Book of the Month: Memory of My Melancholy Whores

book discussion, book review, Uncategorized

The Act of Writing follows the Act of Loving

What happens when love escapes our life? Do we wither in self pity? Do we harden with bitterness? Do we take the last desperate attempt at catching it? Or, do we delude our hearts into exchanging our lust for love?

And, in deluding ourselves, are we not becoming writers? The act of loving, of finding an elusive spark within someone else and meshing with it to experience a new world of two, begins to resemble the struggling writer finding his voice as he creates something completely new, or better yet, writing his best work of art.

The nonagenarian narrator in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, is a mediocre journalist -a writer without much notice- falling into the last years of life without ever falling in love. From the beginning, we are warned of his venture into the world of literature as he begins writing a memoir of his sick love life. He defends himself by admitting he is not a writer; he proposes journalism as its antithesis:

I have never done anything except write, but I don’t posses the vocation or talents of a narrator, have no knowledge at all of the laws of dramatic composition […] I am the end of a line, without merit or intelligence.

And what are his reasons for writing this story?

After all, keep in mind the narrator is not writing his life story, but a specific instance that sparked something new in his life. Following an ancient Greek trope, we have the young,  unattainable, but much desired muse breathing new life into the writer’s pen. Marquez novel moves beyond the May-December plot, and finds its power in the story of an old mediocre writer grasping to find inspiration in a world that is pushing him out of life. Always writing to make barely a living, the narrator worked for a newspaper that never needed him or gained him much acclaim. The language is seductive because powerful writing demands an intimate relationship between the subject, reader, and writer just as the narrator lives off the secret moments between the 14 year old girl and himself. The girl, Delgadina, serves more as an ideal and then a character, her absence or semi-absence wafting through the narrator’s memories, fueling an old heart with passion and inspiration. She feeds off his imagination, as she prominently rises from the secluded nights into the outside world amid stories of their love.

At times her silence seems problematic; however, Delgadina as muse more than a lover fills us with hope. Rather than physically connecting, the narrator finds wild passion and satisfaction in the liberation of his imagination. His thoughts caress the girl with his ideas and words (he whispers to her while she sleeps), and thus creating for himself a new world that his desires sustained. Reality comes cheap to the narrator. He slept with many women, yet it is with a young girl, a street muse, that provokes an aging mind into creating world for himself.

You can buy Marquez’ book here, a translation by Edith Grossman.

It is a short read of about a hundred pages.

Tell us what you think! Is this the story of a writer? Do you find Marquez’s portrayal of women problematic? How does his language captivate you, or perhaps not? (You’d probably prefer Hundred Years of Solitude!)



Book of April: Don’t Panic!

book review, Uncategorized

Book of the Month: Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

In celebration of Earth Day, we think it’s only right you read Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

If you’d like to read and buy the whole series, you can find it here at Barnes and Noble. Quite a good and cheap edition!

Synopsis: Arthur Dent, a normal human being. Nothing special; in other words, just like you. But what happens when special and normal are not what you thought they meant? Well, first you learn that the Earth, is not special, at all. Turns out, there are millions of planets out there full of vibrant life! Second, you learn that the Earth’s fate is doomed. And, third, you learn to appreciate this little space of blue and green, called Earth. There’s no place like home, even among the brilliant numerous stars.

Book of March: Garcia Girls

book review

Book of the Month:​ ​How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

On Cultural Identity, Feminism, and Language

Algoquin Books Edition

It’s no secret that the Latino diaspora not only affects the immigrant’s immediate reality, but also affects their spiritual and emotional well­-being. It’s a wave so monumental that it still comes crashing into the lives of immigrants’ children as first generation success stories begin to unravel. It’s an existential crisis many of us, the children, have experienced and managed to somewhat control. It’s about being half and half, with the occasional rejection from either side.

​Julia Alvarez’s ​How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents​ is a foray into this world. It follows the stories of “the four daughters” (Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia), and not an occasional glimpse into their parent’s life. The author plays with chronological order, shrinking back to the start of it all, the nucleus of this life story. First published in 1991, this novel was the start of Alvarez’s popularity, particularly dealing with themes such as biculturalism and bilingualism. Although the chapters had appeared as short stories in magazines before, Alvarez had a hard time getting the manuscript published. After its publication, the book won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Book Award (1991) and the American Library Association named it a notable book (1992). Now, many middle schools and high schools in the U.S. include this novel in their book list for its humour and resonating narrative.

Synopsis: The family leaves the Dominican Republic, as the country escalates towards political upheaval and revolution. Unlike many immigrant families that run away from poverty and violence, the Garcia family take great pride in their name and leave for political reasons. However, as they arrive in the U.S. they find their just another family making a living, minus the privilege their had before. They struggle with growing up as girls under an authoritative or “traditional” father; confront the limitations of learning English; find ways to communicate their desires and goals to both their Dominican family and their American partners.

Shop for the book here.

We will be posting a couple of discussion questions, but always we welcome and encourage your ideas as well!

Read On!

Book of February: After Many A Summer

book review


Book of the Month: After Many A Summer Dies The Swan by Aldous Huxley

The Fault of Humanity in a Human World

Elephant Paperbacks Edition

New month, new book! Though The Celestina was enjoyable, we are moving towards a more contemporary period full of shiny and silly glitz, glamorous in all its superficial glory. I am referring to 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood.

As winter descends in Los Angeles, shading our lives with grey undertones and a fresh chilliness not felt in some years, what better book to read under a rainy sky than Huxley’s satire After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Many summaries out there would tell you that this is Huxley’s comedic novel on American cultural set in Hollywood, popularly characterized as superficial, shallow, and phony. Not sure what are the implications of our calling it a satire, but rest assured there is plenty outrageous frivolity and long philosophizing reflections on the state of humanity as a whole.

Hollywood in its golden age of the 19th century provides a deep and strange setting for a reflection on human nature, culture, war and spirituality. If you enjoy the old world aura of Los Angeles’s Hollywood neighborhood (or Lana Del Rey’s “starlet” songs) this book will add a caustic and irreverent mystic to your previous perspective. Though the plot might seem sparse at times, when you’re finished reading you’ll still feel the reverberations of the uncanny end. Keep in mind, the language sometimes gets complicated, meaning you will need patience with this one. Sometimes, it will feel like you are reading an essay on philosophy, which is not bad at all. It opens up thoughtful critique on your own part.

You can purchase your copy here.


Drugs, sex, death. It’s all in this novel, and not in a predictable, general way you might assume.Revolving around a rich old white man named Mr. Stoyte who’s endowed with millions in property and cash, the novel intermittently focuses on reflections and conversations between characters on the purpose of humanity and all the faults and possible virtues of humans. Mr. Stoyte, a choleric old man, lives well with a young mistress nicknamed Baby. Jeremy Pordage, arrives on invitation to catalogue old English documents. All the while, you will notice Mr. Stoyte suffers a stark and stupefying fear of death. Meanwhile, Dr. Obispo, Pete, Mr. Propter, and others become embedded into the story, when it all comes together at the end, naturally, to an uncanny, ridiculous, and almost unbelievable end.

Book of January: The Celestina

book review


Book of the Month: The Celestina

Penguin Classics Ed.

Since we are starting a new year, isn’t it apropos to begin with the renewal of a book? To take something old and transform it into something new? After all, aren’t we uber familiar with these months, but yet, strive to find something new and wonderful, now that they have come back?

For this month we are recommending The Celestina, a 15th century novel written in dialogue, translated from Spanish. Because it was written as dialogue, the novel reads like a drama, but it was never put on stage. The novel is considered one the best novels to be written in Spanish, along with the likes of Don Quixote. For us, the English audience (i.e. English majors and intellectuals), this book has eluded our shelves for years; although extensively published in Spanish, it wasn’t until 1631 that it was introduced to English speakers thanks to James Mabbe’s somewhat poor translation. According to Lesley Bird Simpson, the antiquated syntax Mabbe used would have made it undesirable for a modern reader. To add more that mystery of its history, the book was published anonymously, and still to this day, we don’t know exactly who authored The Celestina, even though “Fernando de Rojas” appears after 1501.

SHORT SUMMARY: A nobleman fraught with love turns to an old bawd to help him secure the love of the woman he desires.This, of course, ends in tragedy. Still, Celestina, the old woman, is determined not to lose out on this opportunity for riches and pleasure.

Shop for the book here:

Don’t forget to join in our discussion next month on the importance of this book and its influence on Spanish literature, consider its historical context, and reflect on the relevance of its themes.

We will be posting a couple of discussion questions, but always welcome and encourage your ideas as well!

Read On!