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Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

Regarding Mystery: An Interview with Richard Rodriguez

September 9, 2014 | by

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Photo: Timothy Archibald

In San Francisco earlier this spring, I’d hoped to meet the essayist Richard Rodriguez, the author of The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, Brown: The Last Discovery of America, and, most recently, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography, which has just been published in paperback. Though he’s largely associated with his early stances against affirmative action and bilingual education, not to mention his regular appearances on the PBS NewsHour, Rodriguez, who turned seventy in July, has had a wide-ranging career, and I wanted to discuss the shift of his work from cultural identity to religion. But our schedules were tricky to coordinate, and then I lost my wallet. “Pray to St. Anthony!” Rodriguez immediately wrote. (The wallet was recovered by one of the famous bellmen at Sir Francis Drake Hotel. “St. Anthony dressed as a beefeater,” as Rodriguez put it.) Instead, we corresponded for several weeks.

I was excited and surprised by Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography. I had seen you referred to as a Mexican-American writer, a Californian writer, and a gay writer, but never, until recently, as a religious writer. Have you always considered yourself a religious writer? 

Of course, I haven’t, until lately, considered myself a “writer”—in the grand sense. For most of my writing life, I have stood truly, if uneasily, on American bookstore shelves as a sociological sample—shelved “Latino” between a gangbanger’s book of poetry and the biography of a Colombian drug lord. Only in recent years, as it has become clear to me that so few people I know read books, have I been struck by the fact that I am a writer.

My sense of being religious is older. From boyhood, particularly my lower-middle-class childhood in Sacramento, I was transported by religion into the realm of mystery. Consider this: The Irish nun excused me from arithmetic class so that I could serve as an altar boy at a funeral mass. Along with the priest and the other altar boy, I would welcome Death at the doors of the church. We escorted Death up the main aisle. I later went with the cortege to the cemetery. There was a fresh pile of soil piled high at the edge of the grave site, discreetly, if unsuccessfully, covered by an AstroTurf rug that was as unconvincing a denial of the hardness of time as a cheap toupee. I wondered at the mourners’ faces—the melting grief, the hard stoicism. Thirty minutes from the grave, I was back within the soft green walls of Sacred Heart Parish School. It was almost lunchtime. I resumed my impersonation of an American kid. Read More »

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Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Kitchen

May 24, 2012 | by

The one chance I had to see Siegfried and Roy perform live, in May 2003, I was too broke to go. A friend was getting married in Las Vegas, and all of us were staying four to a room at the (now demolished) Stardust because it was the cheapest option on the Strip. (My salary from the anarchist bakery where I was working at the time didn’t allow for much extravagance.)

At some point during the wedding weekend, we ended up at the Mirage, home to Siegfried and Roy’s signature white-tigers-and-smoke-machines show. I clearly remember looking at the enclosure where the tigers lived, but strangely, I can’t remember whether we actually saw any of them. We did visit the gift shop, where someone picked up a copy of Siegfried und Roy: Meister der Illusion, an astonishing book, made all the more enjoyable because I couldn’t understand a word of the text. Read More »

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Staff Picks: Bathtub Reading, Germaine Tailleferre

December 23, 2011 | by

“Is it dreamed,” Jude asked Teddy, “or dreamt?” From the first sentence of Ten Thousand Saints, you know you’re dealing with a real novelist. Eleanor Henderson’s debut, about a Vermont stoner in 1980s New York, slipped under my radar. (Apparently no one else missed it—it appears on every best-of list from The New York Times to O.) If only I owned a bathtub, I’d be reading it there right now.  —Lorin Stein

What a thrill to discover that Spotify has all of Germaine Tailleferre’s piano works! The only woman in the group of French avant-garde composers knows as Les Six, Tailleferre’s engaging, inventive compositions make for perfect winter listening. —Sadie Stein

It took me weeks, and several recommendations, to sit down and read Zach Baron’s fifteen-thousand-word article on Hunter S. Thompson (“a savant at … writerly failure”), the self-loathing of journalism, traffic jams, desert hackers, and the depressing truth of Las Vegas, but I’m glad that I did. It’s territory that could be trite but here feels both thoughtful and fresh. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I think I’ve discovered literature’s best (literal) snake: Kaa, from Kipling’s Jungle Book—specifically at the end of the chapter “Kaa’s Hunting.” After barreling into a terrified throng of monkeys and bashing through a stone wall with his head, the massive rock python begins coiling and uncoiling his more than six feet of body in a mesmerizing slow dance that lures all who watch into his deadly grip. Chilling! —Nicole Rudick

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