Saturday, January 29, 2005


Like Water for Chocolate--Or Perhaps Another Brown Substance

Sorry not to have blogged in so long. Teaching has been keeping me busy, and we haven't had a home internet connection in awhile.

I appreciate all of the emails I received when I changed the template asking me to come back.

That email address ( no longer works, by the way, and I am now The same goes for Julia. For now, you can talk to me through the comments section here.

I find myself in the position of teaching Like Water for Chocolate, a poorly-written work if I've ever read one. It reads like a mediocre writer trying to channel Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and failing miserably. The magic part of the magic realism is dreadfully forced, and the prose (albeit in translation) is tortured.

We are reading this, of course, because of the desperate importance of making certain that our students understand Mexican culture, a fact that has been admitted by several professors responsible for its inclusion in our Freshman Indoctrination course.

I've begun taking a very tentative subversive approach to this course, and have made my feelings about several of the books assigned quite clear to the students.

What I wonder is whether or not there are any good reviews out there--preferably online--that discuss the numerous problems with Esquivel's book. I haven't read Marquez in at least five years, and though I've looked through several short stories to find passages we might compare with Esquivel, I really don't have the time to do a proper job of showing students what good magic realism is like--providing passages from Marquez (and other authors) that show what Esquivel wishes she were capable of as a writer.

If you have any suggestions, let me know. I've Googled the book with as many variants on "bad review" as I can think of, but am innudated with sites referring to a Hip-Hop album of the same name, or references to the film.

I need the stuff soon.

I'll blog more as the term moves along. I have a number of excellent stories about academe, but so many of them need to be modified a great deal in order to avoid revealing who I really am. I really need to find ways to discuss the job search we're conducting--everything I've always suspected about the way these work is absolutely true. We'll see whether or not my predictions as to how this search will end come true.

Hi! Good to see that you're back. (I haven't checked for a month or so, so the timing's fortuitous.) I'm looking forward to reading about the job search, however sanitized....
Well, I can say this much without giving myself away: male candidates were not seriously considered, and the fact that we would be hiring a woman was pretty much right out there on the table. Better qualified men--more experience, more publications--were passed over in favor of one of the female candidates. Now we're waiting to see whether or not she accepts the position.

This was the same for the previous position. No men were given on-campus interviews, and this was a deliberate choice on the part of the department.

Discrimination, pure and simple.
First of all, welcome back.

As for the magic realism question, why not just go for some Borges? Short, mindbending, and good reads, even in translation.

Borges is a personal favorite of mine, too, and I would quite happily substitute him for the Esquivel. I teach "The Gospel According to Mark" in my intro to lit course and it blows my students' minds. However, as I understand it, substitutions aren't kosher in the class Winston's teaching.
Julia is correct--no substitutions.

What I need is a nice review that makes explicit the comparisons that for me exist as memories of works I read half a decade ago--solely for pleasure--and as such are not sufficient to put together a mini-lecture that will allow my students to understand (1) my own reaction to the work and (2) the fact that in deliberately choosing this work over those which are better written and more densely philosophical, the university is short-changing students. The tyranny of low expectations is as much an issue here for me as using affirmative action as a means by which to compile a course reading list.

Good to hear from you, Warren. We'll have to correspond via email at some point soon. I no longer have your email address--it's on the Dell that died.
Marquez? Yes! Borges? Yes! And how about some Europeans -- or are they off the curriculum right now? Cuz Italo Calvino comes to mind.
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