What I'm reading *

I've always read. While growing up, reading was a refuge when I found life too unpleasant or stressful. Consequently I've bought a lot of books over time as well.

 
Now that I'm no longer in the rich corporate phase of my life I've rediscovered the library. Dayton's library may be maligned by some but is still a great resource. One type of book I like to read is gay fiction and I was surprised to see a lot of it in the Dayton library's catalog. Plus you can even ask them to buy particular titles, and they will!

Below you can see the five most recent books either that I'm reading or that I've acquired. You can search my books, or you can see all my books. Also my classes page has links back to this page for the books for each class.

Class: ML304

Date
ISBN
Title Author
Class
2004-11-09 B00005JNCX The Motorcycle Diaries Salles, Walter (director) ML304
  This entry is about the film, not the book, continuing a tradition with other movies I watched for this class, ML304. I had wanted to see this movie anyway, in large part because I think Gael Garc?a Bernal is cute, but the prospect of earning some extra credit for a class was a good bonus incentive. The movie's worth seeing, even if you're not particularly interested in the story behind Che Guevera. I'd heard of him, of course, but didn't know anything about him before this class, not even that he was one of Castro's cohorts in the Cuban revolution. I did find out in the course of my readings on Bolivia (my assigned country for the class) that he was captured and killed there, something pointed out in the final credits of this movie.

The Motorcycle Diaries is a good introduction to Guevera because it explains, perhaps in a somewhat romanticized way, how he came to embrace communism. At the start of the film he's a somewhat spoiled medical student, fairly privileged even if he wasn't as rich as his girlfriend's family, but more serious than his friend Alberto. When the two set out, their journey is about having a good time. By the end of the film, however, even Alberto is no longer worried about getting laid. He and Ernesto have seen how the bourgeoisie treat the proletariat. People lose their land and have to beg for work at the mines, just as we talked and read about in class, though interestingly in this case a wife goes with her husband (often women are left behind in isolated rural towns to fend for themselves). At age 23 Guevera was idealistic -- I could see the wheels in his mind turning as he asked one displaced farmer about whether he and the other farm workers were presenting a united front to the land owners. Guevera is depicted as painfully honest (almost in a German way -- don't ask his opinion if you don't want a truthful answer), and he won't tolerate rules that serve no real purpose, as seen in the later part of the movie at a leper colony in the Amazon. Guevera's striving to treat everyone justly certainly fits in with the ideals of communism (and with the American [U.S.] ideal of equality, something that might resonate with this film's audience so long as they didn't think too much about its being a Marxist ideal too).

I looked up Guevera's age when he died and see that he was 39, just a bit older than I am now. I was wondering whether Guevera would have been as idealistic had he lived to be older--so many ?berzeugte Marxisten (staunch Marxists) about whom we've read in GER403 this quarter ended up a bit jaded after experiencing the flawed implementations of communism--but I think if Guevera wasn't jaded by age 39 he probably wasn't going to become jaded later. The real Alberto Granado appeared at the end of the film and didn't look exactly jaded but rather that he'd experienced a lot in his life. He too wrote a book, Con el Che por America Latina -- I wonder, do Marxists in Cuba earn profits on their work, especially if it's used in a commercial film? The irony of this movie is that Guevera is certainly being commercialized, even more than ever. Would he have really wanted his Notas de viaje (Notes of the Trip, a more appropriate title given that the motorcycle didn't make it past Chile) used in such a way?

If you've read reviews of this movie (such as those by Roger Ebert or Dayton's own Aaron Epple), you might have noticed that people complain that the film doesn't point out any negative aspects of what Guevera and Castro set up in Cuba. That's fair, especially given Granado's rather romanticized appearance at the film's end, but this movie is about a trip made by the young Guevera, not his entire life journey.
2004-09-20 6303832431 Camila: Love Against All Odds Mar?a Luisa Bemberg (director, writer) ML304
  This is a film, not a book, but I'm listing it anyway because it's required for a class, ML304, Spanish American culture. We're watching six movies that our professor thinks will teach us something about Latin America's culture and history.

The subtitle of this film, Love Against All Odds, explains a major portion of this film: in 19th century Argentina a young woman and a priest fall in love and defy her father and the church by running away together, only to be tracked down and executed by the government, which at that time enforced the rules of the Catholic church, which apparently wasn't pro-life back then as the couple's unborn child died along with them. Parts of the movie are pretty sappy, but there is a good shot of Imanol Arias' butt.

The movie is based on actual people, Camila O'Gorman and Ladislao Guti?rrez, whose story apparently was surpressed for years afterwards by the government of Argentina. More important for us ML304 students is probably the treatment of women at the time (Camila's father says women must be controlled either by a convent or a husband), the role of the Catholic church (definitely no separation of church and state), and the glimpses of Argentine history shown by the movie. Most American (Dr. Petreman went to great lengths to explain to us that citizens of the United States are not the only Americans but then admitted that even Latin Americans generally use the term the way we do) students have never heard of the United Provinces of the R?o de la Plata, of Juan Manuel de Rosas (the dictator mentioned in this film) or of the struggle between the Pacto Federal (federalist pact) and the Liga Unitaria (unitarian league) over whether Argentina should have a strong centralized government. Camila doesn't explain all that history but does make reference to it, which might spur some students to do some more investigating on their own.

By the way, Amazon.com lists this film as out of stock, but I checked it out for free at the Dayton Metro Library.

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