…And I’m Back/Hotel Illness

Just made it back from Peru and want to let you all know I’m still alive. And still writing.

The trip to Peru was great, but challenging. I was able to see a good portion of the country, but managed to get a parasite whilst traveling on Lake Titicaca. On the upside, I made it to Arequipa, went hiking in Colca Canyon, sea kayaked on Titicaca, and hiked Machu Picchu. It was epic despite my inadvertent tour of the (bus, hotel, rest stop and airport) restrooms. If you haven’t done Peru, I highly recommend it, just consider bringing antibiotics and watch what you eat.

As far as literary aspects of the trip, here are a few highlights on that score:

  • Arequipa seems alive and well as the literary capital of Peru. There was a small collection of bookstores downtown and they were all well-stocked. And over 120,000 people visited their recent book fair.
  • The selection of the bookstores seemed to match up with what I’ve encountered in other bookstores in South America. Lots of magical realism, fantasy, bizarre and experimentalist fiction with a good helping of comedy and satire. Back in the USA, we seem to group books into “serious” literary fiction and “fun” genre fiction. It was nice to see bookstores where these things are mixed up on the shelves without a clear demarcation between the two. I’m just beginning to learn about Latin American fiction and magical realism, but the in-store selection seems to indicate Latin American has a sophisticated reading public that relishes literary experiment, invention and fun without boundaries.  I really like that.
  • 1 bookstore had a beautiful,  leather-bound edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s collected works. It was about $100 US.
  • A newspaper item in El Comercio, noted that Arequipa is preparing to change one of its old residences into  a museum housing, local-boy-done-good and Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa’s personal library. Across town, the place where he was born will also be a museum, apparently. It’s great to see the “Republic of Arequipa” feting a worthy local writer.
  • Llosa’s latest book, The Discrete Hero, could be found in almost every book store I visited in Peru, from the Lima airport to Aquas Calientes to Arequipa. It was great to see a native son’s book become a literary event. It was also the best-seller at the Arequipa book fair.
  • I still love the cover designs of Latin American books. They are simple, direct, uncluttered. Wish more NorteAmericano books had the same simple design.
  • I didn’t write anything or even think about writing the while I was travelling.  But a great idea forced itself into my head when I was lying sick in my hotel bedroom, thinking about the Aymara legends our guide had shared with us and the Inca mummies left in the high Andes. The vision of a female mummy couldn’t leave my head, she crept into my room, as it were, and asked to be written down. I promised her that as soon as I finish my Southern comedy-horror novella, I’ll get cracking on her tale. The drugs, the boredom and the subconscious conspired to give this character motivation, a plot, a setting and other characters to struggle against. Praise be to Pachamama!
‘Hotel Illness’ live.
  • Two other story ideas also occurred to me during these hotel illnesses and I’m trying to flesh them out now with plots and see if they’re worth writing down. One is stronger, more mature, than the other and might be ready for a full  treatment. The other is the barest of ideas and needs to mature more in the cellar of the subconscious. I think I’ll let it stay there for now.
  • I submitted my Orientalist Horror story, “The Ghul of Yazd” to a magazine just before I left. It’s been there just over three weeks, I’m anticipating a rejection letter in the next couple of weeks, and I will  let you know what happens. I will tell you guys a little more about the story in the coming weeks, but not too much, because it hasn’t been published anywhere yet. But I will keep pushing until I find a place to publish it.

That’s about all for now. The blog will return to its regular programming soon.

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