September 11, 2011

Today, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack upon our country, is a somber one for many. Agree or disagree with the war which we are waging upon the Middle East, I think most would say that it was a visceral statement upon American values, policies, and actions on the international stage. However, you choose to remember, or not remember, this day keep in mind that the infamous date of September 11 has an American history older than ten years—and the pain is not just ours.


So we set out, with cameras at the ready, for New York, another city of my dreams assaulted on another September 11, again a Tuesday morning when fire fell from the sky. Though by 2001 very few people in the world recalled the existence of that remote Chilean date, I was besieged by the need to extract some hidden meaning behind the juxtaposition and coincidence of those twinned episodes bequeathed to me by the malignant gods of random history. There was something horribly familiar in that experience of disaster, confirmed during my visit to the ruins where the twin towers had once reached for the sky.

What I recognized was a parallel suffering, a disorientation that echoed what we had lived through in Chile. Its most turbulent incarnation was the hundreds of relatives roaming the streets of New York after 9/11, clutching photographs of sons, fathers, lovers, daughters, husbands, begging for information, are they alive, are they dead?, every citizen of the United States forced to look into the chasm of what it means to be desaparecido, with no certainty or funeral possible for those who are missing. The photographs were still there in 2006, pinned on the wires separating the ogling spectators from the abyss, encouraging me to use the unique perspective of my own life to forge a message to the citizens of America lost in a labyrinth of pain.

Call it a gift from Chile to the nation that did so much to destroy our democracy, the nation that was also mine, the America where I thrive and teach and write, where my grand daughters, my Isabella and my Catalina will grow.

We Americans – yes, we – received that day all of a sudden the curse and blessing of being able to look at ourselves in a way habitually denied to most of our citizens, the chance to distressingly imagine ourselves as part of the rest of humanity. Never before had they – yes, they – been ripped apart to this degree by the ravages of guilt and rage, the difficulties of memory and forgiveness, the uses and abuses of power, the true meaning of freedom and responsibility. And consequently never were Americans more tempted to apply amnesia to their yesterdays and innocence to their tomorrows, never was it more perilous and easier to sweetly, vindictively rid themselves of the complexity and contradictions of their newly naked predicament.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, is it?

Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
Here we go, into the heart of book festival season. Be sure to check this section each week because for three months this list is going to be extensive.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Site: Renaissance St. Louis Grand
Festival: Bouchercon
Date: September 15-18
Mystery fans, unite! Ove rthis convention, which is packed full of fun and events. Included are a massive number of authors and attendees, both a live and a silient charity auction, and a bowling tournament (all benefitingt the St. Louis County Library System), live music, and Spotlight Interviews with Robert Crais, Charlaine Harris, Colin Cotterill, Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, Kate Stine, Brian Skupin, Robert Randisi, John Lutz, Ridley Pearson, the Shamus Awards Banquet, and a huge array of panels.

Location: Boxborough, Massachusetts
Site: Holiday Inn’s Grand Ballroom
Festival: Paper Town
Date: September 17
From 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, attendees can browse and buy vintage paper (rare and unusual books, maps, autographs, prints, and other paper ephemera). Adult admission is $6.

Location: Sacramento, California
Site: Scottish Rite Temple
Festival: Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair
Date: September 17
More than fifty exhibitors will be there offering thousands of rare and collectible books, maps, photos, postcards and other ephemeral items from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is only $5 (subtract $1 if you mention you saw their website), and in addition to the browsing opportunties there will also be free appraisals.

Location: Brooklyn, New York
Site: Brooklyn Borough Hall
Festival: Brooklyn Book Festival
Date: September 18
A wide range of authors, including Larry McMurtry, Terry McMillan, Jennifer Egan, John Sayles, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Jhumpa Lahiri, and many more will fill the literary bill at this sparkling literay event. Hours are 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Location: San Luis Obispo, California
Site: Mission Plaza
Festival: Central Coast Book Festival
Date: September 18
As a benefit for the San Luis Obispo County Public Libraries, this festival along with a Pancake BookFest and Art of the Book Show and Sale, promises to make the entire day a lot of fun. The breakfast runs from 9:00-11:00, and the festival and show/sale from 10:00 to 4:00. In addition, there will be a special, and free, Evening with Jerry Scott.

Location: Fairfax, Virginia
Site: George Mason University + various venues in northern Virginia, D.C., and Maryland
Festival: Fall for the Book Festival
Date: September 18-23
Six full days of literary events including the appearance of 150 authors, panel presentations, readings, interviews, talks, the Fairfax Prize and Busboys & Poets award presentations, writing workshops for students, dance, storytelling, skits,  Free Book Friday, and the specials: A Night at the Movies and An Evening of Mystery.

Pub House:
Texas Review Press, founded in 1976, publishes “the very best fiction, poetry, scholarship, review, and creative nonfiction available.” Contrary to what you might think, it does not focus on Texas-themed books. Instead, you’ll find new and upcoming books like Rivers Last Longer (#1) described as a “suspenseful psychological thriller” told from multiple points of view and based in the New York literary, art, and film worlds. For Kerouac fans, Degenerate (#4) should be a fine follow-up since it is described as a “comedy of revenge and satire about Los Angeles . . . at turns lyrical, hilarious and breathtaking.” In their catalogue of previous years’ books, you’ll find for 2009, A Week on the Chunky and Chickasawhay (#4), a nonfiction tale of a solo canoe journey down two creeks in eastern Mississippi in which the author recounts his adventures, the area history, and his thoughts “pertaining to the god of that day.”

Imaging Books & Reading:
When booklovers marry, could there be more appropriate decorations than these?

Of Interest:
Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary: Children’s Books and Graphic Art is part of the exhibition at the University of Chicago Library, but also online. The library’s Special Collections Research Center has more than 400 books which show the importance of children’s books to the Soviet image culture that was based on then-current new media technologies. “They cover a crucial period, from the beginning of Stalin’s Great Breakthrough in 1928 to the re-construction and re-grouping that followed the Great Patriotic War, as the Soviets called World War II,” the home page notes. “As these works show vividly, there was no ideologically neutral space in the rich and vibrant world of the Soviet imagination. By the same token, though, there was no zone of Soviet life free of the image.”

Use the list on the left side of the home page to scroll through the exhibit. While much has been written about English language children’s books, this is a unique opportunity to learn about those of the Soviet Union during a time when the country’s leaders were desperate to shape their internal cultural image into that of a sophisticated, powerful force.

Until next week, read well, read often and read on!




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