What is it about icebound exports and child captivity? From the intoxicating rhythms of “Birthday,” an oddly suggestive New Wave lullaby by the Sugarcubes, to Hanna, a recent techno thriller about eugenic perfection sequestered in Finland, the story of a bright young girl held in check by her woolly elder abounds — as abominable as any snowman and as inevitable as a coming thaw. In Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s Children in Reindeer Woods, advocates of the arbitrary morality of the Brothers Grimm, as well the ambiguities J.M. Coetzee’s war-torn fables, will be treated to a suburb story of pastoral charm and eerie erotism. Billie, an eleven-year-old girl who survives the massacre of a “temporary home for children” must now survive the shell-shocked antics of Rafael, a man who has abandoned the soldier’s life to try his hand at farming.
The discomforting cliché that out of bad pain comes good comedy — an assurance that has, in some form or other, been made by acerbic jokers from Mark Twain to Bernie Mac — is nothing to scoff at.
After reading actress/comedian/talent promoter Kambri Crews’ memoir Burn Down The Ground, one might suspect that a knack for multitasking might, out of strife, emerge as well.
Whatever your gender politics are, one can easily see that — in literary circles, at least — women have it rough. Just look at the recent stats on female to male writers cranking for major magazines. According to the 2011 Vida count, a laudable publication like The Atlantic had 64 articles written by women against 184 by men. At Harper’s the number was 13 to 65. You don’t even want to see what the New York Review of Books looks like. This year’s UTSA observation of Women’s History Month brings two indigenous writers from Mexico who, coming from a place of oppressive chauvinism and poverty, have had to overcome more than the old boys’ network to become writers. María Roselia Jiménez Pérez and Patricia Celerina Sánchez Santiago will join Sandra Cisneros at “Mujeres de su palabra: Indigenous Women and the Spoken Word” to discus their bicultural lives. “While there are obviously vast differences between Chicanas and indigenous Mexican women,” says Women’s Studies Institute Director Sonia Saldívar-Hull, “there are instances when we can make political coalitions and alliances with indigenous women, particularly in the way we as women are silenced by our communities.” Free; 3pm, UTSA Downtown Campus, Frio Street Building, Riklin Auditorium FS 1.406, 501 César E. Chávez, (201) 458-6277, womenshistorymonth.gov.
As nearly everyone now knows, Sandra Cisneros — the oft-times indigenously attired author who founded the Macondo Writers’ Workshop here in 1998 and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation two years later — is done with San Antonio. Judging from the comments strung to the news articles announcing her impending exit, people here feel mournfully mosaic about her departure. She is done with Texas as well, and heading for… who knows where really? While the San Antonio Express-News suggested in November that she might be off to New Mexico, when I spoke to her days after that story appeared she said she didn’t know where she was going before listing several possible European destinations.
A few years after George Steiner penned an essay about Hitler’s architect Albert Speer for the New Yorker and New Wave sellouts Spandau Ballet cracked the top 40 by singing songs about truth and precious metals, an obscure Chilean poet who once swore he’d never write novels began work on a beach comedy called The Third Reich that he promptly placed in a drawer. Roberto Bolaño, by his own unreliable account, considered Antwerp, a pummeling deck of fabulist flash cards, his first novel. With the publication of The Third Reich readers must now wonder at the judgment of a man who could produce such uncompromising commercial-proof experimentation and then go on to pen (and purloin from his public) a self-assured beach read that resembles nothing less than a diabolical episode of Magnum, P.I.
Ever read a poem about a guy who emotionally abuses a mannequin and leaves her silicon heart broken in a dumpster? Me neither, and I’ve suffered through more than a few Ted Hughes tomes. But this scenario, beautifully rendered in Esther M. Garcia’s haunting verse, is exactly the kind of thing you’ll encounter in Three Messages and a Warning, an ebullient collection of south-of-the-border speculative writing that leaves little doubt that if the 1960’s British New Wave magazine New Worlds were to find a new home it would be in old Mexico.
Stephen Patrick Morrissey has been frustrating fans of over-warm New Wave smarm since his earliest work with The Cult’s Billy Duffy in that bloodless post-punk band called The Nosebleeds. He probably likes it that way. The former singer of the Smiths, a guy who seems to be against all kinds of labels, be they record- or gender-based, has cultivated an unabashed genre unto himself.
The day of the dead — which has one foot in ancient Aztec culture and another in the exploitation of Misfits T-shirts — is all about being alive. At its most secular dia de los muertos, with its sugar skulls, sweet day of the dead bread, and those colorful paper offerings to the underworld, may easily be written off by the uninitiated as about as spiritual as that Tim Burton claymation movie Corpse Bride. At its most serious and traditionally observed, the Latin American holiday with corresponding cousin Samhain in Europe, is a holy alert calling for happy altars.
Halloween, outside of being the one time of the year you can show up to work dressed like a cat and take out your office aggression through competitive pumpkin carving, affords the opportunity to watch disturbing and/or outright revolting movies and not seem like a sociopath. As with many of life’s precious opportunities, this one is often wasted on standard fare: fright films that we’ve all seen a hundred times and return to repeatedly like zombies. Whether it’s Linda Blair peeing on the carpet before crawling backward down the stairs in The Exorcist or Jack Nicholson living out the writer’s life by staring hard at a sheet of paper while running up a monstrous satanic bar tab in The Shining, it’s time to confess the popular terrain is played out.
If you find yourself craving a new set of ghoulish companions this season, consider cueing up one of these lesser-known flicks.
Hell, despite what Sartre, said about it being “other people,” is usually depicted as a lonely place, either the cascading trauma of lost relations in Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart, or the clammy cochlea of torture tunnels in the those too-loud Pinhead movies inspired by his quite novella. Isolation is the everlasting imp, whether its Mickey Rourke going down that elevator in Angel Heart or Mimi Rogers fading to black as the only unsaved person on earth in The Rapture. But, as the 13-year-old narrator of Damned would like to inform a lonely old lady she connects with via her afterlife telephone-survey gig: “Hell doesn’t totally suck. Sure, you’re menaced by demons and the landscape is rather appalling, but she’ll meet new people.”