Hold It All

Tag: Reinaldo Arenas

With Gratitude for Reinaldo Arenas

And then, at last, they saw the country and the countercountry – because every country, like all things in this world, has its contrary, and that contrary-to-a-country is its countercountry, the forces of darkness that work to ensure that only superficiality and horror endure, that all things noble, beautiful, brave, and life-enhancing – the true country – disappear. The countercountry (the poem somehow revealed this) is monolithic, rigid vulgarity; the country is all that is diverse, luminous, mysterious – and festive. And this revelation, more than the images of all the beautiful things that they had seen, invested the listeners with an identity and a faith. And they realized that they were not alone, because beyond all the horror – including the horror that they themselves exuded – there existed the sheltering presence of a tradition formed of beauty and rebelliousness: a true country.

–Reinaldo Arenas, The Color of Summer, trans. Andrew Hurley


Her Vivacity Gladdened Life

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Knopf: Everyman’s Library,  1992 

I’ve acknowledged previously the importance of Reinaldo Arenas and Eduardo Galeano  during the late 1990s into 2000 as I was trying to figure out how to write what became The Book of Mev.  Also, during that period I read with relish James Boswell’s Life of Johnson.  That biography proved a fecund  encounter, as  some of my marginalia became a “To Do” for my project…

  1. Include a letter to make the point [get another voice in there]
  1. Include some of her more creative pieces [journal or no]
  1. Force, vivacity, and perspicuity [vigor]
  1. Long footnotes of clarification at the bottom of the page
  1. Spend six hours writing, one after the other, all the topics and fragments in my Mev log

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Our Only Salvation Lies in Words: On Arenas’s Before Night Falls

All dictatorships are sexually repressive and anti-life. All affirmations of life are diametrically opposed to dogmatic regimes. It was logical for Fidel Castro to persecute us, not to let us fuck, and to try to suppress any public display of the life force.
-— Reinaldo Arenas


Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Powerful and gripping memoir by homosexual, writer, dissident, which awakened me to Castro’s crimes against naysayers and gays.

Herein are great passages about the beauty of Cuba, its beaches and the sea, the countryside, the animals, the rivers, the trees, as in “And the sky’s radiance was not constant but an unending blaze of changing hues and, stars that burst and disappeared (after having existed for millions of years) just to enrapture us for a few moments.” Or, “I always thought that in Cuba the only thing that saved us from absolute insanity was that, being surrounded by water, we had to chance to go to shore and swim.” Arenas appreciated the created order throughout his life and seemed not to take it for granted. Could not his sexual voracity also be an element of the Via Positiva? For it is all about pleasure and enjoyment and splendor, he seemed, after he came out, remarkably free of guilt and anxiety (from this anyway) and self-hatred. So: “To get to a beach was like entering paradise because all the young people wanted to make love, and there were always dozens of them ready to go into the bushes.” Read the rest of this entry »

15 Reasons You Might Reconsider Your Boycott of Me and Resume Communication at Some Point in 2007 (But There Isn’t Any Reason to Rush or Anything)

  1. I reminded you of Whitman, told you to read him BEFORE the morning news avalanche of expected accounts of horrific rapacities and Bush Administration deceptions and delusions, because we are larger, better than I thought; I did not know we held so much goodness.
  2. I gave you Ginsberg’s Deliberate Prose, told you to explore his goofy genius, he wrote one line just for you (and me): “Candor ends paranoia.”
  3. I gave you The Color of Summer,  funny & heartbreaking novel by Cuban dissident and creative pain in the ass to Castro Reinaldo Arenas,  but I don’t think you ever read it, since you never referred to it, what a shame, since you missed out on such lines that I’m game to mimic as: “Of course I saw him… Am I blind? But he’s not my type.” … “This is me you’re talkin’ to, my dear,” La Reine replied. “You’re drooling so hard you can’t even talk. I can hear that little heart of yours go pitty-pat from all the way over here. In fact, I think you’re about to have a seizure.” Read the rest of this entry »

Scintillating Promises (The Joys of Reading and Writing/Reinaldo Arenas)

Reading Reinaldo Areas’ novel The Color of Summer was a breakthrough experience for me. From him (and Eduardo Galeano) I figured out how to structure what eventually became  The Book of Mev. The following are some passages  I love from his Before Night Falls, ones that reflect his ardor for the word, for books, for reading them and for writing them…

Walking among those shelves, I saw, radiating from each book, the scintillating promise of a unique mystery.

Meeting Lezama was an entirely different experience. Here was a man who had made literature his very life; here was one of the most erudite human beings I had ever met. He did not use his knowledge to show off; it was simply something to hang on to for survival, something vital that fired his imagination and at the same time reflected on anyone who came close to him. Lezama had the extraordinary gift of radiating creative vitality. After talking with him I would go home and sit down at my typewriter to write, because it was impossible to listen to that man without being inspired. In him, wisdom and innocence met. He had a special talent for giving meaning to the life of others.

We wrote incessantly and would read anywhere: in abandoned houses, in parks, at beaches, while walking over rocks. We would read not only our own words but also those of great writers. We would read for everyone to enjoy.

Writing crowned or complemented all other pleasures as well as calamities.

I started writing my memoirs in the notebooks that Juan had brought me. Under the title Before Night Falls I would write all day until dark, waiting for the other darkness that would come when the police eventually found me. I had to hurry to get my writing done before my world finally darkened, before I was thrown in jail.

Sometimes at night I would continue reading The Iliad with the help of my lighter.

At midnight we parted and Lezama said to me: ˜Remember that our only salvation lies in words: Write!”