Roberto Moulon’s magical realism

51dMSzzjMKL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_One cannot help but wonder what Roberto Moulon might have written had he not published his first and only book the year before his death at age 88.  The book is titled The Iguana Speaks My Name, and it is an arresting example of the “magical realism” genre.

The hallmark of magical realism is its expression of a primarily realistic view of the real world within which magical elements are revealed as fables, myths, and allegories.  This is not a work of fantasy, but rather one which seamlessly weaves together threads of the real with the surreal to create something which is not quite either.  Anyone who has spent any time in Latin America’s outlying villages will instantly understand why the genre has its most ardent practioners among writers including Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, and Isabel Allende.

Moulon’s book is set in his native Guatemala, and is a collection of ten interlocking stories narrated by Quince, a writer living in the village of Panimache, near three volcanoes and a deep blue lake. He reveals himself as a keen observer of people and events in a land that “bled from a war no one wanted to notice.”

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Roberto Moulon

Panimache is a town teetering between its Mayan peasant culture and aspirations tied to modernity.  It is populated by a bright mosaic of shopkeepers, peones, government soldiers, and guerillas.  Quince’s friend Uno, a nature photographer, is reputed to be a shaman.  Capitan Lobo commands soldiers waging war on a counterinsurgency.  La China is a whore longing to be a muse.

Moulon’s language is simple and straightforward, yet rich in poetic metaphors that capture subtleties quite invisible to a camera lens.  The narrative is so rich in imagery that readers cannot help but find themselves immersed in the other-worldliness of its setting.

None of this is a secret to the many writers in the Lake Chapala area who knew and still remember Roberto Moulon, but those who never had the privilege of knowing the man behind this work can still find him between its lines.

This book was a 2013 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Best First Book of Fiction, and named one of the top 25 Indie Fiction Books of 2012

Read more about Roberto Moulon, and find links to his work and reviews on Amazon here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

LCS acknowledgement

Chapala’s unsung bard Witter Bynner

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Witter Bynner

Witter Bynner (1881-1968) was an American poet, writer and scholar who, for much of his life, divided his time between homes in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Chapala, Mexico.  While Bynner’s reputation is today eclipsed by contemporaries including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and W. H. Auden, he was in his day a literary superstar.

His talent was already evident by the time he enrolled at Harvard, where he was not only invited to join the student literary magazine, but was also published in The Harvard Monthly. He graduated with honors in 1902, and released his first book of poems, An Ode to Harvard in 1907.   The university named him its Phi Beta Kappa Poet in 1911.

250px-SpectracoverIn 1916, Bynner and friends including Arthur Davison Ficke, all writing under pseudonyms, published an elaborate literary prank titled Spectra that was aimed at deflating the self-important poetry critics of the time.  The work was enthusiastically reviewed as a serious contribution to poetry before the hoax was finally unmasked two years later.

A conscientous objector, Bynner was  assigned alternative service teaching Oral English to the Students’ Army Training Corps in Berkeley, CA. during World War I.

51HGG8E024L._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_While there, he met a Chinese professor with whom he began an eleven-year collaboration on the translation of T’ang Dynasty poems.  He  traveled to China in 1920 to study its literature and culture.

In that same year, Bynner was elected President of the Poetry Society of America.  In an effort to encourage young poets, he created the Witter Bynner Prize for Undergraduate Excellence in Poetry, whose later recipients included Langston Hughes.  The Spectra hoax, however had tarnished Bynner’s reputation within the poetry establishment, and his works which followed the scandal received far less attention.

In 1922 a lecture tour took him to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Exhausted and suffering from a lingering cold, he cancelled the remainder of his tour to recuperate there.  Enchanted by the

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Bynner (center) with the Lawrences in Santa Fe.

setting and its artistic community, he returned four months later with his companion to take up permanent residence, and soon after met D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda.

514-XmrPHUL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_In 1923, Bynner and his companion accompanied the couple on a journey through Mexico that inspired Lawrence’s novel The Plumed Serpent, which includes an unflattering character based on Bynner.   In contrast, Bynner had high esteem for Lawrence, about whom he wrote three poems and a memoir titled Journey with Genius published in 1951.

Bynner stayed on in Chapala after the Lawrences left Mexico to continue working on his book of verse, Caravan (1925). At the time he noted that several other American writers and painters had already taken up residence there.

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Between 1923 and 1929, Bynner penned more than a dozen poems that drew upon his Lake Chapala experience.  Many appear in his collection Indian Earth (1929), which he dedicated to D. H. Lawrence.

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Robert Hunt & Witter Bynner

In 1930 poet Robert Hunt visited Bynner in Chapala.  They would become companions for the remainder of their lives.

Arthur Davison Ficke, Bynner’s friend and partner in crime on the Spectra hoax, spent the winter of 1934-35 in Chapala, and drew upon the setting to write his novel Mrs. Morton of Mexico.

In 1940 Bynner purchased a house in Chapala from Mexican architect Luis Barragán that became the second home to which he would often return over the next three decades.  His acquaintances during these years included  resident writers Nigel Millett and Neill James, and a visiting Tennessee Williams.

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Former Witter Bynner home | Calle Madero 411, Chapala (Arq. Luis Barragán)

Bynner had a minor heart attack in 1949 and in the following year began to lose his eyesight, but neither infirmity prevented him from travelling with Hunt to Europe, where they visited acquaintances including Thornton Wilder, James Baldwin, and George Santayana.

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Witter Bynner

He  was almost completely sightless by 1964 when he lost his Robert Hunt to a fatal heart attack.  The following year, Bynner suffered a severe stroke from which he never recovered, and he died in the U.S. in 1968.

The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry was founded in 1972, funded by a bequest from his estate. Since 1997, it has sponsored the Witter Bynner Fellowship, for which the recipient is selected by the U.S. Poet Laureate.  The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters established a Witter Bynner Poetry Prize in 1980.

Witter Bynner’s works can be found here on Amazon.

Read more about the Lake Chapala area’s rich literary legacy here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

 

Four mysteries with a conscience

Dark Moon Walking cover 2013
2013

R. J. McMillen’s Dan Connor mystery series is the work of a consummate story-teller.  Their plots are forged around inventive premises and their ever-unfolding riddles keep the reader craving the turn of the next page from beginning to end.

All of these books share an overarching theme of respect both for the environment and for Native peoples whose ancient life lessons often present themselves as startlingly relevant to today’s world.  All are set against the rich backdrop of British Columbia’s islands, waterways, and the wildlife which inhabits both.  Verdant forests, winds, and tides are so seamlessly woven into the plots that they become virtual characters in stories that could have been set nowhere else.

McMillen has the ability to write in a way that resonates for an audience not constricted by the mystery genre.  Readers need not be mystery buffs to appreciate them, but whodunit fans will find them more than satisfying.  Readers need not be seafarers to appreciate them, either, but sailors and fishermen will recognize in McMillen’s descriptions of life on the water the unmistakable ring of authenticity.  These are books that cannot help but seduce city slickers and landlubbers alike with the call of the wild.

Black Tide Rising cover 2015
2015

These books are full of unique and memorable characters crisply drawn, and McMillen works hard to avoid mystery genre stereotypes.  Settings and dialogue are seamlessly interwoven to paint each of the principal characters as complex and colorful mosaics.

Protagonist Dan Connor, retired early from anti-terrorist beat, is guilt and grief-stricken after his wife is brutally murdered in what is hinted at as a consequence of his work.  He’s retreated to life on his boat to salve his grief and sort out his life, but when events return him to informal police work, he finds in it an unlikely therapy for his grief and guilt.  His ongoing quest to exorcise his personal demons compellingly binds these books together, and each leaves the reader craving not only the resolution of the crime-du-jour, but hope for Connor’s emotional rehabilitation.

Walker is a Native American crippled years earlier by a fall in a Vancouver robbery gone bad that ended with his arrest by Conner.  Upon his release from prison, he returns to his ancestral home and lifestyle among the islands, where he reconnects by happenstance with his captor.  The two gradually form an unlikely, yet unbreakable bond.

Green River Falling cover 2016
2016

Many of the revelations drawn from Native culture are presented through Walker’s words and deeds, which run through plot and dialogue like a bright thread.  He is likeable – if often cryptic – and has admirably managed to reconcile himself to life as a cripple without surrendering to his disability.  His wry sense of humor is often driven by the contrasts between his culture and Connor’s, but their banter is always marked by mutual respect.

Walker’s age-old, low-tech resolutions for otherwise unsolvable dilemmas continually call into question not only the limits of technology, but the values which drive today’s techno-focused society.

It hard to imagine two characters more well-suited to engage in such a dialogue, or to guide readers through the discourse more invitingly.

Gray Sea Running cover 2018
2018

These books honor the tradition of the great ’40’s and ’50’s mystery novelists.  In McMillen’s tales there are no psychic profilers, CSI forensics, or electronic surveillance, and yet despite their old-fashioned reliance on little more than intuition and powers of deduction they are as contemporary as the war on terrorism.

The Dan Connor books are more than simple mysteries.  They are odes to the natural beauty and symbiosis of a world unspoiled by modern civilization, and to a Native race that has always respected it and understood its place in it.

Find all four of them here on Amazon.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Posted by Antonio Ramblés.)

 

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Lakeside’s author who never was

silhouette-of-a-man-36181_960_720Dane Chandos is one of Lakeside’s most celebrated writers, but no one has ever seen his photo and no tombstone marks his grave  because Chandos is a pen name that Lakeside writer Peter Lilley shared with two successive collaborators.

Lilley, born in the U.K. in 1913, lived for much of his life in San Antonio Tlayacapan.  His first collaborator was Nigel Millett, who was born in London in 1904 and emigrated to Mexico with his father in 1937.

The pair wrote two books before Millet died in 1946.  (He and his father are both buried in  Ajijic’s Panteón.)  Both stories share a San Antonio Tlayacapan setting and many of the same characters.

chandos-village-in-the-sunVillage in the Sun (1945) tells the story of building Lilley’s house in Mexico and is still treasured as an authentic account of Lakeside life in the 1940s.  Find it here on Amazon.

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In House in the Sun (1949) the protagonist has added guest rooms to the house and become an innkeeper of sorts.  Find it here on Amazon.

The year after Millet’s death, Lilley was visited in Mexico by Anthony Stansfeld, a U.K. expat who shortly after emigrated to the U.S.  Stansfeld later became Lilley’s second collaborator, traveling frequently from his American home to Mexico.

The  pair wrote two travelogues under the name Dane Chandos.

downloadThey also created a huarache-wearing Mexican detective who appears in two works written under the pen name Bruce Buckingham.  Three Bad Nights (1956) here on Amazon, and Boiled Alive (1957), here on Amazon.

Boiled Alive cover

Peter Lilley lived in San Antonio Tlayacapan into the 1970s, but returned to the U.K. in his final days and died there in 1980.

 

But there’s a delightful postscript…

Candelaria's Cookbook coverThe new owners of Lilley’s house discovered an unpublished manuscript containing a collection of recipes and anecdotes that they released in 1997 as the bilingual work Candelaria’s Cookbook under the name Dane Chandos.

 

Read more about the Lake Chapala area’s rich literary legacy here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Four takes on expat life in Mexico

More than 10,000 Americans and Canadians have chosen to live permanently along the shores of Mexico’s Lake Chapala, begging for everyone else the questions of what motivates them to leave lifelong homes, and what they have sought – and found – in their new lives south of the border.

Fortunately, those who may be considering such a move – or are who newly arrived – can draw upon the experiences and observations of the area’s resident writers for authentic insight.

Presented here are four books chock full of personal accounts written from different perspectives and in different voices.  Some are nuts-and-bolts tutorials on life in Mexico, and others delve into the psyche of foreigners who have chosen to live abroad.  In combination they serve up a full mosaic of expat life in contemporary Mexico.

These are the true stories of real people who have already made the move.


Baby Boomer coverBaby Boomers: Reinvent Your Retirement in Mexico.  This book by Karen Blue is a collection of accounts by expats who have found in Lake Chapala way to fill their lives with passion and purpose, and to cultivate their full potential.

It doesn’t focus on the wheres, the whats and the hows as much as it invites the reader to immerse him/herself in the expat mindset.  Find it here on Amazon.


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Head for Mexico: The Renegade Guide.  This book was edited by Teresa Kendrick, who is also the author of a guidebook to the Lake Chapala area, and Karen Blue and Judy King are among its contributors.  This book offers readers comprehensive information needed to make an informed decision about moving to Mexico.   Find it here on Amazon.


Living At Lake Chapala coverLiving at Lake Chapala.  This guide to everyday living at Lake Chapala draws upon Judy King’s years of explorations, inquiries, and writings about local village life.

She leads readers through the what, where, how and why of everyday life in this part of Mexico.  She offers up tips and advice about how to accept and embrace the many cultural distinctions that make Mexico such a fascinating place.

This is not only a book to read before arrival, but one to keep for reference after arrival.

Find it here on Amazon.


Midlife Mavericks coverMidlife Mavericks: Women Reinventing Their Lives in Mexico.  This book, also by Karen Blue, does not suggest that moving to Mexico is for every woman, but it does present it as a viable consideration for those experiencing or desiring  significant change in their lives.

For some, change means a readiness  to shed the trappings of corporate life and consumerism for a simpler existence.

Others are victims of economic happenstance that has left them no other choice.  And some are simply unwilling to further postpone dreams of a breakout adventure which has sustained them through otherwise uneventful lives.

Find it here on Amazon.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

 

Spotlight: Blossoming Bickmore

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Barbara Bickmore

Barbara Bickmore lived and wrote in Ajijic from 1990 to 1997.  She recalled writing her first story at the age of seven, but fifty-four years would pass before her dream deferred would reveal itself in a frenetic burst of writing creativity.

Born and raised on Long Island, Bickmore exhibited an interest in literature and theater from childhood and grew up to become a teacher.   She married, and her career was later interrupted for several years  following the births of her three children.

Divorced after 16 years of marriage, Bickmore took a sabbatical from teaching in order to complete her Masters degree, then moved with her children to Oregon in 1973.  When her attempts at farming and shopkeeping failed, she returned to teaching until her employer declined to renew her contract in 1985.

The now unemployed Bickmore was invited to China by a daughter who was at the time working as an English language instructor in Xian.  During the visit mother and daughter befriended a South African couple.  The experience led Bickmore to later choose both China and South Africa as settings for some of her books.

East Of The Sun 1989
Published 1989

Upon her return to the States, Bickmore completed her first novel, East of the Sun, which was published in 1988 when she was aged 61.

The Moon Below 1994
Published 1994

She came to Ajijic in 1990 following publication of her second novel, The Moon  Below, and stayed for 7 years.

During her time in Ajijic she completed five books, including:

  • The Back of Beyond (1994)
  • Homecoming (1995)
  • Deep in the Heart (1996)
  • Beyond the Promise (1997)

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While none of her books were set in Mexico, Bickmore was clearly enamored of the Lake Chapala area, writing of it:


I lived for 7 magical years in a little Mexican village, Ajijic, high in the mountains south of Guadalajara on the edge of Lake Chapala. They were the happiest years of my life.


She returned to Oregon in 1998, where she continued to write and where she remained until her death at age 87.

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The themes of Bickmore’s books are expressions of her personal morality, and she considered her work a form of political activism:

I am against war. I am for a woman’s right to reproductive choice. I believe women should have the same choices, and chances, men do. I am against racism. I believe education can make for better informed choices and can expand one’s view of the world and make for a limitless horizon. I believe friendship is one of the most important things in life and that love is the single most important ingredient.  I believe in kindness and that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.

One of the amazing and wonderful, almost unbelievable, things about writing is that people read what I think and feel and perhaps I even influence a few. I’d like to be like my heroines, each of whom makes a difference in their worlds. They look out beyond themselves to help others and hopefully make the world a better place.

Bickmore’s books were at least as popular abroad as in the U.S., and her work has been translated into 16 languages.

Read more about Barbara Bickmore and browse her books here on Amazon.

Read more about the Lake Chapala area’s rich literary legacy here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)

Spotlight: Author Joyce Wycoff

Joyce Wycoff mug
Joyce Wycoff

Who among us doesn’t want to perform to their full potential and energize their collaborative relationships?  Joyce Wycoff has authored six books which provide roadmaps to maximizing personal and group productivity by changing the way we think.  And she’s still writing!

Wycoff’s books deliver sophisticated solutions to common problems in straightforward language, and while they’re decidedly upbeat in tone they manage not to devolve into the vacuous cheerleading which characterizes so many books in this genre.   While a few of her books are more appropriate for business organizations, most are as universally applicable to the lives of individuals and the cultural health of non-commercial ventures both large and small:


Gratitude Miracles coverIs it possible that repurposing as little as 5 minutes each day can deliver greater happiness, better relationships and a more fulfilling life?  Gratitude Miracles draws upon recent research which has proven that keeping a gratitude journal makes for better health and fitness, reduces stress, and improves coping skills.

This books distills the research into the quick and simple discipline of a daily journal.  Find it here on Amazon.


Mindmapping coverMindmapping is the application of “whole-brain thinking” to break through barriers that hamper our imaginations.  Mindmapping:  Your  Personal Guide to Exploring Creativity and Problem-Solving plots a course to more creative problem solving, clearer decision making, improved memory and concentration, and better organization skills.  Find it here on Amazon.


Transformation Thinking coverTransformation Thinking is a practical guidebook for anyone in a leadership position who wants to transform the way they make decisions, set goals, inspire productive teamwork, encourage communication, and stimulate generation of new ideas.

It teaches readers how to apply simple tools that expand thought horizons beyond preconceived norms to enhance creativity and effect change within any team, large or small.  Find it here on Amazon.


To Do Doing coverTo Do Doing Done: A Creative Approach to Managing Projects & Effectively Finishing What Matters Most book focuses on the skills required to manage any project without getting bogged down in conflicts or sidetracked by unexpected changes or developments.

The techniques are drawn from Franklin Quest’s Planning for Results seminars, which has boosted productivity of thousands of employees worldwide.  Find it here on Amazon.


Sarana's Gift coverSarana’s Gift: It Changes Everything! challenges readers to answer the question, “What would you sacrifice to have the gift that changes everything?”  Published in 2016,  this is a decided departure from the style of Wycoff’s earlier work; it wraps a spiritual journey in an allegorical fantasy filled with Mayan gods and goddesses.

Sarana’s odyssey reveals her unknown strengths and delivers many gifts, but she ultimately faces the test of whether to sacrifice what she needs most in order to restore the world’s equilibrium.   It’s a timeless morality tale.  Find it here on Amazon.


Wycoff is another of many RiberasAuthors whose creativity spills beyond the pages of a book; she’s also a photographer and digital artist.

Learn more about Joyce, and find links to her complete work and reviews on Amazon Books here.

Check out the complete listing of RiberasAuthors by genre here.

(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)