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Preview: Madam Mayo

Madam Mayo



By literary journalist and novelist C.M. Mayo. Mainly Mexico, oftentimes Texas and well yonder. Author of METAPHYSICAL ODYSSEY INTO THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION, FRANCISCO I. MADERO AND HIS SECRET BOOK, as well as THE LAST PRINCE OF THE MEXICAN EMPIRE, the nove



Updated: 2017-06-21T22:39:10.381-04:00

 



Tulpa Max or, The Afterlife of a Resurrection (On the 150th Anniversary of the Execution of Maximilian von Habsburg)

2017-06-20T16:22:37.074-04:00

Letras Libres, one of Mexico's finest magazines, has a special section in this month's issue which includes, I am delighted to report, my own essay on Maximilian von Habsbug, "Tulpa Max. La vida después de una resurrección".  ("Tulpa Max or, The Afterlife of a Resurrection.") It's a riff on writing historical fiction-- and my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), which was beautifully translated by Mexican writer Agustín Cadena as El último principe del Imperio mexicano (Random House Mondadori-Grijalbo, 2010). I am hoping my Spanish has continued some progress up the steep hill toward matching my English: I dared to translate this essay for Letras Libres myself.The novel, by the way, is not about Maximilian per se, but rather the little half-American prince, Agustín de Iturbide y Green, whom Maximilian brought into his court (true story), much to the child's parents' consternation.The English version of this essay is forthcoming in the summer issue of Catamaran Literary Review, and once that's out I will be sure to post it here.For the occasion, a few links about Maximilian:> On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfühlung> Podcast of the book's presentation at the Library of Congress> A Conversation with M.M. McAllen About Her Book, Maximilian and Carlota> Q & A with Mexican historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski About Santiago Rebull, Maximilian's Court Painter-- Later Diego River's Professor> Oodles more at my novel's webpage, on the Maximilian and Carlota Blog, and the research page Maximilian von Mexiko> Your comments are always most welcome. Write to me here.Reading Mexico: Recommended Reading for Book Club of Extra-Curious & Adventurous English Langiage ReadersWriting About Mexico: Secrets and SurprisesWhat the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz[...]



Daniel Yergin's THE PRIZE, M. King Hubbert, Medieval Smokestacks & Etc. (Plus Cyberflanerie)

2017-06-12T03:46:44.543-04:00

Finally I finished reading Daniel Yergin's brilliant and necessary The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, a doorstopper of a tome which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1992. I sincerely wish I had read it decades sooner. It rewired my thinking about World War II, among multitudinous other things. What prompted me to pick it up is that for the book I am writing about Far West Texas I needed a broader historical perspective for the oil industry in the Permian Basin. One oilman mentioned in The Prize whom I'll be writing about is pioneer geologist and philanthropist Wallace E. Pratt... More about him anon. Next on my reading list: Mason Inman's new book about M. King Hubbert, The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future> M. King Hubbert's 1989 obituary in the New York Times> A lengthy and fascinating memorial to M. King Hubbert in The Geological Society of America (PDF).Oil Extraction, Economic Growth, and Oil Price DynamicsAn academic article that represents a parting of the seas.Low Tech Magazine on Medieval Smokestacks: Fossil Fuels in Pre-Industrial TimesAn almost unknown history well worth knowing.# # #A few more fascinating items I've happened upon in recent surfaris:Bob Dylan's Nobel LectureStrange and powerful, a highly recommended read. (But I still think I must have stepped into some parallel universe, this one where Donald Tump is President and Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.... I am not comparing Dylan to Trump, however. And, apropos of that lecture, I will say that I'm a serious fan of Buddy Holly.) On Jeffrey Mishlove's "New Thinking Allowed": Psychedelic Experience with Stanley KrippnerI am not planning on seeking out any psychedelic experiences myself; current events seem plenty psychedelic to me. But I do find it fascinating to listen to other people's experiences and to learn some of the cultural history. For psychonauterie and psychedelia, the very articulate and matter-of-fact Professor Krippner is the elder guru. Who Says 19th Century Family Photo Albums are Boring?Check out this post on the blog of Jeff Peachy, blogging book conservator extraordinaire.Guaranteed Minimum What?Another thoughtful post from Granola Shotgun. And finally, a couple of especially interesting pieces both in the New York Times:The Hidden Radicalism of Southern Food by John T. EdgeIs there an ecological unconscious? by Daniel B. SmithCyberflanerie: Cymru & ComanchePeyote and the Perfect YouJeffrey Mishlove's Thinking AllowedInterview with Yours Truly about Francisco I. Madero andSpiritism in the Mexican Revolution[...]



Five Video Poems to Watch

2017-06-11T19:49:33.510-04:00

Once in a chartreuse moon I concoct a little video... (my latest is this one about the controversial statue at the El Paso airport). Mainly I have made what I call "mini-clips" to illustrate my travel writing, which are really more like GIFs-- and, in fact, I have started making the occasional GIF. So in the jiggy flow of things, I have become intrigued by video poetry...Herewith a few examples gleaned from my recent Internet surfaris:Sor Juana's "Green Enchantment" Video by Dave Bonta allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/128673608?byline=0&portrait=0" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="360">Ann Cefola's "Velocity" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZbGQuy6ktNo" width="360">Sandra Beasley's "Inner Flamingo" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/194502544" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="360">Laurie Anderson's poem "Walking and Falling" as "Step" Filmed by Pascal Rekort allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/1855587" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="360">> See Dave Bonta's Moving Poems website and Bonta's excellent 2012 AWP talk, "Video Poetry: What Is it? Who Makes It? And Why?"> See also Bonta's post from 2014, "Poetry Videos on the Web: Some Preliminary Observations." > You can watch some of Bonta's own video poems here.> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la CruzTop 13 Trailers for Movies with Extra-Astral TexinessTyposphere, Ho! "Stay West" on My 1961 Hermes 3000[...]



"For the Vivid Dreamer": Notes from my Workshop on Nature and Travel Writing in the Glorious Guadalupe Mountains National Park

2017-06-01T13:15:00.371-04:00

(image)
El Capitan from the Pine Springs Station,
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
This past weekend for my workshops as artist-in-residence at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park I offered this handout which includes three brief, fun, easy-peasy and yet powerfully effective exercises to rev up your writerly perceptions.

We can think of the best writing about nature and travel, whether fiction or nonfiction, as instructions for the reader to form in his or her mind a "vivid dream," an experience of the world. How do we, whether as readers, or as any human being (say, folding laundry or maybe digging for worms with a stick), experience anything? Of course, we experience the world through our bodies, that is to say, through our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing-- and I would add a "gut" or intuitive sense as well... CONTINUE READING

P.S. Loads more resources for writers on my workshop page.

> Some of my travel writing is here, here, and here.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.










Q & A with Mary S. Black About Her New Book, "From the Frio to Del Rio"

2017-05-22T11:16:09.807-04:00

Amazon orIndieBoundOne of my very favorite places not just in Texas but in the galaxy is the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, so I was delighted to see that Texas A & M Press has published Mary S. Black's splendid and much-needed guidebook, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands. From the catalog:"Each year, more than two million visitors enjoy the attractions of the Western Hill Country, with Uvalde as its portal, and the lower Pecos River canyonlands, which stretch roughly along US 90 from Brackettville, through Del Rio, and on to the west. Amistad National Recreation Area, the Judge Roy Bean Visitors’ Center and Botanical Garden, Seminole Canyon State Park, and the Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde, along with ghost towns, ancient rock art, sweeping vistas, and unique flora and fauna, are just a few of the features that make this distinctive section of the Lone Star State an enticing destination."Now, veteran writer, blogger, and educator Mary S. Black serves up the best of this region’s special adventures and secret treasures. From the Frio to Del Rio is chock-full of helpful maps, colorful photography, and tips on where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. In addition there are details for 10 scenic routes, 3 historic forts and 7 state parks and other recreation areas."Herewith an interview with the author:Mary S. BlackAuthor of Peyote Fireand From the Frio to Del RioC.M. MAYO: What inspired you to write this book? MARY S. BLACK: I think what inspired me was the land itself, and the history. The Lower Pecos Canyonlands are not well known by most people, but the landscape is incredibly majestic and unexpected. You can be driving 70 miles per hour down the highway through the desert, when, wham, a huge canyon veers off to the left like a sudden tear in the earth. These canyons were inhabited by human beings for thousands of years. They lived off the land and made paintings on the canyon walls that illustrate their gods and belief systems. Over 300 of these paintings still exist, and you can visit some of them. They are a treasure of human culture, and I hope more people will learn to value them as something important for us to save. The people who settled this area historically were a diverse bunch with a lot of gumption. Do people know that word anymore? I guess in modern language, we might say they had a lot of guts. C.M. MAYO: In your view, what is the most underrated place in this region?  Las Moras SpringsMARY S. BLACK: If I have to pick only one, I’ll say Las Moras Springs Pool at Ft. Clark in Brackettville.  I’m always looking for great swimming holes. Las Moras Springs Pool is the third largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas. Crystal clear water at a year-round temperature of about 70 degrees comes into the pool from a strongly flowing spring, yet very few people swim there because they don’t know how to get access. The pool is located on Ft. Clark, and old U.S. Army fort originally built in 1849. You can get a day-pass for $5.00 at the guard house to enter the fort, enjoy the pool or play golf on either of two gold courses, and look at all the old stone buildings that remain from when the place was an active Army fort. There is also a really interesting museum there that is open on Saturdays.C.M. MAYO: What is your favorite place? MARY S. BLACK: Hands down, the White Shaman Preserve. The best studied of all the ancient murals is located there.  This is a polychrome painting about 25 feet long and 13 feet high done on a rock wall overlooking the Pecos River. This painting tells a story about creation and how the sun was born, according to Dr. Carolyn Boyd. You can visit the preserve on Saturdays at noon if you make a reservation online through the Witte Museum.  Tours are two-three hours long, and require a fairly strenuous hike down a canyon to a roc[...]



A Glimpse of "México Profundo" in a Visit to La Santa Madero in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila

2017-05-17T00:37:56.792-04:00

Having written a book about the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero--Mexico's "Apostle of Democracy"--I am often asked if I have visited his native town, Parras de la Fuente. As of two weeks ago, thanks to an invitation to give talk about my book there, I can now answer, with the easiest of shrugs, why, of course. An oasis of a mission-and-farm-town in the arid border state of Coahuila, Parras de la Fuente is one of Mexico's 111 officially-designated "pueblos mágicos," or "magical towns." Apart from its historical importance and its charming downtown, Parras de la Fuente's biggest draw is Casa Madero, the oldest winery in the Americas--at one time run by Francisco I. Madero. If you're interested in visiting Parras de la Fuente--and for anyone at all interested in Mexican history and culture I warmly recommend it--check out Tripadvisor for information galore. (If you read Spanish, there is a very informative article about the town in the magazine Mexico Desconocido.) I won't aim to cover the gamut here, just one of several worthy attractions, La Santa Madero.View of La Santa Maderofrom the parking lotLA SANTA MADERO It's impossible to talk about Parras de la Fuente without making some reference to the Madero family. Not only was native-born son Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) the leader of the 1910 Revolution, but he served as president of Mexico from 1911 until his assassination in 1913. Moreover, there was his grandfather, industrialist Evaristo Madero (1828-1911), founder of a veritable dynasty. In many ways, Parras de la Fuente is, if you will excuse my anglosajonismo, Maderotown.Speaking of looming, perched above the little town on a bulbous hulk of rock sits La Santa Madero.Perhaps you wonder, is that a misspelling? (Shouldn't it be El Santo Madero?) Was there a Saint Madero? Or could this be a sanctuary of some sort donated by the Madero family?La Santa Madero, it turns out, refers to the Holy Cross, a purported splinter of which is enshrined in the early 19th-century chapel at the top of that craggy overlook.Ring-a-ling to Dr. Jung! In the Names Department, La Santo Madero overlooking "Maderotown," this is quite the bodacious synchronicity... And this does bring new texture to a quote in my book:As even his great admirer, Isidro Favela put it, Madero was a Don Quixote with “the fury for freedom.” Others who loved him said Madero was “made of wood for the cross.”Starting up the hill to La Santa MaderoAbout half way up... sun setting through a cloudParras de la Fuente belowNearing the top, about to go around the curve...Final staircase to the top...Pug Puppy Alert!cClose up of pug puppy at La Santa MaderoThis Chapel of the Holy Cross...Alas, the chapel was locked.But you can view photos of the interior on TripadvisorOn the way back down the hill:Sunset over Parras de la Fuentefrom La Santa MaderoOn the way down we passed a girl in a huge poppy-red quinceañera dress (15th birthday celebration) and her photographers-- probably brothers, cousins and friends. One of my companions on this hike, an eminent Mexican scholar, gravely remarked that with this--the girl in her fabulous dress, as much as La Santa Madero--we'd had a glimpse of México profundo.More anon.> The webpage for my book about Francisco I. Madero is here.> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico CityA Visit to El Paso's "The Equestrian"Translating Across the Border[...]



Dispatch from Mexico City: On the "Relación" of Cabeza de Vaca

2017-05-10T00:59:19.687-04:00

La Relacion de Cabeza de VacaThe latest issue of Scoundrel Time, a new literary magazine edited by Paula Whyman, includes my piece for the "Dispatches" section (mine being from Coyoacán, Mexico City), "On the Relación of Cabeza de Vaca."> Read it here. This is an excerpt from a long essay about the Mexican literary landscape and the power of books, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" which is forthcoming in Kindle from Dancing Chiva next month.P.S. You can view the Spanish text of the Relación of Cabeza de Vaca here.> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.What the Muse Sent me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la CruzReading Mexico: Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious and Adventurous English-Language ReadersWhy Translate? The Case of the President of Mexico's Secret Book[...]



Cyberflanerie: Granola Shotgun on "The Springfield Strategy," Kunstler Interviews Orlov, Rachel Laudan on the Mexico-Islamic Connection, RALPH Mag & More

2017-05-04T14:34:03.921-04:00

Granola Shotgun on "The Springfield Strategy"A few months back I started following Granola Shotgun by "Johnny," a self-described "amateur architecture buff a with a passionate interest in how we all live and occupy the landscape."  So far his posts have been consistently informative and thought-provoking. This recent one on what Johnny terms "The Springfield Strategy" struck my gong on multiple levels: the examples of taking major life-enhancing opportunities others miss; pattern integrity versus pattern corruption / decay; and finally the views of Springfield, Massachusetts itself. (Believe it or not, Springfield makes a cameo in my book in-progress on Far West Texas. Back in ye olde day, Springfield, sprung from the Agawam Plantation on the Connecticut River, pioneer settlement of my just-missed-the-Mayflower ancestor, was the original bleeding edge of the Wild West.)amazonA fascinating podcast: James Howard Kunstler interviews Dmitry Orlov on his book, Shrinking the Technosphere.Orlov's Shrinking the Technosphere is brilliant... but I remain mystified as to why he makes no mention of the works of Kevin Kelly--who also discusses the Unabomber at length in the also brilliant What Technology Wants-- nor any reference to the ideas of psychonaut John C. Lilly.Orlov now blogs his lengthy, occasionally consternating, always surprising, information rich, often hilarious, and beautifully written essays behind a Patreon paywall-- not a Trumpesque impediment; a buck a month gets you in. But caveat emptor: Orlov can get waaaaay-out metaphysical-- albeit not as far into outer asteroid-belt orbits as John C. Lilly--or, not yet, anyway.Food historian Rachael Laudan delves deeper into the Mexico-Islamic Connection(Having blasted apart the story of mole, which my Mexican husband is still recovering from, she's now talking about chicken.)> See also Laudan's post on When Is the Easter Bunny Not a Bunny? (most assuredly not for vegetarians).So having spotted the review of Dr. Thoman Cowan's Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, I dashed off an email to Lolita Lark, editor of RALPH mag and by response, ended up with a whole page there, including links to RALPH mag's reviews of my books. Good thing my ego has a tether! P.S. I haven't scrounged up any emu oil pills yet, but yes, I am rereading Cowan. And I'm all for Dr. Cowan's vegetable powders.Artist and travel writer Jim Johnston looks at the Pinta la Revolución show at Bellas Artes for his Mexico City blog.(I saw that show myself back in March, highly recommended.)Not far from my recent stomping grounds in El Paso, landscape architect David Cristiani hikes Tortugas Mountain looking for cacti.Poet and translator Patricia Dubrava on The Little Engine That Could.David Allen's GTD blog on Making Use of Weird Windows of TimeHow Tim Ferriss Became the Oprah of Audio. An insightful interview with the maestro of mass by Ryan Holiday for the Observer.(And what of my podcasts, you might be wondering? Stay tuned. Marfa Mondays Podcast #21, which goes to Bracketville, Texas, will be posted shortly. I guess I could call it-- taking inspiritation from Greg Gibson's upcoming "bookectomy"--a podcastectomy. I have been working on it for too ridiculously long a time.)And finally, just because, here in Mexico City is my writing assistant, Uli Quetzalpugtl, lifting his nose to the glory of the last of the jacaranda blossoms for this year.Uli Quetzalpugtl with the Jacaranda, Mexico City, 2017.Photo: C.M. Mayo> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Cyberflanerie: Carnyx EditionTyposphere, Ho! "Stay West" on my 1961 Hermes 3000Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River by Patrick Dearen[...]



Dispatch from Palo Alto: A Joy in this Intensely Multivariate World: Edward Tufte's "Presenting Data and Information"

2017-04-26T03:05:57.703-04:00

C'est moi in Palo Alto,After the ET Presenting Data and Information workshopYonder back, about a decade ago, on the rave recommendation of a graphic designer friend, I took Edward Tufte's one day workshop, Presenting Data and Information, and it was such a joy of an inspiration that ever since I had wanted to take the class a second time. Finally, in Palo Alto this Monday, it was possible. Herewith a few notes and links:Beautiful Evidence, one of several books by ETWebsite: www.tufte.comIncludes more than 200 essaysBooks by Edward TufteTwitter: @EdwardTufteLinks from the handout:+ The Future of Data Analysis, video of Edward Tufte's keynote talk, September 2016+ Ingre Druckrey: Teaching to See, docfilm produced by Edward Tufte and directed by Andrei Severny+ "The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis" David Lazer, Ryan Kennedy, Gary King, Alessandro Vespignani  [PDF]+ "The Quartz Guide to Bad Data: An Exhaustive Reference" From Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte:"clutter and confusion are failure of design, not attributes of information" (p. 51)"What we seek... is a rich texture of data, a comparative context, an understanding of complexity" (p.51)Visual Explanations by Edward TuftePractical advice for presentations on p. 68.From this workshop, random E.T. quotes of note:"the world is intensely mutlivariate""respect your audience, endlessly""I'm not going to dumb things down, I'm going to make everyone smarter""How do I know that? How do they know that?""Start with a document, not a deck""Keep architecture simple, content rich" "A visualization should provide reasons to believe""If you have any reason to bring in a three dimensional object, do so""Find successful things in the wild. Where is the ceiling of excellence?""Keep an open mind, not an empty head""The point of an information presentation is to explain something with credibility and to help viewers understand the content, help them reason. Show causality.""Separate the sheep from the goats""Sculpture is a work of art that casts shadows""When things are spacially adjacent this lets the audience be in charge"I eagerly await ET's forthcoming book, Meaning and Space. > Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Steps for a Journey to EinfuhlungFive Super Simple Tips for Better Book DesignThe Chocolate-Boxy Yum of Small Multiples[...]



Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River by Patrick Dearen

2017-04-18T16:10:47.824-04:00

(image) When I closed the cover of Patrick Dearen's Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River it was with both gratitude and the unsettling sense of having arrived into new territory— raw, rich, appalling—in my understanding of Far West Texas. This is no minor thing to acknowledge; for some years now I have been at work on a book about that very region.

But first, for those who don't have a jones for, shall we say, Wild Westerie, why bring Far West Texas into the cross hairs? And why give a hoededo about its skinny river so salty, to quote one of Dearen's informants, that "a snake wouldn't drink it"?

Texas is one of the most powerful economic and political entities in not only the United States but the Americas. At the same time, "Texas" is so hammered out into tinfoil-thin clichés of popular culture (and many of those informed by warmed-over 19th century war propaganda and Madison Avenue-concocted boosterism), that we have the illusion we know Texas, when in fact it enfolds concatenations of undeservedly obscure histories, stupendenous beauty, and the lumpiest of paradoxes. If Texas—and I mean the real one, not the confection of Marion Morrison aka John Wayne, et al—is still in many ways terra incognita, its "iconic" far west, profoundly moreso. What delineates Far West Texas from the rest of Texas is precisely that skinny, salty river. And a most peculiar body of water it is. CONTINUE READING

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.








Spring Break

2017-04-18T14:31:55.845-04:00

Traditional Mexican candies from the Dulcería CelayaI'm off this week to do more research for the book in-progress on Far West Texas. In case you missed them, herewith a batch of yummy posts from springtimes of yore:Mexico City Lit: Agustin Cadena, Patricia Dubrava, and Yours Truly, Plus a Note on the Past and Future of the Literary MagazineApril 27, 2016Q & A with Independent Publisher Michele Orwin, Founding Editor of Bacon Press BooksApril 15, 2015The Memoirs of Maximilian's Gardener,Wilhelm Knechtel, Translated by Susanne IglerApril 8, 2013Little Walls Against the TechniumMarch 14, 2011From The Writer's Carousel: Literary Travel WritingMarch 17, 2009Next post next Monday, April 17. P.P.S. Stay tuned for more Marfa Mondays podcasts. Twenty have been posted to date. Listen in anytime here.One Simple Yet Powerful Practice for Reading as a WriterDesert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West by Rubén MartínezOn Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfuhlung[...]



A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City

2017-04-18T14:32:11.826-04:00

This is an excerpt from my long essay, of creative nonfiction, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla," which  is forthcoming in Kindle.In the shadow of the National Palace: La Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América, the House of the First Printing Press in the Americas, Mexico City. Photo by C.M. Mayo, 2017....There is one more a pearl of a place that cannot go unmentioned in any discussion of our sister republic’s literary landscape. From the Claustro de Sor Juana, in less than twenty minutes’ walk north and slightly east—weaving your way through the shoppers, touts, tourists, beggars, businessmen—honking cars and buses and motorbikes—and a skate-boarder or two—blaring music, freighters with their trolleys piled to toppling with boxes—don’t get run over by the pedicabs—and once at the Zócalo, wending around the Aztec dancers in feathers and ankle-rattles, the toothless shouter pumping his orange sign about SODOM Y GOMORRA MARIGUANA BODAS GAY, and an organ grinder, and to-ers and fro-ers of every age and size, you arrive, out of breath, at a squat, terracotta-colored three-story high building. This is where the first book was printed in—no, not just in Mexico—then New Spain—but in the Americas. La Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América.To step into the foyer of its museum and bookstore is to relax into an oasis of peace. The uniformed guard hands me a pen to sign the guest book. It’s late afternoon; I am the third visitor for the day. I take a gander at the exhibition of contemporary textile art—a few pieces reference one of Frida Kahlo’s drawings in the Casa Azul of a tentacled monster of paranoia, each limb tipped with a staring eye. In the second gallery I find the replica of our continent’s first printing press soaking in sun from the window. The wooden contraption is taller than I am, but so spare, it occurs to me that it might serve to juice apples.How my Mexican amigos scoffed at the auction of the Bay Psalm Book in 2013. Not about the record sum—14.2 million US dollars—for which that little book, printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640, went to a private collector, but about the report in the international media that the Bay Psalm Book was “the first book printed in America.”To Mexicans, America is the continent, not their sister republic. Mexico is part of the same continent, of course, and so the first book printed in America—or, as we estadounidenses prefer to say, the Americas—was Breve y más compendiosa doctrina Cristiana en lengua Mexicana y Castellana (Brief and Most Comprehensive Christian Doctrine in Nahuátl and Spanish), printed right here, in Mexico City, in this building, in 1539.Mexico beats out Massachusetts by 101 years! But this sinks to silliness. That printer in Cambridge, Massachussetts, was English, and the one in colonial Mexico City, a native of Lombardy named Giovanni Paoli, Hispanicized to “Juan Pablos.” The technology that found its way to the Americas with these printing pioneers—to the north, Protestants, to the south, Catholics, separated by religious schism and the whirlwinds of European politics, and that century, and moreover, by the staggering distance of desert, swamplands, oceanic buffalo-filled prairies, and sunless and unmapped forests—had one and the same root: the fifteenth-century workshop of a German goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg was inking his little pieces of movable type more than half a century before Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue,” and the indigenous on this continent chanced to hear the first stirrings of vaguest rumors and weird omens.Still, 1539 is an early date indeed for that first book printed in the Americas:[...]



Thank You, Dear Readers: On the Occasion of Madam Mayo Blog's Eleventh Anniversary

2017-04-18T14:31:32.520-04:00

Images courtesy of Pulp-o-MizerMethuselah of Blogdom here. Why am I still blogging? I am heartened to say, dear readers, that I know you're there, more of you each year, and I appreciate your visits and your comments (as always, I welcome comments via email.) As for the granular whys and wherefores of this blog, I wouldn't say much that I didn't say last year, on its tenth anniversary, which echoed much of what I had to say on its eighth anniversary. The latter link goes to my talk for the 2014 AWP Conference panel on "Homesteading on the Digital Frontier: Writer's Blogs." To quote from that:"Madam Mayo" is not so much my so-called "platform," but rather, a net that catches certain special fish— the readers who care about the things I care to write about. As ever, I aim to provide posts on a variety of topics that might be, in turn, of use and/or interest for my writing workshop students, and/or for Mexicophiles, and/or for Far West Texasphiles (is that a word?), adventurous readers, and myself. One of my many motivations for blogging is to iron out my own thoughts, especially on subjects that tend to come up in my correspondence with other writers and in my writing workshops, for example:(What do you mean, "reading as a writer"?)One Simple Yet Powerful Practice in Reading as a Writer(How do you keep up with email?)Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time(Where do you find the time to write?)Thirty Deadly-Effective Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing(What do you think about social media?)Adios Facebook!Six Reasons Why I Deactivated My AccountYou will also find posts on my work in-progress and anything relevant to it (at present, a book about Far West Texas):A Visit to El Paso's "The Equestrian"Book review: Pekka Hamalainen's The Comanche EmpireThe Strangely Beautiful Sierra Madera Astrobleme (What's an Astrobleme?)Peyote and the Perfect YouTop 13 Trailers for Movies with with Extra-Astral TexinessThe Harrowingly Romantic Adventure of Trade with Mexicoin the Pre-pre-pre-NAFA EraNotes on Artist Xavier González (1898-1993)Once in a zera-striped-chartreuse moon of Pluto I touch on nonwriterly topics:12 Tips for Summer Day Hiking in the Desert (How to Stay Cool, Avoid Actinic Keratosis, Blood, and Killer Bees)Yet one more reason to check in with this blog is for announcements about my publications and interviews:Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Independent Literary JournalsBiographers International Interview: Strange Spark of the Mexican RevolutionNew Thinking Allowed Interview by Jeffrey Mishloveand a Review by Michael TymnAx of Apocalypse: Strieber and Kripal's Super NaturalTo share my talks and podcasts:For the 2016 Women Writing the West Conference: On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Steps to a Journey to EinfuhlungFor the American Literary Translators Association Conference: Translating Across the Border> More talks here.> All Marfa Mondays Podcasts here.> All podcasts here.And, something I especially relish, to learn about and celebrate the work of other writers:Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub on Translating Blume Lempel's  Oedipus in Brooklyn from the YiddishShelley Armitage on Walking the Llano: A Texas Memoir of Place> More interviews here.P.S. For those of you who are writers / bloggers, herewith the top five things I would have done differently back in 2006 had I known what I know now:1. Use WordPress2. Post once per week, something verily crunchy, otherwise take a vacation;3. Post interviews with other writers more often;4. Maybe tweet the link to a post once or twice; otherwise do not waste time with social media;5. When possible and when th[...]



What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

2017-06-07T21:38:37.968-04:00

Door to the quarters of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, "the Tenth Muse." Photo by C.M. Mayo, 2017.Late last year my amiga the brilliant short story writer Paula Whyman invited me to send a "Dispatch from Mexico City" for her new magazine, Scoundrel Time. So I dialed in to Muse HQ... As I told Paula, woefully past the deadline, I had asked the Muse for a slider, a yummy little note about books in Mexico, but she delivered the whole ox. In other words, my "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" is a novela-length essay about the Mexican literary landscape, from prehispanic codices to contemporary writers. It is what it is, I don't want start chopping (there would be blood!!), but of course, a 30 page essay is too long for a magazine. Scoundrel Time will be publishing an excerpt about Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación-- a nearly 500 year-old memoir little known outside of Mexico and Texas, yet that stands as one of the most astonishing and important books ever written. (As soon that goes on-line, I will be sure to link to it from here. Read the piece about Cabeza de Vaca in Scoundrel Time here.) As for my full-length essay, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic," look for it as a Kindle under my own imprint, Dancing Chiva, ASAP.  Herewith my other favorite excerpt, about the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz:Excerpt from "DISPATCH FROM THE SISTER REPUBLIC OR, PAPELITO HABLA"by C.M. MAYO For rare book collectors, Mecca is Mexico City’s Colonia Centro, and for such aficionados of mexicana as myself, its sanctum sanctorum, the Librería Madero—by the way, recently relocated from the Avenida Madero to the Avenida Isabela La Católica, facing the the formidable wedding cake-white corner of the 16th century ex-convent of San Jerónimo, known today as the Claustro de Sor Juana, that is, the Convent of Sister Juana.And if you would not know Sor Juana from a poinsettia, gentle reader, with all respect, you must crowbar out that boulder of ignorance, for which you will be rewarded by a glimpse of the diamond of the Mexico’s Baroque period, the first great Latin American poet and playwright, “the Tenth Muse,” a cloistered nun.Texan poet John Campion was the first to translate Sor Juana’s magnum opus, “Primero sueño,” as “The Dream,” in 1983. (Alas, that date is not a typo.) Campion’s translation is out of print, but he offers a free PDF download of the text on his website, worldatuningfork.com. The first lines of Campion’s translation beautifully capture Sor Juana’s uncanny power:Pyramidaldeath-born shadow of earthaimed at heavena proud point of vain obeliskspretending to scale the StarsIn her time Sor Juana was one of the most learned individuals, man or woman, in the New World, and her prodigious oeuvre, from love poems to polemics, comedies to enigmas to plays to villancicos, was exceptionally sophisticated, so much so that its interpretation is today the province of a small army of sorjuanistas. As Mexico’s Nobel laureate poet Octavio Paz writes in Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden), “A work survives its readers; after a hundred or two hundred years it is read by new readers who impose on it new modes of reading and interpretation. The work survives because of these  interpretations, which are in fact resurrections.”And perchance startling discoveries. In his 2011 El eclipse del Sueño de Sor Juana, Américo Larralde Rangel makes a radiant case that her “Primero Sueño” describes the dawn over Mexico City after a lunar eclipse on the solstice of the winter of 1684.In the Librería Madero I find on the first shelf, facing out, two new books by sorjuani[...]



One Simple Yet Powerful Practice in Reading as a Writer

2017-04-18T14:32:59.552-04:00

I'll be giving my annual one day only workshop on Literary Travel Memoir at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland this April 22. [Learn more and register online here.] New in ye olde packet  of handouts for this workshop is "Words I Like," my name for a powerful yet simple practice that you might think of as Feldenkrais for your vocabulary.  "WORDS I LIKE"As writers, albeit human creatures of habit, we tend to use only a woefully limited portion of our vocabularies. Hence our first drafts may be stiff, dull, and vague. To add verve, freshness, and focus, it helps to loosen up our mental joints, as it were, and reach for a greater variety of words.The challenge is not necessarily to expand your vocabulary --I am not talking about trying to sound fancy-- though perhaps you or one of your characters may want to do that-- but to bring more of your writerly attention to words you know but do not normally use.Towards that end reading is vital-- but not reading passively, as a consumer of entertainment, nor reading for facts and concepts, as would a scholar. Instead, read as a writer, with a pencil or pen in hand, noting down any words that strike you as especially apt or somehow, for whatever reason, attractive to you. These might be simple words such as, say, brood; caprice; crackpot; pall; nougat; persimmon. When I read I keep a notebook, PostIt, or index card handy so I can jot down any words and phrases that I like. I used to worry about keeping all these notebooks and bits of paper in some semblance of order, but I now believe that most of the benefit is in simply noticing what it is that I like; and second, writing it down. (In other words, when it comes time to declutter, I will, as I have, and so what?) Of late I toss these index cards in a recipe box that I keep on a shelf behind my desk. When one of my drafts needs an infusion of energy, I pluck out a random batch of cards, shuffle though them, and see if anything might be of use. Often it is. From another card plucked out at random:shrewd; sagacious; "intrigue and shifting loyalties"; surmise; astute; console; relentless; do not relent; never relent; pout; nuanced; verdict; deadly; banal; banalities; dejected; munificence; fail to grasp; thieving toadThieving toad! I don't know why, that makes me laugh. And it makes me want to start (or perhaps end?) a short story thus:She failed to grasp that he would never relent, he was a thieving toad.I also note phrases and sayings I like, e.g.:"Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.""Birds of prey don't sing""the apostles of -- " "camarón que se duerme amanece de botana" (the shrimp that sleeps wakes up as an appetizer-- that's a variation on the old Mexican saying, "the shrimp that sleeps is carried off by the current.")Bonhomie! I love it! Why? 'Cuz!From that second index card pictured above: bonhomie; obviate; banal; decrepitude; penumbra; chronic; salient; pieties; vim; dour; bouyancy; bouyant; circumlocutions.Why these words? Because I like them. You might not. The point is, as you read, write down whatever words you like.Well now, I hear Henry James' Muse yelling! So many salient pieties... In the penumbra of his chronic bonhomie, she felt at once dour and bouyant.>> Workshop Page >> Resources for Writers(Includes Tips & Tools; On Craft; On Editing; On Publishing; On Digital Media & more) >> Giant Golden Buddha & 364 More Free 5 Minute Writing Exercises>> For more on reading as a writer, see my archived blog, Reading Tolstoy's War and Peace.>> Your [...]



Email Ninjerie Update: Old-School Tool to Break the Ludic Loop

2017-03-24T21:20:13.995-04:00

Behold the Zassenhaus.Back in December of 2016 I posted "Email Ninjerie in the Theater of Space-Time or, This Writer's 10 Point Protocol for Inbox 10 (ish)." As I explained, for me the game-changer was point #1, tackling email in scheduled batches using a stopwatch. To quote:I usually do 20 minutes of email processing with a stopwatch. It's not that I am trying to hurry through my email, but rather, I am respecting the limits of my brain's ability to effectively focus on it. I'm a speed-reader and I can type faster than lickety-split, but on most days I can deal with email for only about 20 minutes before my brain cells run low on glucose and I end up scrolling up and down the screen, dithering, feeling scattered— in short, procrastinating. (You might be able to do 10 minutes, or, say, an hour in one go— of course, not everyone's energy to focus on their email is the same, or the same every day and in every circumstance. One can always set the stopwatch for a different amount of time.) Don't believe me about batching? Check out the extra-crunchy research at MIT (PDF). By processing email in 20 minute batches, when the sessions all add up over the arc of the day, I find that I accomplish more in, say, one hour of three separate 20 minute sessions than I would have had I plowed on for an hour straight.When the stopwatch dings, I do not expect to have finished— "inbox zero" is a fata morgana! And that's OK, because I have another email batch session already scheduled (a few hours later, or five minutes later. It's important to take a break, at the very least stand up and stretch.)Above all, because I am focussing on email at my convenience, on my schedule, my attention is no longer so fractured... [Read the complete post here] I didn't put it this way in that post, but now that I've grokked the term ludic loop, I must say, that rrrrrring slices right through it. In other words, paradoxically, the reason I was drowning in email was that I was spending too much time on it. That is, I would get stuck in a ludic loop, checking, looking, checking, looking. Yes, indeed, gentle reader, batching with a stopwatch works. But of course, when it goes off, you have to actually stop. I added the habit of standing up. Bell rings, I stand up. Which stopwatch to use? Of course everybody and their uncle's cousin's zonkey has a smartphone with a stopwatch app, and I know, for a lot of people, especially those under the age of 30, any other option would be, like LOL, a total eye-roller. For those answering email on their laptop, such as myself, I recommended using a free on-line stopwatch (get yours here). But of late, I have switched to using a mechanical Zassenhaus kitchen timer.* I chose that particular brand because it's better quality and heavier than the average cheap-o plastic kitchen timer. Why an old-fashioned kitchen timer, pray tell? Because using something not on the computer screen but in the real world-- ye olde meatspace-- helps me stay focused on the task at-hand. It's one less reason look at the "desktop," one less thing to have to go click on (and so reduce the risk of another journey down the rabbit hole, or to put it another way, of getting caught in a ludic loop). As I quoted David Allen in my guest-blog for "Cool Tools" on why I use a paper-based organizing system, "low-tech is oftentimes better because it is in your face."Methinks Dmitry Orlov is onto something. But that's another post.*Perhaps you are wondering if I have not heard of Francesco Cerillo's The Pomodoro Technique and  his tomato-shaped[...]



Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Independent Literary Journals

2017-02-27T13:55:45.482-05:00

While it is a joy to be able to publish without gatekeepers-- joy enough that I for one have been blogging every Monday and oftentimes more often since 2006 on this free & open-to-all blogger.com platform-- a curated presentation of poetry and prose, that is, the traditionally edited literary magazine on ye olde paper, has not disappeared, nor will it, and thank goodness.I happy to report that a pair of very fine independent literary magazines has landed in my mailbox: Catamaran Literary Reader and Tiferet. I am also honored to report that the Fall 2016 issue of the former includes my translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum’s short story “The Time,” and the Fall 2016 issue of the latter, an excerpt from my book, a work of creative nonfiction about a translation: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. As an ex-literary magazine editor myself (Tameme), I have a big heart full of appreciation for such magazines. And when they are as unique, and as beautifully edited and exceptionally well-designed as these two, I want to get up on the top of the roof and toot a tuba-- or something! CATAMARAN LITERARY READERFounding editor Catherine Segurson describes Catamaran as “pages full of color, inviting images, and engrossing stories, poems and essays—all from curious and inventive minds.”  Indeed: standouts in this issue include a poem and an essay by Richard Blanco, and the several paintings by Bo Bartlett, whose “Via Mal Contenti” graces the cover.  More about artist Bo Bartlett in this brief video: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/to5PVjg9eao" width="360">Catamaran makes a special effort to include literary translation in every issue. N.B.: Catamaran's contributing editors include essayist and translator Thomas Christensen and poet, teacher, and noted translator Zack Rogow.  Mexican writer, poet, editorRose Mary SalumABOUT ROSE MARY SALUM, Mexican Poet and WriterMexican writer and poet Rose Mary Salum is the editor of Literal, and editor of the anthology Delta de las arenas: Cuentos árabes, cuentos judíos. Her collection of linked short stories set in the Midde East, which includes "The Time," is El agua que mece el silencio. My translation, in-progress, is entitled The Water That Rocks the Silence. If you read Spanish, check out her interview in El Páis.>> See my previous post about her work in Origins. >> See also my in-depth interview with Salum in Conversations with Other Writers.) TIFERETTiferet is published by novelist and poet Donna Baier-Stein. I echo poet Molly Peacock's praise: “Thank you for this journal which combines spiritual issues, imaginative issues, esthetic issues. All of those, I think, need to be in the mix for the richly lived life, the richly observed life.” This Fall 2016 issue opens with a splendid essay by poet Mark Doty, “Luckier / Rowdyish, Carlacue, Wormfence and Foosfoos.” Just for that yonder-galaxy-beyond-the-Cineplex-title: Another thank you! Francisco I. MaderoABOUT FRANCISCO I. MADERO,Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico, 1911-1913My piece in Tiferet  about Madero's 1911 Spiritist Manual did not include any of my translation, but you can read some of that here. Caveat: If you are unfamiliar with metaphysics you might find Madero's Spiritist Manual... oh, I guess I would say... wiggy-[...]



Heribert von Feilitzsch on Dr. Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Mexican Revolution, Plus a Note on "El Tatwametro"

2017-02-23T12:13:27.983-05:00

One hundred years and counting since the explosion of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, treasures are still being pulled out of the dust of various archives, and narratives refashioned accordingly. The latest contribution should spark the interest of anyone who ponders the whys, wherefores and eye-crossing chaos of that tumult-- and the history of German-Mexican relations and of metaphysical religion: The essay by Heribert von Feiltzsch entitled "Medical Doctor, Occultist, Revolutionary, Spy: Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Mexican Revolution," which is included in the anthology edited by Roberto Cantú, Equestrian Rebels: Critical Perspectives on Mariano Azuela and the Novel of the Mexican Revolution (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016).Little known as he may be at present, Dr. Krumm-Heller was a key figure in the Mexican Revolution, and in particular, for his role in the defeat of Pancho Villa. Why then have historians, with counted few exceptions, tended to overlook him? I would wager that it could be for one or more of three reasons: (1) lack of archival resources about Krumm-Heller and/or lack of access to those in German; (2) resistance to reconsidering enduring paradigms of the revolution; (3) resistance to considering the occult / metaphysical religion and anyone connected with it. Indeed, Dr. Krumm-Heller, aka "Maestro Huiracocha," was a flamboyant enthusiast and a prolific author of esoterica, a Spiritist, a Mason, a Theosophist, and a leading figure in 20th century Rosicrucianism and the Ordo Templi Orientis.For many historians, alas, it has been easier to dismiss such ideas and movements than to dig in and attempt to come to a broader understanding of their nature and context. I know from first-hand experience how challenging this can be: for my book on Manual espírita of 1911, the secret book by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero, I had to read through a Himalaya of works that were at times for me--as I surmise they would be for most researchers of the Mexican Revolution-- discomfiting in the extreme. (I discuss this challenge at some length in my review of Strieber and Kripal's Super Natural.)In his detailed and well documented article, von Feilitzsch has made a vital contribution not only to the literature on the Mexican Revolution but also to German-Mexican relations and the history of metaphysical religion. Those interested in the latter subject will recognize names of Dr. Krumm-Heller's teachers and mentors, among them, Madame Blavatsky, Papus, Franz Hartmann, and Rudolph Steiner. I am honored that von Feilitzsch cited my work on Madero's Spiritism, as well as some of my correspondence speculating about Madero's attitude towards Theosophy and the nature of Madero's relationship with Dr. Krumm-Heller. One thing that jumped out as new to me was von Feilitzsch's mention that Krumm-Heller "had his first training in esotericism through the French spiritist León Denis." Denis was one of the leaders of the Spiritist movement after Allan Kardec. Francisco I. Madero and his father, Francisco Madero, were the sponsors of the Spanish translation of Denis's book, Après la Mort (After Death). Since some historians erroneously claim that that translation was never published, I made this little video showing my copy of that title, Después de la muerte, which was indeed published in 1906. Related posts of interest:>> Professor Roberto Cantú>> Heribert von Feilitzsch's webpage and Mexican Revolution blog.>> von Feilitzsch: "A Decision with Grave Consequences: Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Demis[...]



Lord Kingsborough's ANTIQUITIES OF MEXICO

2017-04-04T14:43:53.185-04:00

Mexico has been very much on my mind these past days because I have been working on some translations of works by Mexican writers Agustín Cadena and Rose Mary Salum... more news about those soon... and also (not entirely a digression from the book in-progress about Far West Texas) I have been working on an essay about books in Mexico entitled "Dispatch from the Sister Republic." A brief excerpt from that as yet unpublished essay:The Dresden Codex was water-damaged in the firebombings of World War II. Fortunately for us, around 1825, a facsimile had been made by the Italian artist Agostino Aglio, commissioned by the Irish peer Edward King, Lord Kingsborough—the latter a believer in the theory, to become an article of faith for the Mormons, that the Mesoamericans were descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. archive.orgAglio’s facsimile is included in Kingsborough’s colossal multi-volume Antiquities of Mexico. And when I say “colossal” I do not exaggerate. In those days before photography, Lord Kingsborough sent Aglio all over Europe, to the Vatican Library, the royal libraries of Berlin, Dresden, and Paris, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, among many others, to copy their Mexican codices, painstakingly tracing the elaborate diagrams and glyphics, and then coloring them in. Aglio also made paintings of Mexican sculptures and other artifacts in European collections. The whole project, from making the fascimiles to the state-of-the-art color printing and luxury binding, was at once a visionary contribution to world culture and an extravagance beyond folly. It could be said that Antiquities of Mexico killed Lord Kingsborough; having exhausted his liquidity before paying for the paper, he was imprisoned in Dublin, where he contracted typhoid.*archive.org Lord Kingsborough never made it to Mexico, but it was in Mexico City, on a tour of the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, that I saw one of those volumes of Antiquities of Mexico up close. That particular volume was part of the personal library, then recently acquired, of Carlos Monsiváis, one of Mexico’s most esteemed journalists and leftist social critics, who died in 2010. I could not tell you which volume of Antiquities of Mexico it was nor why nor how it was separated from its fellow volumes in its set, nor why nor how Monsiváis, famous for his witty musings on Mexican popular culture, had acquired it. The librarian, wearing white gloves, strained to lift the volume off its shelf. Bound in navy-blue Morrocco leather, it was the size of a small suitcase. With the grimace of a weight-lifter, he slowly lowered it onto the table. He levered up the cover, then turned a couple of the pages. The colors of the prints of Aglio’s paintings of the leaves from a codex— red, yellow, turquoise, ochre— were as bright as if painted that morning. I later learned that that single volume weighed some 65 pounds.*Sylvia D. Whitmore, "Lord Kingsborough and His Contribution to Ancient Mesoamerican Scholarship: The Antiquities of Mexico," The PARI Journal, Spring, 2009 >> Read more about the Antiquities of Mexico at Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books, a description of a set that was auctioned for USD 61, 625.>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.Reading Mexico: Recommendations for an English-Language Book ClubUna ventana al mundo invisible (A Window to the Invisible World):Master Amajur and the Smoking SignaturesBiographers International Interview: A Strange Spark of the Mexican Revolution[...]



Texas Institute of Letters

2017-02-14T01:00:25.133-05:00

I am honored to announce that I have been elected to the Texas Institute of Letters. Herewith the announcement on the TIL website—new members for 2017 include a batch of very accomplished writers. On the website, whoo hoo, there's my name next to Larry McMurtry's! And there are Cormac McCarthy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sergio Troncoso... it's a long list. Funny, Larry McMurtry has been on my mind of late because first, after I caught the bug for an Hermes 3000 typewriter,  I found out that he used (uses?) one; second, for an essay I'm writing about books I read his memoir, Books— an experience I would liken to the perfect BLT on the perfect afternoon.  What's my connection with Texas? I was born in El Paso, and I am writing about that in a book in-progress on Far West Texas. Culturally I would describe myself as pre-Silicon Valley (I grew up there, but left before it became what it is today) and with the overlay of Chilangolandia, that is, Mexico City, where I have lived for most of my life.  >> About that book in-progress on Far West Texas: Listen in any time to the podcasts apropos of this project here. Twenty podcasts have been posted to date; I will do 4 more to round it off at 24 podcasts. Stay tuned. The ridiculously delayed podcast about my visit to Bracketville is taking shape....In case you missed them, here are a few of my Far West Texas podcasts:PITMASTER ISRAEL CAMPOS IN PECOSListen here.LISA FERNANDES, BARREL RACER AT THE PECOS RODEOListen here.TREMENDOUS FORMS: PAUL CHAPLO ON FINDING COMPOSITION IN THE LANDSCAPEListen here.GREG WILLIAMS ON THE ROCK ART OF THE LOWER PECOS CANYONLANDSListen here.And a few of my recent book reviews on Texas topics:The Comanche Empireby Pekka HämäläinenReviewed for Madam Mayo blogNut Country: Right-wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategyby Edward H. MillerReviewed for Washington Independent Review of BooksThe Pecan: A History of America's Native Nut by James McWilliamsReviewed for Madam Mayo blogLone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform Americaby Richard ParkerFor Madam Mayo blog> All book reviews here.P.S. If you're in the Washington DC area and find this of interest, I will be teaching a one day only workshop on literary travel writing at the Writer's Center on Saturday April 22 10 AM to 1 PM in Bethesda. More info about that workshop here.>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.GIFs of Far West Texas: Santa Elena Canyon, Pecos High Bridge, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Guadalupe MountainsA Conversation with M.M. McAllen about Maximilian and CarlotaBlood and Salt in Borderlands Texas:Q & A with Paul Cool about Salt Warriors [...]



EL NIÑO FIDENCIO AND THE FIDENCISTAS by Antonio Noé Zavaleta

2017-02-02T14:07:23.450-05:00

amazon.comThe vast stretches of the Texas-Mexico border region enfold some unusual cultural niches. The mediumnistic healer El Niño Fidencio, who died in northern Mexico in 1938, and his followers, the fidencistas, are unquestionably among the most intriguing of subjects for a history and an enthnography, and with El Niño Fidencio and the Fidencistas: Folk Religion in the US-Mexico Borderland, anthropologist Antonio Noé Zavaleta has just published precisely that.Zavaleta's El Niño Fidencio and the Fidencistas crossed my radar because I did a fair amount of reading on this very subject, including Zavaleta's fascinating book with curandero Alberto Salinas Jr., Curandero Conversations, when I was writing my book on the "secret book," Spiritist Manual of 1911, by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero.(See my 2013 blog post on Niño Fidencio.)I cannot say for sure, but I doubt that Niño Fidencio and Madero met. Niño Fidencio did not consider himself a Spiritist, and when Madero died in the coup d'etat that ended his presidency in 1913, Fidencio was still a teenaged worker on a remote ranch. But there is an intermediating figure who appears multiple times in Zavaleta's new book: Teodoro von Wernich, a wealthy hacendado of northern Mexico, personality in the San Antonio Texas Spiritist scene, friend and supporter of Francisco I. Madero, and employer, patient of, and mentor to his worker José Fidencio Sintoro Constantino, the boy who became the folk saint revered on both sides of the border as "El Niño Fidencio." (Researchers take note: With Teodoro von Wernich and his circle there may be rich lodes still to mine, and in archives on both sides of the border.) In sum, Zavaleta's latest is a must-read for anyone interested in Niño Fidencio, shamanism, and the cross-border cultures of northern Mexico and South Texas. More anon.> Your comments are always and ever most welcome. Write to me here.Biographers International Newsletter January 2017 Q & A with C.M. Mayo: A Strange Spark of the Mexican RevolutionBook Review (Literal Magazine) of Heribert von Feilitzsch's In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908-1914Peyote and the Perfect You: Some Notes[...]



A Visit to El Paso's "The Equestrian"

2017-01-25T13:36:49.908-05:00

This finds me working on the book on Far West Texas, and about to resume the Marfa Mondays podcasts (20 podcasts posted so far, 4 more to go, listen in anytime). I just posted a brief video of my visit last November to see, among other wonders and curiosities, a most extraordinary and controversial statue at the El Paso International Airport. Because of the way it is placed, directly behind a grove of extra-fluffy trees, and at the entrance where most drivers, speeding in, are on the lookout for signs, such as rental car return, departures, arrivals or parking, I daresay few passersby would even notice the statue. I myself drove by it more times that I would like to admit before I realized it was there.Here's my 3 minute video: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z8iQqttnNrI" width="460">My video mentions "The Last Conquistador," a magnificent documentary about this statue and the controversy. Watch the trailer: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JXnbGhbQGsk" width="420">POV Interactive offers the first clip of "The Last Conquistador" documentary: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nN1pHeNgf1Q" width="420">For "Behind the Lens POV PBS"Cristina Ibarra and John Valadez Talk about the Juan de Oñate Sculpture: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ptx1eugbjOI" width="420">I'll give the sculptor, John Sherrill Houser, the last word, quoting him from the documentary:"Here it is, look at this and think about it, good and bad, the whole thing. The history."> Your comments are ever and always most welcome. Write to me here.Reading Mexico:Recommendations for a Book Club of Extra-Curious & Adventurous English-Language ReadersOn Seeing as an ArtistNotes on Artist Xavier González (1898-1993)[...]



Biographers International Interview: A Strange Spark of the Mexican Revolution

2017-01-19T11:51:40.230-05:00

I'm the featured member interview this month in the Biographers International newsletter. Herewith:BIOGRAPHERS INTERNATIONAL: What is your current project and at what stage is it?C.M. MAYO: I'm at work on World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas, not a biography properly so-called, but the narrative weaves in some history and so encompasses a number of biographical vignettes from Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, the conquistador who got lost, to some of the contemporary artists working in Marfa. Stage: still banging out the first complete draft. [[ FRANCISCO I. MADERO ]]My latest publication, however, is about a major figure of the Mexican Revolution, and that certainly informs the Far West Texas book, for some of the key battles were fought along the US-Mexico border: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. Madero was the leader of Mexico’s 1910 Revolution and President of  Mexico from 1911-1913, so the fact that he was a Spiritist medium and, albeit under a pseudonym, author of a book of Spiritism published in—yes—1911, is a dramatic twist in the paradigm of how we understand the spark of the Mexican Revolution. My book, which includes my translation of Madero’s book, was published in 2014, so I am well into the promotion stage. (I’m delighted to report that Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution won the National Indie Excellence Award for History, and to date, I've given talks about it at Mexico City’s Centro de Estudios de la Historia de México, Rice University, Stanford University, UCSD’s Center for US-Mexico Studies, and the University of Texas El Paso, among other venues.)> Listen to and/or read some of my talks about this book here.BI: What person would you most like to write about?C.M. MAYO: At the moment, because I'm writing about Far West Texas, pioneer petroleum geologist Wallace E. Pratt. I am especially intrigued that he would choose to live for many years in a such an isolated place as McKittrick Canyon, deep in the Guadalupe Mountains. It is, in large part, thanks to Pratt's visionary gift that we now have the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I am very honored to say that I will be one of the artists-in-residence in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park this spring, so I will have the chance to retrace his steps and visit his house.BI: Who is your favorite biographer or what is your favorite biography?C.M. MAYO: As far as my Far West Texas reading goes, I both admired and especially relished the biography of the 20th century bard of Texas, J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind, by Stephen L. Davis. Many of the popular ideas we take for granted about Texas and Texans have their roots in Dobie's works. My two all-time favorite biographies are Nancy Marie Brown’s The Far-Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman and Paula Kamen’s Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind.BI: What have been your most satisfying moments as a biographer?[[ Visit this book's webpage ]]C.M. MAYO: I'll answer this for my book on Francisco I. Madero, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution. After many years of reading and archival research, it was tremendously satisfying to be able to fit together the pieces of what had been a humdinger of a puzzle—how could Madero[...]



Typosphere, Ho! "Stay West" on My 1961 Hermes 3000

2017-01-16T17:13:07.457-05:00

[[ My first attempt at typing on a typewriter in nearly thirty years ]][[ My writing assistant denies any and all responsibility for slipshod typing or head-scratching sushi poetry. ]]THANK YOU, TYPEWRITER TECHSMy refurbished 1961 Hermes 3000 typewriter has arrived in Mexico City. Typewriter Techs, the Riverside, Illinois company that refurbished it, shipped it to California in a box so well padded it could have survived a Mars landing; having discarded the packing materials and box, I then grew some new biceps carrying it on board my flight home. I'd say it weighs about the same as a wet brick. It was a loooooong way from the security screening area to the gate. Jack LaLanne, watch out.[[ No, not the French scarf company. This Hermes was of Swiss manufacture of yore. ]]The color is just as I had hoped, a foamy celadon (although it looks gray in this photo— too strong a flash). LIKE TIME TRAVELINGI'm old enough to have had nearly two decades of experience with typewriters, both manual and electric, before I started using a computer in the late 1980s. It was an eerie experience to type on a typewriter again... like time traveling. My first attempts at typing on this antique were clumsy, since I am, as are we all, so used to letting fingertips fly over a laptop's keys and making scads of corrections en medias res and whatever whenever wherever and with the benefit of, after penicillin and sliced bread, the bestest thing ever invented: CNTRL Z! But I like the deliberateness of typing on a manual typewriter— the goose-stepping linearity of it. That is the whole point, for me as a writer now. (Why? See my previous post, Consider the Typewriter. Am I kidding? No, I am not kidding.) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="215" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0TcKYEnA-PU" width="360">Madam Mayo says, The Anti-Digital Revolution will be Youtubed! And blogged! And, when I get around to it, tweeted!Git yer iron-knee right here, on a spatula!But seriously, check out this fine trailer for philosopher Richard Polt's excellent and thought-provoking resource The Typewriter RevolutionWHY AN HERMES 3000?I chose the Hermes 3000 because of Richard Polt's recommendation in The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st Century:"The 3000 model is a Swiss segment-shifted typewriter with excellent alignment, smooth carriage return, and quality manufacturing, introduced in the fifties. You’ll find it in a wonderfully bulbous body, painted in a color that some call “sea-foam green”... Not the very fastest or snappiest typewriter, but “buttery” in its smoothness, as fans like to say... Users include Larry McMurtry, Sam Shepard, Eugene Ionesco, and Stephen Fry."A tip of the Stetson to my fellow Texan Mr. McMurtry. As for Monsieur Ionesco, voila l'entrevue:[[ Watch the interview with English subtitles here. No, alas, Ionesco's Hermes 3000 does not make an appearance.Mais nous pouvons utiliser notre imagination. ]][[ My 1961 Hermes 3000  arrived in its original carrying case, along with, LOL, total yay, a packet of jellybeans!! ]][[ Under the jellybeans, a message from Typewriter Techs. ]][[ The original 1961 Hermes 3000 instruction manual (Ha! Will those websites and YouTube videos still be available and playable in 55 years?! You reeeeeeeeeally think so...?) ]][[ The warranty, yay, from Typewriter Te[...]



Q & A with Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub on Translating Blume Lempel's OEDIPUS IN BROOKLYN from the Yiddish

2017-01-04T21:04:38.352-05:00

Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Storiesby Blume LempelTranslated by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taubamazon.comindiebound.orgStrange, muscled, riven with grief, Blume Lempel's short stories, many set in the U.S., are for the ages. Yet because Lempel wrote in Yiddish, few aficionados of the form have had the chance to read her— until now, with the translation by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories. Excerpts from the catalog copy of the publishers, Dryad Press and Mandel Vilar:Lempel (1907–1999) was one of a small number of writers in the United States who wrote in Yiddish into the 1990s. Though many of her stories opened a window on the Old World and the Holocaust, she did not confine herself to these landscapes or themes. She often wrote about the margins of society, and about subjects considered untouchable. Her prize-winning fiction is remarkable for its psychological acuity, its unflinching examination of erotic themes and gender relations, and its technical virtuosity. Mirroring the dislocation of mostly women protagonists, her stories move between present and past, Old World and New, dream and reality...Immigrating to New York when Hitler rose to power, Blume Lempel began publishing her short stories in 1945. By the 1970s her work had become known throughout the Yiddish literary world. When she died in 1999, the Yiddish paper Forverts wrote: "Yiddish literature has lost one of its most remarkable women writers."Ellen Cassedy, translator, is author of the award-winning study "We Are Here", about the Lithuanian Holocaust. With her colleague Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, they received the Yiddish Book Center 2012 Translation Prize for translating Blume Lempel. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of several books of poetry, including "Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres" (2013),"Uncle Feygele"(2011), and "What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn (2008)."[[ Translators Yermiyahu Ahron Taub and Ellen Cassedy ]]C.M. MAYO: Can you tell us more about Yiddish as a language, and specifically, its roots and connections with other languages, including German and Ladino?ELLEN CASSEDY & YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB: Yiddish is a Germanic language written in the Hebrew alphabet.  For hundreds of years, it was the everyday vernacular spoken by Jews in Eastern Europe. While Ladino became the Spanish-inflected language of Jews in the Mediterranean region, Yiddish was the everyday language among Jews living farther north, in Germany, Russia, and Eastern Europe.   YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB:  There is an alternative theory that Yiddish is essentially a Slavic language, but most scholars believe it’s a Germanic language.  ELLEN CASSEDY: For me, Yiddish is a holy tongue. Translating Yiddish connects me to a history, an enduring cultural legacy. Yiddish is precious to me for its outsider point of view, its irony, its humor, its solidarity with the little guy, its honoring of the everyday.  YERMIYAHU AHRON TAUB: The Yiddish language has been a crucial tool for my literary work. As a bridge to the past and an enhancement of my literary and social present, Yiddish opens a vibrant linguistic plane, full of texture, play, and reference. Yiddish is for me a place of primal connection and, for all its and my "baggage," a source of strange comfort. Writing, reading, and t[...]