Great News for Colombian Literature

tomas gonzalez

Stop what you are doing and read this name very slowly: Tomás González. It is the sound of the future of Colombian literature.

Mr. González’s first novel, “In the Beginning Was the Sea,” recently translated into English, was shortlisted for The Independent’s 2015 foreign fiction prize. The Independent is one of Britain’s premier newspapers.

Heavyweights such as Haruki Murakami, Jenny Erpenbeck and Erwin Mortier are also on the list.

The only book I’ve read by González is “La luz difícil,” which I consumed overnight.  I cannot wait to read “In the Beginning was the Sea,” or “Primero estaba el mar,” which was first published by the owner of the Bogotá nightclub were González once worked as a bartender.

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La librería que recomendaste

Abierta a las 7 y 25 de la noche

Lunes

Mucha luz y 0 ruido, 2 libros de brujería moderna

Lunes

1 de pensamiento árabe, todos 3 en rebaja

Lunes

8 días después de dejarme un

Domingo

Después de 2 noches

Domingo

Los 2 creyendo que llamarías

Martes

1 noche a

Miércoles

Crear 1 noche

Jueves

Para sumar a las 2 noches

Viernes

Abierta tu librería a las 7 y 25

Lunes

Luz, 0 ruido, 3 libros

Lunes

2 noches, un

Lunes

0

ruido

***

This post is from my book “Entre domingo y domingo,” from which I’ll be reading tonight from 7-9pm at the Arts Center, 800 Lincoln Road, Miami. Hope to see you there!

Miamians, Come See Me Try to Verse

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For those of you who live and breed in Miami, or happen to be in the area, consider stopping by the Art Center at Lincoln Road this Friday April 17th from 7-9pm, where I will be reading a few poems as part of the O’Miami Poetry Festival.

The event is also the official release party of Jai Alai Literary Magazine’s latest issue. Plenty of other writers will also share their work.

It is open to all and will be sponsored by Cigar City Brewing. So, the worst that can happen is you’ll have a free beer on a Friday night.

History’s Best Blue

art painting color

“Seal” by Morris Louis, from The Phillips Collection

This post has nothing to do with books. It is just about the color blue.

Over the course of two days in DC, I visited two museums dedicated to Modern Art. One is the Philips Collection, which claims to be the first modern art museum in the country. The other is the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing.

Like never before, I was struck by how much Modern Art is about color – our construction of it, our emotional experience of it, our understanding of it, and lack thereof. Somewhere, I’d heard that before but had never actually felt it.

Picasso's The Blue Room

So much longing in Picasso’s “The Blue Room.” Also from The Phillips Collection.

 

The Philips Collection houses room upon room of stunning works curated to reflect subject matter and evolving style, not always chronology. There is so much blue on its walls. Kandinsky blue, Marc blue, Picasso blue, Van Gogh blue, O’Keefe blue, Hopper blue, Louis blue, Chagall blue, Gaugin blue, Matisse blue.

And Rothko blue. Is there anything more heart-wrenching than Rothko’s stormy blue?

O'Keeffe's "Jack in the Pulpit"

O’Keeffe’s “Jack in the Pulpit” from an exhibition at The Phillips Collection.

This museum actually has a small, specially commissioned Rothko room filled with the artist’s large-scale paintings. Each piece has three, four uneven blocks of color. Nothing else. But it manages to be a very sad place. One piece, a combination of blush, navy and mustard, is particularly devastating.

As the Gallery’s East Wing was under extensive renovations my husband and I popped into the more classical West Wing, where key pieces from the East Wing were on display. Here we saw Johns blue, LeWitt blue, Mondrian blue, Calder blue, even some more Rothko blue.

Calder's "Black Camel with Blue Head and Red Tongue" from The National Gallery

Calder’s “Black Camel with Blue Head and Red Tongue” from The National Gallery

After two days of blue immersion, I was ready to go home convinced of blue’s unique advantages as a color. 150 years of Modern Art confirmed how effective blue is at making us empathize with a canvas or sculpture.

Then, on our way out, we passed an exhibit of Italian Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo. The mostly earth-toned, religious tableaus were brought to life by carefully placed doses of Aegean azure, more dazzling than any shade of blue mixed on a modern palette.

art painting culture

di Cosimo’s “The Visitation of St Nicholas and St Anthony Abbot”

I suddenly realized that modernity’s exploration of blue merely continues the work of the Renaissance masters. Although I visited the Vatican many years ago, I remember a few things with clarity – Michelangelo blue, Raphael blue, and the purgatorial duration of the tour.

This outtake from Raphael's "School of Athens" shows Diogenes philosophizing at ease.

This outtake from Raphael’s “School of Athens” shows Diogenes philosophizing at ease.

In Medieval art, blue is used to signal the main, most holy characters in a painting. The Virgin Mary is usually cloaked in blue, as is baby Jesus, because the color is symbolic of heaven, of the divine.

Though the use of blue in Modern Art might not seek to reflect the realm of the heavenly,  it certainly acknowledges the color’s ability to connect us with something higher. Why blue can do this remains an interesting question. Perhaps it has to do with the sky’s hue. But then, why, ultimately, is the sky blue? Refracted light aside, someone had to have made that choice.

An untitled piece by Mark Rothko on display at The National Gallery of Art

An untitled piece by Mark Rothko on The National Gallery of Art’s ample collection.

In closing, I wanted to give a shout out to museums. They are the internet, before the internet. How else could we witness centuries’ worth of painted blue in a single day? History fades if it is not recorded and revisited. Thank you, museums for recording history in a way that is fun to revisit and for making sure that our kids’ visual intelligence won’t be nourished solely by disposable Instagram feeds.

art matisse interior with egyptian curtain

The exterior certainly looks nice in Matisse’s “Interior with Egyptian Curtain.”

 

Irreverence is Worth Dying For, Vargas Llosa

  

I recently attended a lecture by Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. He spoke about how the world is getting to be a better place, slowly. One of the reasons for this is the gradual spread of freedom. 

Although he only mentioned the shootings at Charlie Hebdo briefly, he said something that has stayed with me since. Irreverence, according to the writer, is a freedom that humanity has fought long and hard to win. The right to make fun of our rulers, religions and rituals must be both inseparable from free speech and absolute. It is also worth the fight. 

Pope Francis might not agree with someone’s desire to irrespect the Catholic Church or his mother, but if he intends to be history’s first truly modern pope, he must defend people’s right to do so. 

The book cover above is dangerously irreverent. No doubt the publisher had to consult the in-house lawyer, big boss and marketing team prior to printing it. But stumbling across its genius reworking of a staid symbol woke up my lazy Sunday brain. 

That’s another thing about irreverence. It can make us think, even without giving it too much thought .