“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
George Bernard Shaw
Remember when you were a kid and you could just sit down and color a scene from your summer vacation without constantly worrying if it was any good? I’m not sure why we are encouraged to stop doing things unless we are great at them. I think when it comes to creativity we need to have a high threshold for mediocrity. As a secret writer I often try to do the math- how many horrible short stories equals one I am not too embarrassed to let someone read? A lot! Continue reading Editor’s Letter
By Julie Etra
First and foremost, I want to thank my friend and fellow The Eye writer Linda Kelley for introducing me to Clara Valdes Hernandez, an excellent educator who focuses on Mexican culture and history, rather than grammar and phraseology, in her Spanish classes for her English-speaking students. Without Linda and Clara, I would never have known about this remarkable, unrenowned, and underappreciated Mexican. As a homework assignment from Clara, we were to watch the 2010 documentary Visa al Paraíso. Directed by Lillian Lieberman, a Mexican of Jewish descent, this documentary tells the story of Bosques, a Mexican diplomat, who saved approximately 40,000 Jews and Spaniards from execution by the Third Reich and Francoist Spain by issuing them visas to Mexico. Continue reading Gilberto Bosques Saldívar and Refugee Immigration to Mexico
By Brooke Gazer
Mexico City has numerous museums and galleries, so if you are passing through on your way to the coast, why not stop to explore this treasure-trove of art and culture? The centrally located Museo Nacional de Arte (National Museum of Art), now called MUNAL, can easily be incorporated into your itinerary. It’s easy to spot, with an enormous equestrian statue of King Charles IV of Spain out in front. Continue reading Mexico’s National Museum of Art
By Carole Reedy
“Art is too diffuse, too vital. It’s always growing and changing.”
Calvin Tomkins (New Yorker staffer and art critic) on the reason one cannot define art
For whatever reasons you pick up a book – to allow your mind to wander, to gaze, daydream, laugh, cry, or seethe with anger or joy while ensconced in it – these are essential elements that make reading an art and imagination the vehicle. Today I present my top-ten reads of 2019, though not all were written during this year. The list is a mixture of fiction and nonfiction that will satisfy, I hope, the tastes of all readers of The Eye.
The first two books on this list, Milkman and Say Nothing, are fiction and nonfiction respectively, each in its own way analyzing the history and effects of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and beyond.
Milkman: A Novel, by Anna Burns
Burns, the first author from Northern Ireland to win the Booker Prize for Fiction (2018), captures the reader from the very start with her breakout novel, Milkman. Some readers and critics were put off by a style that does not give proper names to the characters, instead identifying them by their roles. For those who appreciate this technique, which contributes to the overall fear created in and for the reader, it is essential. Few readers will not be swept up in the descriptive, frightening, isolated landscape Burns creates.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe
One might call this a history of the “troubles,” but it is surely more than that. Not only are the sources complete, reliable, and varied, but the author portrays the main figures involved in a detailed, nonjudgmental manner, thus creating the ambiance and tension of the times. The structure of the research leads us to think we’re reading a murder mystery and the pace is perfect for this rather long tome. To be honest, and a bit trite, you can’t put it down! Say Nothing is a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Berta Isla: A Novel, by Javier Marías
My favorite author has written his best yet. I say this not because of any change of style or philosophy of the writer, but rather because of the plot. I found the story totally satisfying in every way, especially the end with its unexpected twist. Marías is a master of diversion and precise language and thus his writing always fascinates.
Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie
Yes, a modern-day Don Quixote, told by the master of story-telling. I laughed from beginning to end and, as always, was in awe of Rushdie’s intricate take on the timeless legend and complex characters returned to life in this new century.
Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
This debut novel, a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, surprises in myriad ways. Brodesser-Akner takes us on a journey that evolves and shifts as the chapters progress, allowing one’s mind to form new ways of thinking about universal problems. It could be called a family saga of the 21st century, but it is rather a statement on the status of women.
There There, by Tommy Orange
You not need be of American Indian descent, or even from the US, to appreciate the insightful, vivid description of the plight of native Indians in the 21st century. My British and Mexican friends were equally surprised to find that this reads as a universal novel.
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester
I couldn’t resist picking up this Winchester book about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary after the satisfying experience of reading his The Professor and the Madman (recently made into an excellent movie starring Sean Penn and Mel Gibson, both outstanding in their respective roles). This version of the story is more detailed with regard to the main character, James Murray, and his stamina over the years as he creates this most famous of world resources.
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
A “must” not just for lovers of libraries, but for all readers. Every wonderful thing about libraries is explored and described in this book. In addition, there’s a story line about a fire at the Los Angeles Library and its supposed perpetrator. I have loved reading Orlean ever since The Orchid Thief left me in awe of orchids and their explorers … and of her.
The Overstory: A Novel, by Richard Powers
I list this as one of my favorites not so much for my emotional attachment to the plot or characters, but because it was a compelling and different way to understand climate change and the importance of trees. There are quirky characters and a plot in this novel that get you through the lengthy discussion of trees and nature. It may sound clichéd, but I think it is a necessary read for our times.
Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society, by Daniel Barenboim and Edward W. Said
Barenboim, the Argentinian-Israeli pianist, conductor, and music director, and Said, the Palestinian-American academic and literary/social critic, co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to bring together young Arab and Israeli musicians. Close friends, they conducted a Carnegie Hall Talk in 1999, of their thoughts about music, politics, and clture, from Wagner to Israel, Bayreuth, Beethoven, Dickens, and Toscanini, to name just a few.
Olive Kitteridge lovers alert: As I finish this article, I eagerly await the new novel, Olive, Again: A Novel, by Elizabeth Strout, arriving any day now.
By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
It’s not uncommon for movie and TV stars as well as famous musicians to pass through Oaxaca, either to the state capital to get a dose of culture, or to a Pacific beach resort such as Huatulco or Puerto Escondido for pure relaxation. Remember the 1950s and 60s when Acapulco was in its heyday, with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Johnny Weissmuller? They made the resort town, and generated billions (millions at the time) for Mexico. Continue reading Celebrity Entrepreneurship Impacts Oaxaca: Mezcal is Breaking Bad
By Jed Pitman
Art for me is about freedom. It’s how I express outwardly what is inside me. It helps me connect with people I have not met but ones who I know I will meet in the future. My jewellery connects me to people in a profound way.
These are the words of local artist and jewellery maker, Carolina Schwarz. I was perhaps not the best person to interview Carolina, as my own personal knowledge of anything artistic is several notches beneath zero. Drawing a stick man is as difficult for me as it was for Michelangelo when splashing some colour on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In fact, when a former girlfriend of mine once mentioned the words “engagement” and “’ring,” I got her two front row seats at a boxing match. So, to put it mildly, myself and Carolina are antonyms. Continue reading Nature in Art
By Julie Etra
Francisco Toledo, was a Mexican painter, sculptor, graphic artist, philanthropist, environmentalist, humanitarian, and promoter of Mexican culture, particularly of Oaxaca, his home state. To a large degree, he relied on his roots for the source of his artistic inspirations. Although born in Mexico City, this exceptional artist considered himself a Zapotec native of Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, and spent most of his childhood in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. His media varied, and included engravings, watercolor, and oil. Continue reading Francisco Toledo, 1940 – 2019
By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
We recently moved from Ashland, Oregon, a city known world-wide for theater, to Saratoga, California, located in Silicon Valley, which is known world-wide for cutting-edge technology. We have been delighted to find that side-by-side with the internet giants, theater is thriving around here, from small experimental groups to large venue homes to touring Broadway productions. One special niche theater is Teatro Visión. Continue reading Teatro Visión
By Jane Bauer
The Camino Copalita was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have ever had! A 6-day hike from San Juan Ozolotepec to Huatulco (about 80km). The terrain was hilly and rough but I was with an incredibly supportive group and knowledgeable guides.
The group met at a café in Oaxaca City on a Sunday morning before embarking on the 6-hour drive into the heart of the mountains to the first community we would be visiting. The people of San Juan Ozolotepec were incredibly welcoming. Before dinner we stood in a circle and each person introduced themselves and said what their hopes were for this experience. I was so moved that I actually thought I might cry as I looked at the diversity of our group and the compassion we each carried with us. In a world that is consistent in its attempt to divide us, there was a certain magic in being welcomed by strangers under the vast night sky of the Oaxacan sierra, being offered food, shelter and friendship. Continue reading Camino Copalita