest contribution to the U.S. culture is making our old black-white racial distinctions obsolete. Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Raul Yzaguirre were the other speakers. Yzaguirre -- a generous, plain-speaking, common-sensical man -- got a huge standing ovation when we were reminded that just that day he was retiring after 30 years as President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. Good man.

The other event was Friday, and it was truly beautiful: a graduation ceremony in a Mexican restaurant for a dozen or so workers, members of various unions (DC 37 was prominent among them), who had taken a writing course offered for free by my colleague Tim Sheard of our New York Chapter of the National Writers Union. Tim is a crime mystery novelist, nurse, and dedicated union man. The group included people whose first language was Polish, Chinese or something else, as well as several native-born Americans, all people who have stories the needed to tell, and now they have begun to tell them in well-crafted English. And they are published! Tim arranged for the printing of a little book of their collected works. It was a very happy moment for everybody.