Carboneras' “Book People”

Lately I've talked more about "society" than "literature" here, but in fact in Carboneras we do more literature than social agitation. Spurred on by actor-playwright Antonio Rodríguez Menéndez, 30 or more people in town have joined his "Fahrenheit 451/Personas Libro" project, learning texts (all in Spanish) and delivering them before audiences with voice and gesture. It's great fun, and I think we're all getting better. So far, my texts have been by Neruda, Juan Gelman, and Heberto Padilla, and from the other participants I've become acquainted with a dozen other poets and prose writers. This Saturday our group will be part of a festival celebrating cultural diversity in Almería (capital of the province), where I'll be doing another piece by Gelman: Medidas.

And now, as an offshoot of that Spanish-language project, some of the English-speakers in town have formed our own "Book Person" club. Our aim is to meet once a month (the last Friday), each of us with a new text prepared (memorized and rehearsed) to present. Tomorrow will be our 3rd gathering. Here are some of the pieces performed last month (presenter in parentheses):

The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear (sung, beautifully, by Jeanne Durban Taylor)
The book has been man's greatest triumph, by Louis L'Amour (Pamela Ravander)
Daffodils, by William Wordsworth (Hazel Jones)
Death in Leamington, by John Betjeman (John Taylor)
Loveliest of trees, by A. E. Housman (David Jones)
Frustration, by Dorothy Parker (Susana Torre)
The Makers, by Howard Nemerov (Geoffrey Fox)

Photo, Inma Caparrós: Larry, Jeanne and Hazel listen as David Jones interprets A. E. Housman's “Loveliest of Trees”.


Atheism? Why bother?

An article in New York Magazine, If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House?, reminds me of why I'm so much more comfortable outside the U.S., a land where non-belief is considered so odd it has to be defended. Here in Spain, non-belief isn't a movement, it's simply a very common reaction to the excesses of the Church (or of any church, mosque, synagogue, etc.). Which doesn't prevent Spanish nonbelievers from participating in Church ritual sometimes (weddings, processions), as community and folkloric events. That is, your neighbors may expect you to participate, but they don't really expect you to believe all that stuff and probably don't themselves. Maybe if I were a Spaniard I would feel more oppressed by the wild pronouncements and silly costumes of the Spanish clergy. But I'm not, and their shenanigans strike me as just strange, distant and sometimes amusing. I suppose each of us is most vulnerable to criticism from his/her own native community. It's the pervasive belief in spirits in the U.S. that gets me spooked.


American values: European?

According to an April 17 news item in La Voz de Aztlán in Arizona (U.S.A.), Arizona legislation will outlaw MEChA and Mexican-American studies: »The anti-Mexican provisions to SB1108 were approved yesterday and the bill is now scheduled for a vote by the full House. The provisions would withhold funding to schools whose courses “denigrate American values and the teachings of European based civilization.”»

American values? Don't those include “A decent respect for the opinions of mankind,” “E pluribus unum,” and a welcoming beacon to the world's “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? I wonder which of these values the bill's sponsor, Rep. Russell Pearce, thinks that MEChA is denigrating.

As for “the teachings of European-based civilization,” Mr. Pearce should take another look at U.S. census figures, or if he is including consumer practices in “civilization,” where our manufactured goods are coming from.

Meanwhile, the Pope is addressing U.S. audiences in Congress and the U.N. in Spanish. Nothing more European than Catholicism or the language of Cervantes, but I don't think that's what Mr. Pearce had in mind.