Playboy Magazine & Gabriel García Márquez interview

I’ve returned to rereading some Márquez classics.   Can’t forget the quality of his writing and fine imagination as he leads into the other world. rŌbert

 

 

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POR ·@TOBALVASQUEZ · EN AGOSTO 25, 2014

“An interview is like theater backwards: the interview is the performance and then you write the play.” Claudia Dreifus.

Months before receiving the literature Nobel Prize in 1982, Gabriel García Márquez welcomed Claudia Dreifus in his house at Montparnasse, Paris. Dreifus, currently a New York Times journalist achieved one of the most memorable interviews with García Márquez while working for Playboy Magazine.

The interview came out in February 1983 after a several months of polemic delay from Playboy Magazine that postponed its publishing until the Nobel Prize was awarded.

Credit- Biografías y Vidas

Why do an interview with Garcia Márquez for Playboy?

For much of the 60’s through the 80’s and into de the 90’s, the Playboy interview was the premier interview in the journalistic world. There was more space to develop the form and it became an art form in and of it self. So to be in Playboy Magazine gave you both the room and the money to do things you couldn’t do anywhere else in journalism. All the important people of the time would sit for the Playboy interview. It was like a ritual. Adding to that, the people who wrote the Playboy interviews was a very elite group, some of the greatest interviewers and writers. So I was really fortunate to be among them.

How was the process of getting the interview, how did you managed convinced him?

I had done a Playboy interview with the film actor, Donald Sutherland. It was a terrific interview and then the magazine said to me, «who do you want to interview next?» I had been reading a One Hundred Years of Solitude and while having lunch with a friend we talked about it and I decided to add him to the list of people I was going to suggest. There were some movie stars, rock signers, and there was Gabo (Gabriel Garcia Márquez). When I suggested his name my editors said, «see if you can do it.»

I didn’t know anybody who knew Gabo, but I new somebody who knew his translator, Gregory Rebassa. And you always need, as I say to my students, a rabbi to connect you with the person you are looking for. It was known that he was elusive; that he didn’t give many interviews and that he was in a State Department list that made it very difficult for him to travel to the US. So I took his translator for lunch and we talked about the topics of the interview, which were his literature, the emerging Latin American literature and it’s discovery by the rest of the world.

Just by chance, for some fluky reason, Gabo came to New York and Gregory Rebassa called me and said, «you can get him on the phone.» I reached him in his hotel using a payphone –because at that time there were no cellphones. Rebassa had spoken to him about me. I think he wanted to figure out if I was worthy. Among the things we talked, he said he didn’t wanted to do the interview in English because he didn’t felt confortable enough.

Photograph: Atonatiuh-BrachoViva-Photography

So you told him you knew French?

(laughts) Not really. He asked if I know Spanish and I said no. Then he asked, “well what do you speak, besides English?” I said, “German…” and we both laughed. He said that this was beginning to sound like a Dos Passos novel. So we agreed that I would come to Paris and after eight weeks of studying as if I was studying for a doctoral degree, I met him in the french capital with my interpreter.

Were you able to see him during intimate moments or share time with his family?

He came to my hotel the first day and we talked for several hours. Then he invited us for lunch and he talked about how he knew everything about food and how you couldn’t get a bad meal in Paris. Nothing had been open so we finally ended up in one of these cafes where Sartre and De Beauvoir used to go, but it was the most atrocious and disgusting food. He had managed to find the one bad restaurant in Paris.

Did you tell him that after?

I think we all make jokes about it, but he wasn’t all that funny, which also surprised me. I found him very serious as many funny people are. People read One Hundred Years of Solitude and find it funny and charming, but he was actually very somber. So I tried to lighten the interview up and one day I went out and I bought very expensive truffles from the best truffle maker in Paris. A huge box wrapped in a pink satin ribbon and I said, “in One Hundred years of Solitude there is a priest that levitates with chocolate. Let’s see if this could make this interview levitate.” He took the box, threw it in a corner and said, “it only works with liquid chocolate, as it was written on the book.”

Was there any moment when he opened himself up to you?

He opened himself up pretty much throughout the interview. He said his son had asked him to do the Playboy interview. He told me the background of every story in One Hundred Years of Solitude–all the real stories behind the mythical ones. One of the things he told me is that among his friends he was the most practical person, and that he also possessed almost clairvoyance of accidents and bad things happening around him. As he was telling me this, a painting fell to the floor.  I asked him if he predicted that, and he said, “no, that is just an accident.

You make reference in your interview to his close relationship with Panamanian dictator, Omar Torrijos and Fidel Castro.  Where you able to identify the obsession, some have said, that he had for power?

I think he was interested in the powerful and their impact in Latin America. Like many Latin-American writers, he wrote at least one novel about a dictator. That seemed to be a ritual. But I didn’t particularly feel that. I think he was very confident in his skills as a writer. One Hundred Years of Solitude is probably the greatest piece of Spanish literature since Cervantes.

What he did was powerful in a different sense: he told the Latin American story in Latin American terms as an insider.

Now you ask about his friendships. I don’t know how genuine it was when he said that his friendship with Castro was just personal. Castro is an interesting person, so he might have found him intriguing. They were just a bunch of great guys who liked each other. Although, let me add the term great guys in quotes, I mean they had like guy friendships and they must of been very interesting to each other. But I don’t think it was because he was that interested in power perse.

Gabo once asked the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, if journalism was the way to connect writers back to reality. You mention in your interview that Garcia Márquez’s goal was to find a connection between journalism and literature. Do you think that is what differentiated him from other writers of his time?

He would take reality and just move it one step into outer space. He just moved reality a little, but in a very believable way so you believed that butterflies entered the room every time people were in love. What he would do is tell amazing things that you wouldn’t quite believe but he would tell them with such a straight face that you would.

Photograph: Topham/AP

In past interviews Gabo mentions that love drove his desire to write. Where you able to identify this in your interview?

Yes, he ended the interview that way and he certainly was loved. People all over the world loved him and felt One Hundred Years of Solitude was their own story. Koreans and Japanese would find it fascinating because there was a kind of universality to the family story. People see their own families in his characters. He changed our perception of Latin American Literature and opened the way for other Latin American literature to develop. He certainly paved the way to people like Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes. It’s not that these writers didn’t have readers in their own countries; it’s just that people through Europe and the United Stares began looking at Latin America with literary respect and fascination after Gabriel García Márquez.

I had a professor who said once that Gabo received the Novel Price because he described a culture. Do you think this is true?

I think he just moved the entire culture forward, and he created great literature about a culture. A lot of the literature in the developing world had difficulties being seen and appreciated in the developed world. He brought Latin America to everyone.  So I don’t think he got the Nobel Prize for that reason. I think he had the Nobel because he was a great artist and his literature needed recognition.

Gabo said once that to be a good writer you have to be a good journalist. To be a good journalist do you need to be a good writer?

No, the opposite isn’t true. I think that to be a good novelist, whatever you write has to be believable, unless you are a non-fiction novelist. To be a good journalist you have to be factual, truthful, reliable, observant and good writer. That’s a lot. I think it might even be harder than being a writer because you have to make it all work and you can’t adjust reality a little bit.

Many compare you with Oriana Fallaci, who was considered one of the greatest interviewers of the last century. Can you share with us some secrets about your interviewing techniques?

I compensate with my shyness by being extremely well prepared in my interviews, and I advice anybody to do the same. Then I kind of let go improvising from the basis of being well prepared. The other thing is that I chose my interview subjects very well. I don’t interview just anybody simply because they are famous or powerful, I interview them because I sense they are good storytellers.

Claudia-DreifusClaudia Dreifus is a journalist, educator and lecturer, producer of the weekly feature “Conversation with…” of the Science Section of the New York Times, and known for her interviews with leading figures in world politics and science. She recently published “Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It”

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Gabriel García Márquez

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Swedish Academy
The Permanent Secretary

Press release

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982

With this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature to the Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez, the Swedish Academy cannot be said to bring forward an unknown writer.

García Márquez achieved unusual international success as a writer with his novel in 1967 (One Hundred Years of Solitude). The novel has been translated into a large number of languages and has sold millions of copies. It is still being reprinted and read with undiminished interest by new readers. Such a success with a single book could be fatal for a writer with less resources than those possessed by García Márquez. He has, however, gradually confirmed his position as a rare storyteller, richly endowed with a material from imagination and experience which seems inexhaustible. In breadth and epic richness, for instance, the novel, El otoño del patriarca, 1975, (The Autumn of the Patriarch) compares favourably with the first-mentioned work. Short novels such as El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, 1961 (No One Writes to the Colonel), La mala hora, 1962 (In Evil Hour), or last year’s Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold), complement the picture of a writer who combines the copious, almost overwhelming narrative talent with the mastery of the conscious, disciplined and widely read artist of language. A large number of short stories, published in several collections or in magazines, give further proof of the great versatility of García Márquez’s narrative gift. His international successes have continued. Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance, translated into many languages and published as quickly as possible in large editions.

Nor can it be said that any unknown literary continent or province is brought to light with the prize to Gabriel García Márquez. For a long time, Latin American literature has shown a vigour as in few other literary spheres, having won acclaim in the cultural life of today. Many impulses and traditions cross each other. Folk culture, including oral storytelling, reminiscences from old Indian culture, currents from Spanish baroque in different epochs, influences from European surrealism and other modernism are blended into a spiced and life-giving brew from which García Márquez and other Spanish-American writers derive material and inspiration. The violent conflicts of a political nature – social and economic – raise the temperature of the intellectual climate. Like most of the other important writers in the Latin American world, García Márquez is strongly committed, politically, on the side of the poor and the weak against domestic oppression and foreign economic exploitation. Apart from his fictional production, he has been very active as a journalist, his writings being many-sided, inventive, often, provocative, and by no means limited to political subjects.

The great novels remind one of William Faulkner. García Márquez has created a world of his own around the imaginary town of Macondo. Since the end of the 1940s his novels and short stories have led us into this peculiar place where the miraculous and the real converge – the extravagant flight of his own fantasy, traditional folk tales and facts, literary allusions, tangible, at times, obtrusively graphic, descriptions approaching the matter-of-factness of reportage. As with Faulkner, or why not Balzac, the same chief characters and minor persons crop up in different stories, brought forward into the light in various ways – sometimes in dramatically revealing situations, sometimes in comic and grotesque complications of a kind that only the wildest imagination or shameless reality itself can achieve. Manias and passions harass them. Absurdities of war let courage change shape with craziness, infamy with chivalry, cunning with madness. Death is perhaps the most important director behind the scenes in García Márquez’s invented and discovered world. Often his stories revolve around a dead person – someone who has died, is dying or will die. A tragic sense of life characterizes García Márquez’s books – a sense of the incorruptible superiority of fate and the inhuman, inexorable ravages of history. But this awareness of death and tragic sense of life is broken by the narrative’s apparently unlimited, ingenious vitality which, in its turn, is a representative of the at once frightening and edifying vital force of reality and life itself. The comedy and grotesqueness in García Márquez can be cruel, but can also glide over into a conciliating humour.

With his stories, Gabriel García Márquez has created a world of his own which is a microcosmos. In its tumultuous, bewildering, yet, graphically convincing authenticity, it reflects a continent and its human riches and poverty.

Perhaps more than that: a cosmos in which the human heart and the combined forces of history, time and again, burst the bounds of chaos – killing and procreation

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Garcia Marquez: ‘Memories of My Melancholy Whores’

 

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Alan Cheuse reviews Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Memories of My Melancholy Whores. The strange and magical novel chronicles the discoveries made by a lifelong bachelor when he turns 90 and finds love with a 14-year-old prostitute.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a new novel. It’s called “Memories of My Melancholy Whores.” Alan Cheuse has a review.

ALAN CHEUSE reporting:

The unnamed, near-nonagenarian narrator of this splendid short novel has plans for his 90th birthday, a lifelong self-educated and not very attractive bachelor who lives frugally and writes a weekly column for the local newspaper in his provincial Colombian town. He calls the madam of his favorite local brothel and asks her to procure for him an adolescent virgin with whom he will spend one night. Thus begins a story that, upon hearing it summarized as I’ve done so far, you might think would be rudely realistic and, depending on your sensibilities, something that would produce varying degrees of revulsion. But we’re in the hands of El Maestro, who’s written about “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” What he gives us this time around is a memorable love story in a minor, minor key.

When the old man sets out that night for the brothel, there’s a full moon and, as he tells us, `The world looked as if it were submerged in green water.’ When he enters the room in the bordello where his assignation is to take place, he discovers the 14-year-old beauty is sleeping, drugged by the madam. Though he arranges to see her time and time again, Sleeping Beauty never awakes,, but he awakes. After a lifetime of paying for sex because, as he says, `It’s the consolation you have when you can’t have love,’ he falls madly for the girl and finds a new life at an age, as he himself puts it, `when most mortals have already died.’

And the young girl–you’ll have to read this short novel; you can do it in one sitting–to find out what happens to her. You’ll be quite aware of what’s happening to you, alive and well and growing old and young in a world that looks as if it’s submerged in green water.

SIEGEL: The book is “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s translated by Edith Grossman. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

 

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Gabriel García Márquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69

Interviewed by Peter H. Stone

ISSUE 82, WINTER 1981

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Gabriel García Márquez was interviewed in his studio/office located just behind his house in San Angel Inn, an old and lovely section, full of the spectacularly colorful flowers of Mexico City. The studio is a short walk from the main house. A low elongated building, it appears to have been originally designed as a guest house. Within, at one end, are a couch, two easy chairs, and a makeshift bar—a small white refrigerator with a supply of acqua minerale on top.

The most striking feature of the room is a large blown-up photograph above the sofa of García Márquez alone, wearing a stylish cape and standing on some windswept vista looking somewhat like Anthony Quinn.

García Márquez was sitting at his desk at the far end of the studio. He came to greet me, walking briskly with a light step. He is a solidly built man, only about five feet eight or nine in height, who looks like a good middleweight fighter—broad-chested, but perhaps a bit thin in the legs. He was dressed casually in corduroy slacks with a light turtleneck sweater and black leather boots. His hair is dark and curly brown and he wears a full mustache.

The interview took place over the course of three late-afternoon meetings of roughly two hours each. Although his English is quite good, García Márquez spoke mostly in Spanish and his two sons shared the translating. When García Márquez speaks, his body often rocks back and forth. His hands too are often in motion making small but decisive gestures to emphasize a point, or to indicate a shift of direction in his thinking. He alternates between leaning forward towards his listener, and sitting far back with his legs crossed when speaking reflectively.

 

INTERVIEWER

How do you feel about using the tape recorder?

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

The problem is that the moment you know the interview is being taped, your attitude changes. In my case I immediately take a defensive attitude. As a journalist, I feel that we still haven’t learned how to use a tape recorder to do an interview. The best way, I feel, is to have a long conversation without the journalist taking any notes. Then afterward he should reminisce about the conversation and write it down as an impression of what he felt, not necessarily using the exact words expressed. Another useful method is to take notes and then interpret them with a certain loyalty to the person interviewed.

~~~  READ THE INTERVIEW  ~~~

 

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New William S. Burroughs Book Sheds Light On The Literary Legend’s Influence On Music ~ NPR

 

 

The role William S. Burroughs played in shaping literature is well known. But his influence on rock and roll hasn’t been as well-documented.

Casey Rae’s William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll single-handedly changes that. Relying on a wealth of magazine interviews, biographies, books, phone calls, emails and personal interviews, Rae deftly maps out how one of America’s most controversial literary figures — a homosexual drug addict with a penchant for guns who shot his wife in the head — transformed the lives of many notable musicians. He thus helped, without trying, to shape the history of audio recording, punk, industrial music, and rock and roll.

Burroughs rose to fame while working on the fringes of mainstream literature during the Beat era. Today he is know for novels like Naked Lunch, Junkie, Queer, The Wild Boys, The Soft Machine, and The Ticket that Exploded, among others. All of them have been widely read, taught, copied and translated. However, Naked Lunch, regarded as his masterpiece, was banned upon publication for being obscene. The novel’s bizarre topics, outré characters, wild situations, sexual content, and nonlinear structure perfectly mirrored Burroughs’ personality, tastes, and beliefs — all of which appealed to the most daring, innovative musicians of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.

For pioneering musicians, hanging with Burroughs became a rite of passage, a sort of logical step in a life spent looking for extreme experiences and new artistic frontiers. Furthermore, Burroughs’ cut-up techniques for producing lyrics as well as sounds influenced a plethora of artists in many mediums. In Rae’s words, “Burroughs people tend to find one another. And then they form bands.” These people included luminaries like Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Kurt Cobain, Michael Stipe, Thurston Moore, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and many others.

Rae, a musician, professor, and cultural critic, is a music lover and a Burroughs fan. Both things shine through in this book. He writes with the passion of a teenager discovering new sounds, and the control and self-assuredness of a seasoned academic. Between external sources and his own research and phone and email interviews, Rae creates a complex, rich picture of Burroughs’ life, focusing on his meetings with musicians and the way his techniques and ideas infiltrated them and changed the way they looked at the world as well as their own work. While doing this, Rae stays true to history and always presents Burroughs’ duality; shaman and madman, writer and hermit, traveling man and depressed genius. The mixture came to embody rock and roll:

Simply put, Burroughs embodied the rebellious spirit of rock and roll, and that attracted those for whom rebellion was the only conceivable choice in life.

While the focus is on music and Burroughs’ techniques and ideas, William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll is also a biography. Rae deals with the most crucial events in the writer’s life. From his homosexuality to the history of his novels, this book adds to the Burroughs canon in a unique way. Rae is a professional and an academic, but the writing here, especially when dealing with music and some of the most traumatic moments in Burroughs’ career, flirts with literary fiction without even abandoning the real of nonfiction. A perfect example comes from his discussion of the killing of Burroughs’ wife, Joan Vollmer, who the author shot in the head while allegedly undertaking a William Tell trick they often performed at parties. While drunkenness and drug use muddled the memories of the event for many — and Burroughs himself went back and forth on what happened — the consensus, according to Rae, is that Burroughs accidentally missed the shot:

Reading William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll makes it easy to see why Burroughs was so influential on avantgarde creators. He believed there was a major hegemonic force at play in the world. He called this force Control, and considered it the primary enemy keeping people from spiritual and psychic liberation:

In other words, Burroughs’ entire belief system was the core of rock and roll, the blueprint for artistic rebellion. William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll celebrates not only the gifted mind and bizarre life of a writer who changed literature forever with his magic and ideas; it also finally gives him the place he deserves in the pantheon of rock and roll.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas.

President Lopez Obrador of Mexico responds to Trump’s tariff threat & it’s a beautiful thing ~

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador

 

 

For decades since the UN was founded after World War II, the international convention on refugees is that they must be allowed passage to the destination they choose, without interference by any other country.

That’s what the US practiced until Trump’s “wait in Mexico” policy which requires refugees to remain on the other side of the border while their cases are being adjudicated, with no guarantee of a swift decision or eventual approval.

The policy is somewhat similar to what the UK has done to keep refugees out. As a member of the European Union, it was allowed to put its border checkpoints on the French side of the Channel and thousands of refugees ended up waiting for months and years in makeshift camps near Calais, Dunkirk, and the tunnel entrance, hoping the UK would grant them permission to enter.

In France, bigoted and racist far-Right extremists, like Marine Le Pen, exploited the situation for their own political gain, a consequence that continues to this day.

Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy similarly keeps the burden of caring for and protecting refugees south of the border, out of sight, and out of mind.

Now Trump wants Mexico to do even more. He’s demanding that the Mexican government violate the UN Convention on Refugees by stopping them from proceeding to the US border. On top of that, he’s threatening to impose tariffs on goods imported from Mexico, if they fail to comply with his wishes.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, posted his response to Trump on his website this morning. It’s in Spanish and I translated his beautiful and eloquent words into English.

Mexico City, May 30, 2019

President Donald Trump,

I am aware of your latest position in regard to Mexico. In advance, I express to you that I don’t want confrontation. The peoples and nations that we represent deserve that we resort to dialogue and act with prudence and responsibility, in the face of any conflict in our relations, serious as it may be.

The greatest President of Mexico, Benito Juárez, maintained excellent relations with the Republican hero, Abraham Lincoln. Later, when Mexico nationalized its oil resources and industry, Democratic President Franklin D, Roosevelt understood the profound reasons that led our patriotic President Lázaro Cárdenas to act in favor of our sovereignty. By the way, President Roosevelt was a titan of freedom who proclaimed the four fundamental rights of man: the right to freedom of speech; the right to freedom of religion; the right to live free from fear; and the right to live free from misery.

With this in mind, we frame our policy on immigration. Human beings do not leave their villages for pleasure but out of necessity. That’s why, from the beginning of my government, I proposed opting for cooperation in development and aid for the Central American countries with productive investments to create jobs and resolve this painful situation.

You also know that we are fulfilling our responsibility to prevent, as much as possible and without violating human rights, any passage of the persons concerned through our country. It is worth remembering that – in a short time, Mexicans will not need to go to the United States and that migration will be optional, not forced. This is because we are fighting, like never before, the main problem in Mexico, corruption. And, in this way, our country will attain a powerful social dimension. Our countrymen will be able to work and be happy where they were born, where their families, their customs and their cultures are.

President Trump, social problems are not resolved by tariffs or coercive measures like turning a neighboring country overnight into a ghetto, an enclosed place for the migrants of the world, where they’re stigmatized, abused, persecuted, and excluded and the right to justice is denied to those who seek to work and to live free from want. The Statue of Liberty is not an empty symbol.

With all due respect, although you have the sovereign right to say it, the slogan “United States First” is a fallacy because universal justice and fraternity will prevail until the end of time, even over national borders.

Specifically, citizen President, I propose to deepen our dialogue, and seek alternatives to the immigration problem. And, please remember that I do not lack courage, that I am not cowardly or timorous, but that I act on principles. I believe that politics was invented to avoid confrontation and war, among other things.  I do not believe in the Law of Talon, in a ‘tooth for a tooth’ or an ‘eye for an eye’ because, if we practiced it, we would all be toothless and one-eyed. I believe that as statesmen and even more so as patriots, we are obliged to seek peaceful solutions to controversies and to practice the beautiful ideal of non-violence, forever.

Finally, I suggest that you instruct your officials, if it doesn’t cause any inconvenience. that they attend to representatives of our government, headed by the Secretary of Foreign Relations, who will be in Washington tomorrow to reach an agreement for the benefit of our two nations.

Nothing by force. Everything by reason and human rights.

Your friend,

Andrés Manuel López Obrador

President of México

una última aventura de pesca en la Patagonia

A fine recollection of a fishing trip in Patagonia with brother John by journalist, author and sister Judy Muller. 

rŌbert

 

 

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The lodge at “El Saltamontes,” which means “the grasshopper.” photo by George Lewis

 

Some time ago, when I first started toying with the idea of a trip to Patagonia to fish for trout, a good non-angling friend asked me an interesting question. “Why,” she wondered, “would someone spend thousands of dollars to travel thousands of miles to catch the same kind of fish that could be caught in rivers much closer to home, and then, after all that effort and expense, release those fish back into the water?”

What seemed absurd to her seemed entirely sensible to me. “Because,” I replied, “that ‘someone’ is about to turn 70, because life is short and knees are weak, and the chance to wade in beautiful rivers in faraway places and connect even briefly with wild creatures is finite.” Actually, my answer was not nearly as polished as that, but one of the benefits of writing a fish story is the right to take some editorial liberties.

As for the part about putting the fish back in the river, I realize that catch and release fishing is a mystery to non-anglers, and I have given up trying to explain why conserving a fishery is so important, and why, as a famous angler once said, a trout is too beautiful to be caught just once. For the sake of the larger point here, let’s just move along.

The larger point has to do with time’s winged chariot hurrying near, as the poem goes, “hurrying” being the operative term. About a year before I was to turn 70, it occurred to me that I probably had about 15 good years left, if the family’s average life expectancy means anything, and that I should do those things that might not be doable for too much longer. Fishing in the Patagonia region of Chile was one of those things. Chile, in the language of the indigenous peoples, means “where the world ends,” which has a nice ring to it, bucket-list-wise. So I impulsively booked a trip to a place I had read about in a fly-fishing catalogue, the lodge at “El Saltamontes,” which means “the grasshopper.” It promised miles and miles of private water, from rivers to spring creeks to lakes, where huge trout were waiting for the grasshoppers that regularly blow into the water, providing a feast that is easily replicated by an artificial dry fly. The lodge only takes 10 guests at a time, providing fishing guides, fine cuisine, and spectacular scenery. I booked it for two, figuring I had a whole year to find someone who might like to go with me, or, as my brother John put it, “to get lucky.” I didn’t, so my brother volunteered to go with me, which turned out to be a perfect choice. We grew up in a family of anglers, and have shared many fish stories over the years. “Dad would have loved this!” became our mantra on this trip, uttered at least once a day, accompanied by the kind of reminiscing that could only have been appreciated by someone who shares your life history. At this age, in fact, we are the only ones left who share that common history, a point that was not lost on either of us.

Fly fishing for trout is a pleasure that stretches back to my childhood, which is probably why it has the power to make me feel like a child. When I wade into a river, peer below the surface of the clear mountain water, see the quick glint of sun reflecting off the back of a rainbow trout or the gold streak of a brown trout darting out from behind a rock or from under the riverbank, my heart quickens just a bit, and in a good way. I become absorbed in that place and that moment. And just for that moment, I forget about all the grown-up stuff I’ve left behind — demands and deadlines, taxes, and teaching. And if I’m lucky enough to fool that fish with an artificial grasshopper tied to the end of my line, I will have the thrill of seeing it charge up from a pool or riffle. And if, in that moment, I can summon the requisite skill, I will set the hook and keep the line tight enough to bring him to the net, where a quick meet-and-greet ends with slipping the hook out and releasing him unharmed back to the river. None of those steps — the cast, the strike, the landing, the release — is guaranteed, no matter how many fish have connected with my line over the years. Each encounter is brand new, an adrenaline rush that never grows old, even as I do.

Starting with my family, then with various friends and lovers, I have fished in some magical places, from Yellowstone to New Zealand, from the Catskills to Canada, from the Sierras to the Rockies, and in places with exotic names like the River of No Return Wilderness. Patagonia was the Shangri-La of them all, and while expectations are often “disappointments under construction,” as they say, my expectations in this case were not just realized, but surpassed.

Getting there involved a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Santiago, a three-day layover in that capital city, and a 3-hour flight to southern Chile’s Aisen region, to a little airport in Balmaceda, followed by a 2-hour drive to the ranch. Our host, Jose Gorrono, met us at the airport. In the fly fishing catalogue that first drew my attention to El Saltamontes Lodge, Gorrono is described as a “modern Renaissance man,” the real-life version of the “most interesting man in the world” from the Dos Equis ad. The skeptic in my journalist brain scoffed, chalking it up to typical tourist brochure hyperbole.

Then I met the guy.

Brother John Mansfield with the day’s catch … photo by – George Lewis

 

During our week with Jose on his massive estancia, we learned that Jose had designed and built his own electrical generator back in the 80’s, and shared the excess electricity with the local community. He designed and built the beautiful lodge and cabins out of local river stone and rough-hewn logs from the ranch property, where he raises prize horses and alpacas. He had sailed the Pacific Ocean by himself from Chile to Australia many times, and once had to repair his own boat at sea to survive. He had searched for, and succeeded in finding, sunken treasure. And, he had pulled off a self-rescue after a skiing fall during an avalanche, managing to do so with a compound fracture of his arm.

What Jose does not do, apparently, is fly fish. It took a visiting angler (an American) to clue him in to the spectacular fishing conditions on his estancia, which prompted him to set up the fishing lodge some years ago.

Also, it should be noted, he is a quite dashing 60-something, with a head of dazzling white hair and a smile to match. So when Jose flashed those pearly-whites my way, it took me a moment to digest his first words to us. “I do have some news,” he said, adding, “You two are the only guests at the lodge this week.”

For some couples this might have been received as a great windfall: the whole place to ourselves, complete with a master fishing guide and a chef, not to mention a genial host with amazing stories to tell, and miles and miles of great trout-fishing water. My sister-in-law, Susie, would no doubt have been delighted at the prospect of a week to explore a strange land, with exotic birds and plants (she doesn’t really like to fish). But as brother and sister, the prospect of having to spend the next six days talking mostly to each other was something of a daunting prospect. To file under “watch out what you ask for,” we had been dreading the prospect of sharing our vacation time with, say, Americans who wanted to bring up politics at the dinner table. In fact, we were sure that the six very loud Americans aboard our flight from Santiago might be headed for the same lodge, and we were preparing ourselves for a lot of “letting it go” moments. When those guys headed off with another fishing outfit, and Jose told us the news that we would be alone at the estancia, we had to shift our expectations dramatically. This was not one of those moments where we thought, “Dad would have loved this!”  Our parents were extremely gregarious people, collecting other people’s life stories like so many souvenirs of each trip. Could we really go a whole week without devolving into sibling rivalry, snarky remarks, and suggestions for self-improvement aimed, of course, at the other person?

The fact that we did so says a lot about a) the power of meditation, and b) the power of nostalgia and shared stories, the kind of stories that would bore other people, but not us, because we were the stars of these stories. There was the time, for example, on a family fishing trip to Yellowstone, when my brother abruptly interrupted his evening bath, stopping his ablutions midstream, because he suddenly saw trout rising to a hatch of insects. I have a lovely rear-view photo of him, wearing nothing but his boots and a hat, hooking a very nice fish. For his part, he regrets that someone (can’t imagine who) lost the video he once took of me false-casting a very, very small trout on my line, back and forth, back and forth, totally unaware that I had caught a fish. In my defense, and because I am the one writing this story, I want to point out that it was a very, very, very small fish. Anyone could have missed it.

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In Search of Ancient Morocco

The walled garden of the hotel Dar Paru in M’Hamid, with a door that opens into the SaharaCredit Richard Mosse

 

South of Marrakesh, the Draa Valley still exerts an indefinable pull, retaining traces of its now almost-vanished Berber kingdom.

 

THE SHAMROCK GREEN of Casablanca graded into a flat plain of beige. From the tarmac itself, I could see the beige run into a towering wall of white — the Atlas Mountains. Edith Wharton, in her 1920 travelogue, “In Morocco,” had felt herself fall under the spell of the Atlas and the desert beyond as well. “Unknown Africa,” she writes, “seems much nearer to Morocco than to the white towns of Tunis and the smiling oases of South Algeria. One feels the nearness of Marrakech at Fez, and at Marrakech that of Timbuctoo.”

To be in Marrakesh on that morning in late February was to feel the nearness not of the Sahara but of Stansted and Orly. The “great nomad camp” of the south — which had once attracted the Tuareg, the West African tribe who had plied the caravan route through the Sahara since at least the fifth century B.C. and were known as “the blue people” of the desert because of their indigo-dyed robes — was awash with the tourist trash of Europe — the EasyJet set. This was a city where glamorous European families, such as the Agnellis, owned houses, where the name of the garden designer Madison Cox, the widower of Pierre Bergé (Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Bergé, had fallen in love with Marrakesh in the 1960s) was whispered like a holy name among the demimonde. It was impossible now to smell Timbuktu in Marrakesh. Colonial boundaries and modern tensions — the border with Algeria has been permanently closed since 1994, after a conflict broke out between the two countries — had pushed the desert back. One had to go much farther south, across the Atlas and into the Draa Valley, an 8,900-square-mile oasis that ran along the Algerian border, to get a whiff of that world to which the exchange of goods and ideas — first salt, silver and slaves, then religion, manuscripts and notions of kingship — had given an inner cohesion. A Persian friend in New York, a man of taste and refinement, had spoken to me one evening of the Draa. He told me of medieval Islamic libraries in small Saharan towns, of shrines to desert saints and of old Jewish houses.

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I wanted badly to go. I was mourning an impression of Arabia that I had received 10 years before, while traveling in the Hadhramaut region of Yemen, known for its key position on the incense trade, and researching my first book, “Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands” (2009). I feared that civil war in Yemen in recent years had laid waste to that fairy-tale ideal of crenelated mud-walled cities set in a belt of blue date palm, full of cool and shade. It may be odd to go to one place in search of another, but so much has been lost of late, here in the spread of a homogenizing modernity, there through the destruction of ancient sites in places like Bamiyan in Afghanistan and Palmyra in Syria. Our time is the enemy of the past, and increasingly I find the wonder of travel lies less in the discovery of new places than in tracing the outline of those that have ceased to exist.

The desert wilderness between the towns of M’Hamid and Foum Zguid in southern Morocco. Credit Richard Mosse

IT WAS A RELIEF to see Monsieur Azzdine — burly, bearded, bespectacled, all flesh and blood, with a chipped-tooth smile and a predilection for Winston cigarettes — materialize out of the speculative haze of a WhatsApp chat. He had come to me as men only can in our time. A year before I met a handsome Moroccan yogi on an Etihad Airways flight to Delhi, India. We became fast Instagram friends. When I needed a driver to take me south into deepest Morocco, it was he who suggested Azzdine. Soon we were all on a WhatsApp group chat titled “Maroc.” Once the recipient of the French prize at college, I now speak an execrable but energetic French, full of unwarranted ambition. When Azzdine expressed fears about le sable, I thought, “Le sable?” dimly recollecting the title of a 1985 novel by the great Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun: “L’Enfant de Sable.” “The Sand Child” … aah no, I assured Azzdine, it was not the sand of the Sahara I was after but the world of the Sahara. We agreed on a price and arranged to meet at Marrakesh Menara Airport.

We made a brief gas stop at an Afriquia station, then we sped out of the pink city, whose streets were lined with orange trees, their fruit-laden canopies pruned into perfect cubes. I caught flashes of bougainvillea in deep shades of cerise framed against a sky of such intense blue that even the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix, in 1832, had not attempted to paint it until his return to France months later. We ascended into the Atlas, heading southeast via the Tizi n’Tichka, a road renowned for its sweeping vistas and sharp spiraling gradient.

The girdle of the Atlas Mountains that gives Morocco its crooked spine had also served as a barrier of sorts between worlds. The bled al-makhzen, the region of law, lay on one side; the bled al-siba, literally the “region of anarchy,” lay on the other. These were precolonial distinctions that divided the area under the rule of the 17th-century Alaouite dynasty from the ungoverned tribal area in the south that had not submitted to its authority. Half this humpbacked country faced the sea, from which the influence of Phoenicia, Carthage and Rome had washed over it; the other half gazed out at an ocean of sand, no less a world unto itself. Out of the east had come Arabia and Islam, blending with the oldest element in Morocco’s syncretic character — the Berbers. These were the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa who spoke Afroasiatic languages, a world away from Arabic, and who practiced various animist cults. Their history, their language, their dress and customs served as a link to the ancient past of the land, as distinct from the history of the Islamic faith brought about by the successive waves of conquest starting in the seventh century.

People’s Park

Good Morning, Jerry,
We are in Berkeley visiting Nori’s friends. Last night we went to the 50th reunion book signing of the Berkeley “Battle for People’s Park”. Many of the original activists were there. It was held at “The Art House “ a very funky 60’s vintage shop full of photos of the riots and times by Gerald Adler who was there as a photographer for the Berkeley Barb. He still has the same wild Afro. This poster is for the big event on Wednesday.
Ralph (Tingey)

 

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A protester hugs a National Guardsman during a standoff over the college takeover of People’s Park on May 21, 1969.

Did This Novel About LSD Trials Get It Right? We Ask Someone Who Was There ~ NPR

 

Novelist T.C. Boyle focuses on real-life figures with cult-like followings — he’s written fiction about cornflakes king John Harvey Kellogg, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. Now, in his latest novel, he imagines what it was like to participate in Timothy Leary’s hallucinogenic drug experiments in the early 1960s.

Outside Looking In tells a fictional story about psychology graduate students at Harvard University who attempt to explore the nature of human consciousness by taking psychedelic drugs. Boyle says he was intrigued by recent news stories about LSD coming back into medical use. “So I went back to discover where it’s all coming from,” he says.

In 1960, psychologist Timothy Leary took a trip to Mexico, where he ate psilocybin mushrooms and decided to redirect his respected clinical research on personality studies to the effects of hallucinogens on the mind. Leary eventually took his experiments to a 64-room mansion in Millbrook, N.Y., where he extolled the virtues of psychedelics.

“LSD is like a microscope, even an electron microscope, which opens up an awareness of energies which are there,” Leary said. “There’s nothing miraculous or mysterious about LSD. In any situation where we now use our symbolic mind, the microscope of LSD will help us see more, see faster, and see deeper.”

Gunther Weil was a 23-year-old doctoral student in clinical psychology when he entered Harvard in 1960. Leary was his faculty adviser, and Weil says that Boyle got a lot of things right in his novel.

“I think he did an incredibly great job describing the zeitgeist of the time — the nature of the trips,” Weil says. “The protagonist is a graduate student who seems to be an amalgam of a number of us.”

Over four years Weil says he attended between 40 and 50 research sessions — ingesting the hallucinogens psilocybin and LSD with a handful of colleagues.

“We definitely felt that we were on the leading edge of research in consciousness,” he recalls. “We definitely felt like pioneers. We definitely were enthralled and captured by the mysteries that we were beginning to approach.”

One of those mysteries was Weil’s own spirituality. The psychedelic drugs he ingested are known as “entheogens” — that is, they allow you to see God. Weil says he experienced that personally — “in the sense of oneness, the interconnection of all phenomena, of understanding underlying spiritual nature of existence — absolutely, yes.”

That mystical aspect of psychedelic drugs fascinated Boyle. “If God is as simple as altering the chemistry of the brain what does that mean for our world religions?” Boyle asks. “Is there anything outside of us? Or is it all inside of us? And it is all hormonal and brain functions? And if this little fungus can give us God, then who are we? What does that mean? What do we need God for?”

In the novel, as Leary’s acolytes get more involved in LSD, their research becomes less scientific and more hedonistic — the participants go beyond graduate students to include musicians, fashion models and socialites who had heard about the experiments.

And then, of course, there are the bad acid trips — which Boyle, now 70, knows a thing or two about. Boyle thinks his perspective on Leary’s experiments may have been colored by his own drug use when he was in his 20s.

“I’ll fess up — I never had a good trip,” Boyle says. “Never. I think my mind is too active anyway. I’m always out there in outer space — this is why I’m a novelist. So we would all begin our trips communally at a great time, fireplaces going, music playing — we’re laughing, everything’s great, we’re seeing things. Everybody else will have crashed. And I would be up, you know, with the snakes crawling out of my stomach, for the next six hours.”

Today, Boyle says he gets his highs from getting lost in his work, lost in music, and lost in the nature of the California Sierras.