Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How To Be Really Alive!

Live juicy. 

Stamp out conformity. 

Stay in bed all day. 

Dream of gypsy wagons. 

Find snails making love.

Develop an astounding appetite for books.

Drink sunsets.

Draw out your feelings. 

Amaze yourself.

Be ridiculous.

Stop worrying now. If not now, then when?

Make yes your favorite word.

Marry yourself.

Dry your clothes in the sun.

Eat mangos naked.

Keep toys in the bathtub.

Spin yourself dizzy.

Hang upside down.

Watch children play.

Celebrate an old person.

Send a love letter to your self. 

Be advanced.

Try endearing.

Invent new ways to love.

Transform negatives.

Delight someone.

Wear pajamas to a drive in movie.

Allow yourself to feel rich without money.

Be who you truly are.

Believe in everything.

You are always on your way to a miracle.

The miracle is you!


Monday, September 20, 2010

The Shortest Story Ever Written

One of the writers I admire most is Augusto Monterroso. He was born in Guatemala in 1921 and died in Mexico City in 2003. Monterroso is often credited with writing the world's shortest story, "El Dinosaurio" ("The Dinosaur"), published in Obras completas (Y otros cuentos). The story reads, in its entirety:

Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.

"When [s]he awoke, the dinosaur was still there."

Carlos Fuentes wrote of Monterroso (referring specifically to The Black Sheep and Other Fables):

"Imagine Borges' fantastical bestiary having tea with Alice. Imagine Jonathan Swift and James Thurber exchanging notes. Imagine a frog from Calaveras County who has seriously read Mark Twain. Meet Monterroso." 

Another review online:

Occasionally one stumbles over a book, without expectations, and finds a small gem -- and wonders how it can have gone unnoticed so long. Monterroso is, of course, not unnoticed. Anyone who reads Spanish literature will be familiar with this influential (to say the least) Guatemalan author. The problem is that his work has not been sufficiently translated. This 1995 collection (combining two of his collections, published in Spanish in 1959 and 1972 respectively !) is only the second collection to appear in English.

Monterroso is the real deal. It is difficult to categorize him on the basis of this small amount of work, but his beautifully crafted stories, some only a line or paragraph in length are a revelation. His humor is on target and sharp, his inventions clever, his philosophy profound and generous. Comparisons to Borges and Calvino are not out of order. A master of detail, succinct and profound, and his work a simple, thought-provoking, multi-layered pleasure to read this author is one of the finer discoveries we have made in recent years.

An example, warily offered: the second half of the collection begins, in the story Flies, with the words: "There are three themes: love, death, and flies," a sentence more likely than it might sound at first reading -- and each further story then is offered with an epigraph in some way relating to flies. No, no King Lear -- instead: Wittgenstein, Weininger, Richard Burton (the real one, not him of Cleopatric fame), Cicero, Yeats and others are quoted.

His works in English can be found here:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lost, exhausted and no room for you!

After sleeping in the coziest, smallest room with the softest pillow, in a small hostel called Macondo, I feel like writing. I left bolivia 15 days ago  (written July of 2006) to travel for 2 months in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. I am falling in love with Latin America again. A year ago I was considering going back to the US and after much thinking I decided to go South instead of North. I am so glad I did! Ecuador has been simply awesome: walking the colonial narrow streets filled with magnificent buildings in Quito, while pouring rain fell on me! Exploring the deserted beaches of Galapagos where lazy sealions soak up the sun while the young ones swam up to our boat to greet us, playfully circling and jumping out of the water. Wandering around Guayaquil in the old barrio of Peñas I stumbled into the coolest eatery. A family began a business by literally opening their house to sell food, with children running around and a teen daughter with her boyfriend sitting on the steps chatting. I had a succulent rice/beans/steak dinner in their dining room while the mother watched her telenovela (soap opera). I love observing people wherever I go. The two 5-year old girls sitting on a balcony playing with their friends on the sidewalk. The lady surrounded by flowers wearing a white baseball hat selling roses in a corner street. The old man dancing in the park while a fireworks tower is lit up to celebrate la "cuencania".  As I observe others I also observe myself: my attitudes, my beliefs, my dreams. Yesterday when I arrived in Cuenca things were not going well. The hostel I wanted had no vacancy, the lunch I bought was tasteless, then I got lost carrying my heavy backpack in a hot day looking for another hostel. I was exhausted after a 4 hour bus ride and 2 hours looking for a place to stay. At some point walking down the street I said to myself: things will get better, just relax, this is part of the journey. I spotted an internet café and got online because I had gone to every hostel in my Lonely Planet and none had room.  After a quick search online I found Macondo. Macondo is a beautiful old mansion converted into hostel. I got the tiniest room you can imagine, but it had the best bed and pillow! The luscious garden was outside my window. I took a delicious nap and when I woke up I went out to wander the streets with new energies. I found a little mom and pop cafe where I had an amazing steak sandwich and yummy hot chocolate. As I walked back to the hostel I saw lots of people on the streets and I realized I had come to town during a major festival! In the main plaza a dangerously flimsy fireworks tower was the amusement of hundreds of people. A drunk dude danced and dodged the fireworks in the plaza making everyone laugh every time he almost got burned. The fireworks were humble but you could see the joy on people's face, especially the children. It was the perfect ending to a rough day. As I watched the kids run around, the people strolling and laughing, I was reminded of a vital lesson: when things get tough, keep a positive attitude, don’t quit, take a deep breath, keep going and you may find fireworks where you did not expect them.