BOOK REVIEW: Conversations, Volume 3 Jorge Luis Borges [Int: Osvaldo Ferrari]

Conversations, Volume 3Conversations, Volume 3 by Jorge Luis Borges
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This book of interviews with Jorge Luis Borges has me jonesing to read a collection of his short fiction. I must admit that, despite Borges’ great stature as an author, I’ve only ever read one of his stories, and that was lost amid a huge anthology (also perhaps a poem or so under the same constraints.) However, I was intrigued by the possibility of gaining some insight into the Argentinian author credited as one of the founders of the magic realism genre in Latin America. I not only gained said insight, but I also developed an affinity for Borges as a thinker. These interviews not only discuss literature, but also philosophy, politics, language, and other topics as they interact with the literary world. The chapters, of which there are almost thirty, are topically organized and a few pages each.

The interviews are published as dialogues between Osvaldo Ferrari and Borges. That is to say, they are in transcript form so that one can experience the question and response as if you were witnessing the conversation. I found this worked well, and one could sense a camaraderie between the two men.

Let me answer a few questions about which readers might be interested. First, I came in late to the game, and one might wonder if there was any problem reading this, the third volume, first. It caused me no problems. Once in a while Ferrari would reference something the two discussed at an earlier point, but I didn’t feel any confusion (it was never necessary to have heard what they said earlier to interpret a reply.)

Second, given that the conversation is between two Argentinians, readers from other parts of the world might wonder if there is any difficulty following the discussions if one doesn’t know much about the art and social worlds of Argentina. Again, I would say the answer is no – for the most part. There are brief forays into Argentinian literature and politics, but the bulk of the discussion is cosmopolitan. I’d say there was considerably more page space devoted to Irishmen (e.g. Joyce and Yeats) and Americans (e.g. Emerson and Whitman) than there was to Argentinians.

Finally, if you’re wondering whether the book is highly focused on Borges’ work, the answer to that, too, is no. Borges discusses his own work enough, for example, that I now feel I know where I should begin my reading of him. However, he generally seems reticent to discuss his own work and the interviewer was responsive to that preference and picked his questions carefully.

If you’re interested in literature, I’d highly recommend this book. I found Borges penchant for minimalism and simplicity appealing, and yet he had deep insights to offer into a wide range of topics.

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Interview with the Vampire: The Real Deal

InterviewwithaVampireMoviePosteI saw a review of Anne Rice’s book recently, and it got me thinking about how an actual interview with a vampire would go.

Interviewer (I): So, about this whole turning into a bat thing. It seems to me that a man is much bigger than a bat. Therefore, my first question is do you conserve mass? In other words, do you get really dense as a bat, and, if so, how do you even get off the ground? If not, you must shed mass, but then how do you get it back?

Vampire (V): I am the prince of darkness. I rule the night. I take whatever form suits my needs.

I: Well, that’s not really a proper answer, now is it? That’s sort of a politician on the Sunday morning talk shows answer.

V: [Bares fangs and growls]

I: Well then, moving on. Are you at all concerned about the many blood-borne illness out there: HIV, Hepatitis, Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, etc.?

V: I’m immortal. I can’t be killed by your puny germs.

I: So, that’s a… no?

V: Hrrumph!

I: Moving on. Have you ever had anyone put Vaseline on their neck or something else really gross–you know to prank you?

V: You suck!

I: One could say the same of you, my friend. Ha!… You know… because you suck on people’s necks… Well, then, moving on. Which would you rather have: a wooden stake to the heart or a silver bullet in the chest?

V: Silver bullets are for werewolves, you imbecile.

I: Yeah, but it’s still got to be quite unpleasant, wouldn’t you say?

V: [Sighs loudly] OK, I’d have to take the silver bullet, but the longer this interview goes on, the more fond I grow of the stake.

I: I love steak, too, but that’s besides the point. Any way, who would you rather have as an enemy: Bram Stoker’s  Van Helsing, who’s very smart but has no kung fu; or the  Hugh Jackman Van Helsing who’s all buff and studly but not the sharpest tool in the shed?

V: It matters not. They are both humans and, as such, no match for me.

I: Really, because in both the book and the movie…

V: [hisses like a rabid cat,  fangs out] Human propaganda. Are we done yet?

I: Not quite. What’s the hurry? Got a hot rendezvous with a Victorian wench on the docket?… Anywho. What would you say are the pros and cons of working the night-shift? I’d think it would be rather easy to get a parking space, but, then again, you don’t really need one if you turn into a bat. But, then again, all that flapping must get tiring…

V: I’m out of here!