[originally posted at Mudd Up!]
[screenshot from the June Mudd Up Book Clubb’s Ustream]
The Mudd Up Book Clubb continues! Every six weeks or so we gather (preferably on a rooftop) to talk about a good muddy book, stream the conversation so The Internet can participate, then eat delicious food. The Clubb is meant to be a realtime feast-for-the-senses thing, but I’ve started a low-activity Mudd Up Book Clubb mailing list, which will mostly be used to remind folks about the dates and give out location info. For the inaugural Casablanca edition we read Maureen McHugh’s Nekropolis, a novel set in 22nd century Morocco. For the second edition, the Clubb will meet in on a Madrid rooftop on August 10th or 11th (date to be confirmed soon), to discuss César Aira’s Cómo Me Hice Monja, a novel translated into English as How I Became A Nun. Este edición del Clubb va a ser bilingüe.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Argentine novelist Cesar Aira, I suggest that you simply read the book. No spoilers! It’s short and deliciously strange. Aira has published over 80 novels in Spanish, often scattered across small presses. The act of simply finding his work has a magical easter-egg hunt quality to it. How I Became A Nun is his most popular book, and a decent entrance. All Aira’s novels are quite brief. I’ve read around fifteen of them. I keep reading him. Some are terrible. But even the bad ones have special moments filled with an uncanny freshness and surprise and moments of aphoristic clarity.
I first learned about Aira from this comment on my blog:
I’m sort of obsessed with Cesar Aira, Argentinian, ridiculously prolific, starts from a premise and then writes forward, throwing up all these absurd obstacles and traps and pitfalls that he has to write himself out of, like some kind of perfromer trapped on stage who has to keep on improvising tricks and art out of nowhere and without knowing why, until for a second you glimpse a pattern in the chaos – and the whole theatre collapses.
There is nobody else writing like Aira, yet his writing isn’t at all “difficult.” Even at their weirdest, Aira’s books are syntactically uncomplicated; the big picture might be bizarre but he doesn’t clutter his prose with a lot of adjectives or challenging vocabulary — so he’s perfect for a non-native Spanish speaker like myself to read in the original. If you’d like to give it a shot, this website appears to have the entire text of Cómo Me Hice Monja.
[the lovely Madrid rooftop where we’re gonna meet!]
“Pero no hay situación que se eternice. Siempre pasa algo más.”
‘Nothing lasts forever. Something else always happens.’
– Cómo Me Hice Monja / How I Became A Nun