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.

~~~  Continue  ~~~

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.

Gabriel García Márquez, Journalist? A Book Revives the Novelist’s First Calling

Credit Patricia Wall/The New York Times

Gabriel García Márquez, “Gabo” to his friends, lived for journalism. He wrote for newspapers and magazines his entire life, and he founded six publications himself. He once said, against the wisdom of the ages, “I do not want to be remembered for ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude,’ nor for the Nobel Prize, but for the newspapers.”

García Márquez (1927-2014) inhaled fresh ink the way the press critic A. J. Liebling did, as if it were cigar smoke. He called journalism “the best job in the world” and “a biological necessity of humanity.” He understood that newspapers and magazines not only deliver data but that they add, through commentary of all variety, to the gaiety of a society.

A resonant new collection of García Márquez’s journalism, “The Scandal of the Century,” demonstrates how seriously he took reportage and what’s now sometimes called (would Liebling approve?) long-form narrative.

There are intricate, involving stories here about the death of a young woman who seemed to lead a double life; about the 1978 political siege of Nicaragua’s Palacio Nacional by the Sandinistas; and about the international efforts to save a young boy who needed a hard-to-find rabies serum raced to him within 12 hours.

These are articles that, in their confidence and grace, put the reader in mind of “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor,” the García Márquez book, first published in English in 1986, that was based on a series of articles he wrote for a Bogotá newspaper in 1955 in the voice of a Colombian sailor washed overboard from the deck of a destroyer.

Most of his journalism, like most of his fiction, is centered on his native Colombia. So many of the best pieces in “The Scandal of the Century,” however, are essays, unpretentious and witty meditations on topics like barbers and air travel and literary translation and movies.

You get the sense that, were he allowed to start one last magazine from beyond the grave, García Márquez would edit a version of one of those casual publications, like The Spectator, The New Statesman or The Oldie, that the British do better than the rest of the world. Magazines, that is, composed entirely of commentary, the combined contents of whatever is on their columnists’ minds.

“The Scandal of the Century” comprises 50 articles, published between 1950 and 1984. It’s one of two new books that deal with García Márquez’s work and life. The other is “Solitude & Company,” a charming and rowdy if slight oral history of his life edited by the Colombian journalist Silvana Paternostro and translated by Edith Grossman.

“Solitude & Company” isn’t meant to replace Gerald Martin’s authoritative 2009 biography of García Márquez. It’s a book that gathers his old friends together, as if around a table, and lets them talk. Few can believe what a big deal their old drinking buddy Gabo turned out to be, how he floated away from them on a nimbus of success. They aren’t quite willing to cast palm fronds in front of him just yet.

Credit Patricia Wall/The New York Times

 

García Márquez wrote some of his early fiction on rolls of newsprint that he liberated from his day jobs. Perhaps this accounts, in some small way, for the manner with which his fiction and nonfiction can seem to bleed together.

The articles and columns in “The Scandal of the Century” demonstrate that his forthright, lightly ironical voice just seemed to be there, right from the start. (Irony was the fan that reliably cooled the intense projector of García Márquez’s mind.)

He wrote his journalism, he said, with “the same conscience, the same joy and often the same inspiration with which I should have written a masterpiece.” The sprinter and the long-distance runner in him were oddly in sync. He’s among those rare great fiction writers whose ancillary work is almost always worth finding; he didn’t know how to phone anything in.

He was a world-class observer. Watching President Dwight D. Eisenhower disembark from a plane in Paris in 1958, he noted not just his “wide smile of a good sport” but, better, “his long and sure Johnnie Walker strides.”

Airplanes figure often in García Márquez’s journalism. He hated to fly. About air travel after he became famous, he wrote: “I always fly so frightened that I don’t even notice how anyone treats me, and all my energy goes into gripping my seat with my hands to hold it up in order to help the plane stay up in the air, or trying to keep children from running in the aisles for fear they’ll break through the floor.”

He dilated on writers and their economic hardships. Take cigarettes, for example. “The best writers are the ones who tend to write less and smoke more,” he proclaimed, “and so it’s normal that they need at least two years and 29,000 cigarettes to write a book of 200 pages. What that means in good arithmetic is that just on what they smoke they spend more than what they’ll earn from the book.”

García Márquez’s journalistic influence is still felt. In 1994 he founded the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Ibero-American Journalism, better known as the Gabo Foundation, in Cartagena, and it is still prospering.

In a foreword to “The Scandal of the Century,” the investigative reporter and foreign correspondent Jon Lee Anderson notes the “paradox that one of the most emblematic authors of the Latin American Boom in fiction should also be regarded today as the maximum godfather of a new boom in Latin American journalism.”

The humble García Márquez put it this way: “I am basically a journalist. All my life I have been a journalist. My books are the books of a journalist, even if it’s not so noticeable.”

He had a way of connecting the souls in all his writing, fiction and nonfiction, to the melancholy static of the universe.

MORE REVIEWS

“Gabriel García Márquez was one of the greatest conversationalists the world has ever produced, and to draw his life in the words of others is nothing short of audacious. But here it is: Paternostro gives us a extraordinary portrait of Gabo, rich in sheer information but also in the best kind of literary gossip. Solitude & Company is outstanding as a work of journalism and a pleasure to read. This is as close as you’ll ever get to spending a day with the master himself.” –Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling

Solitude & Company captures Gabo—the man, the times and the places that created him. How a man from the Caribbean made a universe that the world embraced. Everyone who loves Gabriel García Márquez’s work will enjoy this wonderful book.” —Benicio Del Toro

“If I may be allowed to mix up a metaphor: This is a kaleidoscopic cocktail of voices—vibrant, eloquent, intoxicating—inspired by that endlessly fascinating literary magician Gabriel García Márquez (a.k.a. Gabo/Gabito/etc.).  And the cocktail has been mixed and shaken, expertly and knowingly, by Silvana Paternostro. ¡Salud!” —Gerald Martin, author of Gabriel García Márquez: A Life

“It would be difficult to imagine a writer and editor more qualified to assemble this oral history of Garcia Marquez than Silvana Paternostro. Coming from the world and culture that spawned magical realism, she studied under and has continued to study the master of the genre; yet she has lived in America long enough to have a firm command of its cultural nuances, as well. Add to that her own gifts as an analyst and storyteller, and you have a volume that is both deeply insightful and a fitting testimonial—in short, an absolute gift.” —Caleb Carr is the author of The Alienist and The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians.

Solitude & Company is a human, fresh, and irreverent portrait of Gabriel García Márquez in which the voices of his friends, his loved ones, and even his detractors, who had never shared their stories, are interwoven.” —Educacíon y Cultura AZ

“This magnificent research brings an unprecedented, different, and revealing perspective.” —Huffington Post

“A magnificent oral biography of Gabriel García Márquez. . . .  A work made up of endless interviews and conversations with friends, acquaintances, detractors, and even enemies. From statements by Carmen Balcells herself, and including the brothers and sisters of García Márquez, the Arataca neighbors and the comrades in the jungle of Barranquilla, they all enable Silvana Paternostro to build a polyhedral and complex, plural and contradictory image of a fundamental figure of the century.” —Culturamas