I just finished Isabel Allende’s novel Zorro
, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Allende, author of The House of the Spirits
, delves into the origins of the myth of Zorro, and creates a thoroughly believable rendition of the character. She traces the circumstances leading to his birth, his youth, his education in Spain (during the time of Napoleon and the Spanish Civil War) and eventually his return to California. The style is simultaneously mythic, romantic, magical and political, personal and confessional, a blend of the real and the fantastical that blurs the distinctions between the two seemingly mutually exclusive states. It is an interesting mix that has seen more success among Latin American authors than elsewhere, and Isabel Allende wields it masterfully.
Unlike the Hollywood images of Zorro that we have seen, this one is actually more than a two-dimensional cut-out, not simply a rich guy who wants to help poor people. The poor people that he is championing are the Indians, and he himself has Indian blood. But that is not all that compels him; he is obsessive about his appearance (the mask hides not only his identity, but also his protruding ears) and about women, as much as he is obsessed with honor and justice. Allende’s narrator describes him as “obsessed with dispensing justice, in part because he has a good heart, but more than anything because he so enjoys dressing up as Zorro.”
Couple days ago, I heard an interview on NPR with Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
. This book is apparently on week 48 on the NYT bestseller list and, unlike most texts that end up being strongly popular, this one deserves it. The story is told from the perspective of Christopher John Francis Boone, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism in which the person is unable to make any empathetic connection with other people. It’s a murder mystery, in which the boy tries to sort out who killed Wellington, the poodle belonging to the lady who lived next door, a path that leads to the uncovering of many other, darker mysteries.
It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mr.s Shears’ house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.
Unlike many (most) reunions, Van der Graff Generator has escaped the twin traps, the Scylla and Charybdis of band reunions, of failing to recapture the fire of their earlier incarnations, and of simply rehashing earlier works. The new album, Presence
, is a strong work, capturing the musical complexity and intensity of their earlier periods, but also incorporating elements of the growth they have had as musicians in the past 30 years, to create a memorable sonic experience. Peter Hamill has lost some of his vocal range, but none of power that he puts into each note.
The album was put together in a week of playing, generating 1 disk of songs and a second of jams. The songs are strong, with the exception of “The Beach,” which would not be missed should it suddenly fall into a pit full of spiders and vipers, never to be seen again. I am not as enamored of the second disk. I was thinking for a bit that some things are best not let out into the light of day. I’ve changed my mind about this. I am glad that they released this – it shows that even incredibly talented musicians can create strange, clunky, inane and pointless music when they jam, and in that sense, it really makes me feel a lot better about some of the stuff I’ve done.