Roads to Santiago

Nooteboom, Cees. Roads to Santiago: a Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain. Translated by Ina Rilke. Harcourt Press, 1992.

Reason read: there is a festival in Madrid in May.

Prepared to be swept away by Nooteboom’s luxurious descriptions of Spain. Everything seen through his lens is treated with lavish prose. I could see the styles of Roman and Gothic architecture as if I were standing in front of each structure. Renaissance and Baroque art come to life with vivid reality. I now want to visit the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with its pillars marked with fingerprints. While Nooteboom subtitles his book “a modern-day pilgrimage” we look in on the 8th century in a time of Beatus, King Silo, and the Carolingian Empire. Nooteboom draws parallels between Antigone of Sophocles and the Spanish state after Euzkadi ta Askatsuna targeted violence. We dance between historical and modern Spain with personal anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Aside from the beautiful writing, Nooteboom included stunning black and white photographs. Too bad they are not in color.
Sadly, I cannot quote anything from Roads to Santiago without contacting the authorities first. I don’t have time for that.

After reading Picasso’s War it seems impossible that some people would long for the days of Francisco Franco.
As an aside, I always like drawing comparisons to Natalie Merchant. Any mention of Andalusia or Majorca make me think of her music as she has songs about both.

Author fact: Nooteboom has written a great deal over the years. I am only reading Roads to Santiago for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Is there a different subtitle? I must be reading a different edition. From Book Lust To Go it should be “Detours and Riddles in the Lands of History of Spain” and not “A Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain.”

Playlist: Handel’s “The Messiah”.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Roads to Santiago.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the incredibly simple chapter called “Spain” (p 220).


Picasso’s War

Martin Russell. Picasso’s War: the Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World. Dutton, 2002.

Reason read: the bombing of Guernica happened on April 26th, 1937. Read in honor and memory of the lives lost that day.

On May 11th, 1937, only two weeks after the insurgent Nazi Condor Legion bombed Guernica, Spain, Pablo Picasso commenced painting his famous masterpiece. While Picasso’s War celebrates Picasso’s work of art, “Guernica,” it also paints a biography of Picasso, the passionately flawed man. Picasso who couldn’t stay faithful to one woman; Picasso who saved everything ever given to him. As an aside, these two details make me believe I would have never gotten along with him. As a painter, his art was as polarizing as cilantro. In 1981 the famous painting still had to be protected from terrorists with armed guards.
Coincidentally, Martin was standing in from of “Guernica” on September 11th, 2001.
As an aside, I love books that make me want to explore more. I looked up Picasso’s cartoons “Dream and Lie of Franco” because of Russell’s book.
The biggest surprise for me was learning of Herbert Southworth, an unsung hero of the Guernica saga. He had a clerical job at the Library of Congress and he was convinced he could get to the bottom of who actually bombed Guernica. Despite denials, he needed to convince the American public of Franco’s threat to Democracy.

Author fact: Martin also wrote Beethoven’s Hair which was a bestseller. I am only reading Picasso’s War for the reading Challenge.

Book trivia: I wanted photography in Martin’s book. If nothing else, just a picture of Picasso’s famous Guernica for reference.

Playlist: Beatles and Joan Baez.

Nancy said: Pearl said Picasso’s War was “wonderfully readable” (Book Lust To Go p 90).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Guernica” (p 89).


Everything but the Squeal

Barlow, John. Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Reason read: March is food month.

The challenge for John Barlow in Everything But the Squeal is to consume every single part of the pig from tail to snout and everything in between; a veritable “porco-graphic tour” as John states. He faces every consumption with humor and more than a little snarky defensiveness, “when they’re starving , pigs will occasionally eat eat other, but so do we when our airplanes crash in inhospitable places” (p 21). This is also a travelogue as John has promised to eat the pig geographically as well, “in situ” as he put it.
More than a travelogue about eating pork, Everything But the Squeal is a memoir about marriage and family. What more tolerant vegetarian wife would tote their newborn son around northern Spain while her husband goes on a quest to devour an entire pig? But wait, there is more. Everything but the Squeal is historical, describing the past cultures of the Galacian people. It’s an abbreviate biography of Manuel Fraga (Minister of Tourism in 1962 and founder of the Popular Party in the 1980s). It’s even a love letter to his son. The direct comments he makes to Nico are endearing.
Here is how a documentary can ruin your eating habits. After watching “My Octopus Teacher” I no longer can stomach seeing any cephalopod on a menu. Here’s how words can ruin your eating habits. I won’t eat Slim Jims because I do not understand what “mechanically separate chicken parts” means. Thanks to Everything But the Squeal I now have to be on the lookout for MRM – mechanically recovered meat… um…whatever that means…and I won’t even describe the pig slaughter scene.
A byproduct of reading Everything But the Squeal was a slow picking up of tidbits of the language. I learned that morrina means a profound longing for the native land; something that is more powerful than a teenager at boarding school suffering from homesickness.
As another aside, I think I want to try my hand at making Galacian Red Sauce. I am sure there is more to it than evoo, paprika, garlic, onion, bay leaves and lemon, but you had me a paprika and sold me on lemon. As another aside, I don’t think I have ever been confronted with the description of offal as often as I have this month.

Quotes to quote, “The delights of home are never stronger than when you’re not there” (p 93). Obvo.

Author fact: Barlow has written other books. Everything but the Squeal is the only one on my Challenge lust.

Book trivia: Barlow talks about taking pictures but doesn’t include them in the book.

Playlist: “Y.M.C.A.,” “Brazil,” Grateful Dead, Barbra Streisand, Julio Iglesias, and Jerry Garcia.

Nancy said: Pearl called Everything but the Squeal “mouthwatering” (Book Lust To Go p 219).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain” (p 218). Can’t get any simpler than that.


Gaudi Afternoon

Wilson, Barbara. Gaudi Afternoon. Washington: Seal Press, 2001.

Reason read: February is my birth month and I want to honor women doing cool stuff. In honor of a female globetrotting translator, I’m reading Gaudi Afternoon.

What starts out as a promise to help a friend of a friend find a missing husband because she can speak Spanish, Cassandra Reilly jets off to Barcelona, Spain. She soon finds herself running all over the city, as in running into old lovers left and right. She is supposed to be looking for Ben Stevens, husband to Frankie. Instead, her time is taken up with deflecting old lover, Ana, and Ana’s quest to start a family with Cassandra; or lusting after on again-off again lover and hairdresser, Carmen; or getting orgasmic foot massages from the wacky weird foot therapist, Alice. Occasionally, in between being starved for sexual companionship, and looking for lost people, Cassandra works on translating a South American best seller and discovering the genius of Antonio Gaudi’s architecture. Then there’s looking for Ben…remember the missing husband of Frankie? Only, it isn’t Ben who is missing. This is a never ending kidnapping caper. The gender bending gets confusing at times.

Quotes to quote, “Or I’ll decide I need to catch up with an old lover in Uruguay, and political events will keep me there longer than expected” (p 3).

Pet peeve: small detail. Cassandra goes into a shop that seems to be full of nautical items. Maps are not nautical. Charts are the correct term.

Author fact: Wilson’s last name is Sjoholm. Like her lead heroine, she is a writer, editor, teacher and translator.

Book trivia: Gaudi Afternoon was made into a movie in 2001 starring Judy Davis. Of course I haven’t seen it.

Nancy said: Pearl said Gaudi Afternoon was a contemporary series featuring a female sleuth. I wouldn’t call Cassandra Reilly a “sleuth” but rather a woman who got caught up in sleuthing.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).


Shadow of the Wind

Zafron, Carlos Ruiz. Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Lucia Greives.

Reason read: the pilgrimage to El Rocio occurs in July.

When we first meet Daniel Sempre he is ten years old and his father has just introduced him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel has been granted the choice of one book as a birthday present. By chance, he chooses Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. So the mystery begins. Daniel is no ordinary boy. When he was very young he coveted a fountain pen reputed to once belong to Jules Verne. His father would accompany him weekly to “visit” this pen in a storefront window. [As an aside, what ten year old would utter, “all the evidence to the contrary”? Had he been reading Sherlock Holmes?] Moving on from the pen, Daniel becomes fascinated with writer Julian Carax and the mystery surrounding him. From there, the mystery deepens to the point of harrowing. Shadows become dangerous. Secrets become lethal. It’s a story within a story best savored slow.

Quotes I just had to quote, “A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept” and “To truly hate is an art one learns with time.”

As an aside, when I read the quote, “Childhood devotions make unfaithful and fickle lovers” I was reminded of Charles Causely’s poem, “Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” when he wrote, “Where are all the other girls and boys and why have you brought me children’s toys?”

Author fact: Sadly, Carlos Ruiz Zafron just passed away, reportedly from colon cancer.

Book trivia: Shadow of the Wind was an international bestseller and translated into dozens of languages.

Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said about Shadow of the Wind is that it offered a “vivid picture” of Spain.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain.” (p 220). How simple can you get?


June Travels

Of course I am not really traveling anywhere, but for the first time in a couple of months I have (finally) gotten back to reading. and. And! And, I did drive a car for the first time since 3/19/20. There’s that. In truth, I have been reading all along, just not with the pleasure and leisure I used to have. All of that is slowly coming back, in part due to the realization it’s okay to disappear into the pages from time to time. It is okay to read with no other agenda. I have started to think of the books as different forms of travel. Without further ado, here are the books for June:

Fiction:

  • The Second Summer of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Places I’ll go: Washington, D.C. & Alabama.
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Places: Pennsylvania & something like heaven.
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Places: around Sweden.
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Places: Barcelona, Spain and thensome.
  • Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. Places: My back yard of Western Massachusetts and Honduras.
  • Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell. Place: Cofu, Greece.

Nonfiction:

  • Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro. Places: all around New England

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Lee, Laurie. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. New York: Atheneum, 1969.

Reason read: the Madrid Festival in Spain (obviously) happens in May.

Confessional: Once again I am reading books out of order! Dammit, dammit, dammit. When I planned to read As I Walked Out I had no idea Cider with Rosie was the first book in a trilogy memoir. No clue! Pearl does not make mention of the connection even though Moment of War (the third and final book of the memoir) is also included in Book Lust To Go. As an aside, Cider is listed in the index of More Book Lust. Again, I did not make the connection.

Laurie Lee left home in England to find, at the very least, fame and fortune as a musician. With mixed emotions he found he could make a dime on street corners but had to supplement his income with other vocations like construction work before moving on to his next adventure. At the heart of his journey was discovery; as he put it, “I felt it was for this I had come: to wake at dawn on a hillside and look out on a world for which I had no words, to start at the beginning, speechless and without a plan, in a place that still had no memories for me” (p 54). Most of his discovery takes place in Spain. As an aside, I loved his description of Madrid as an old lion with broken teeth and bad breath. As I Walked Out… ends with Lee being escorted out of Spain by a British destroyer and yet by summer he was fixated on getting back to Spain to join the war.

Quotes that gave me pause, “I was affronted by freedom” (p 6), “Such a narrow gap between consent and dispute” (p 45) and “Halfway up, in a recess, a small pale child sat carving a potato into the shape of all doll, and as we approached, she turned, gave us a quick look of panic, and bit off its little head” (p 93). What’s that all about? One last quote, “Fear lay panting in the street like a dog” (p 219).

Author fact: Lee was the youngest of twelve in his family. But probably the most fascinating fact about LL is that he met his wife when she was five years old and neither could understand the other’s language (she French, he English).

Book trivia: As I Walked Out… was illustrated by Leonard Rosoman. One of my favorite illustrations is on page 50.

Nancy said: As I Walked Out… is included in a list of books about Spain Nancy said should be tried (p 220).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Spain” (p 218).