SPAIN BOOK REVIEW OCTOBER: ‘Hell and Good Company’ by Richard Rhodes

This book skims the basics, which, in theory, should be good for newcomers. But with the omissions of this book, those new to the subject won’t get the full picture. Bonus point from me – New Zealand journalist Geoffrey Cox gets a mention, someone often missed. This book is suited to those looking for something specific, and in the style of the author. To enjoy, make sure that is you before you buy.
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SPAIN BOOK REVIEW AUGUST: ‘Lorca, Buñuel, Dalí – Forbidden Pleasures and Connected Lives’ by Gwynne Edwards

Lorca, Buñuel and Dalí were, in their respective fields of poetry and theatre, cinema, and painting, three of the most imaginative creative artists of the twentieth century; their impact was felt far beyond the boundaries of their native Spain. But if individually they have been examined by many, their connected lives have rarely been considered. It is these, the ties that bind them, that constitute the subject of this illuminating book.

They were born within six years of each other and, as Gwynne Edwards reveals, their childhood circumstances were very similar, each being affected by a narrow-minded society and an intolerant religious background, which equated sex with sin. All three experienced sexual problems of different kinds: Lorca, homosexual anguish, Buñuel sexual inhibition, and Dalí virtual impotence. They met during the 1920s at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, which channelled their respective obsessions into the cultural forms then prevalent in Europe, in particular Surrealism. Rooted in such turmoil, their work — from Lorca’s dramatic characters seeking sexual fulfilment, to Buñuel’s frustrated men and women, and Dalí’s potent images of shame and guilt — is highly autobiographical. Their left-wing outrage directed at bourgeois values and the Catholic Church was sharpened by the political upheavals of the 1930s, which in Spain led to the catastrophic Civil War of 1936-39. Lorca was murdered by Franco’s fascists in 1936. This tragic event hastened Buñuel’s departure to Mexico and Dalí’s to New York and Edwards relates how for the rest of his life Buñuel clung to his left-wing ideals and made outstanding films, while the increasingly eccentric and money-grubbing Dalí embraced Fascism and the Catholic Church and his art went into steep decline.

cover art and blurb via amazon

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I can’t remember where I got this book – probably on one of my book buying binges (say that three times fast) – but it has sat unread on my shelves for to-reads. Since I wrote my Lorca 80th anniversary article just over a week ago, I thought I could dedicate this month’s book review to the man as well.

Federico García Lorca, Manuel Buñuel and Salvador Dalí are three very well-known men. All born wealthy around the turn of the century, by the early 1920’s they were already established in their fields: Lorca with his writing, Buñuel with plays and film creation and Dalí with his painting. Each was rare and unique in a world filled with many artists exploding onto the European scene at the time. All housed at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid to study, these three artists came together to bond, collaborate and touch each others lives forever.

This book doesn’t necessarily reveal any new information about the trio, rather tells details, big and small, in a clean, easy-to-read way. Four pages in I was already enjoying the book, with its interesting yet gentle flow of the lives of these men. The book does lean on info about Lorca a lot, but he was always a strikingly interesting soul. The book discusses Lorca’s love for Dalí in the 20’s, and doesn’t suggest impotent Dalí ever accepted any of the advances, but it doesn’t clearly say he didn’t either. These men have intensely interesting sex lives, each forever influenced (scalded?) with the Catholic faith. Lorca and his homosexuality interwoven with his depression, and pain of never having children, Buñuel and his religious thoughts that sex was sinful, even when married, and Dalí with his impotency, voyeurism and his wife’s need to find sex elsewhere. Every aspect of their lives is deeply shaped by what Spain was, and wanted to become.

Things became strained with the threesome in the late 20’s and early 30’s with Lorca leaving the country for some recuperation. Buñuel continued to live his strict, regimented lifestyle while pursuing films and abusing his wife, and Dalí continued to be a real dick (literally incapable of being a functional adult after a weird childhood), and showing off, plus his desire for fame and fortune totally went to his head. Lorca meanwhile continued to produce incredible works and establish his career. Then the war came along.

The outbreak of the civil war, and the state of Spain is well covered to the point the book needs, to show what the men faced. Lorca’s last weeks are well covered, from the moment he decided to leave Madrid for Granada to save his parents. Buñuel begged him not to go, as it would not be safe. Lorca’s time there and his attempts to help his beloved family are covered, along with his mysterious and tragic execution in the forest. There are many places in which to read about Lorca’s last days, but this book does a great job on the subject.

Buñuel went into exile in Paris, much different from Lorca’s need to jump headfirst into Spain’s crisis. Dalí was the opposite; he turned his back on his country and went off making money from rich Americans. When he was ready, Dalí and his wife returned to Spain as fascism lovers, supporting Franco, since that was the in-vogue thing to do. His life fell apart, and being so, well, douchey, Dalí had it coming. Buñuel too had moments of bad behaviour, though his art never suffered for it, continuing to create films on his own terms. In many, many writings and interviews, Buñuel continued to talk of Lorca, his work, and their time together, forever touched by their connection. After Lorca’s execution, Buñuel and Dalí unsurprisingly grew apart, and Dalí’s feelings for his murdered friend never really made sense, or could be trusted.

As I said, this book covers the lives of well-known men, so information isn’t necessarily new, but it does bring all very important parts together in one book, and shows the intertwining links of these three men, and the things which separated them. Never has Spain had such a generation of artists, and maybe never will again. A wonderful read.

SPAIN BOOK REVIEW: June – ‘Everybody Behaves Badly’ by Lesley M M Blume

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The making of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the outsize personalities who inspired it, and the vast changes it wrought on the literary world

In the summer of 1925, Ernest Hemingway and a clique of raucous companions traveled to Pamplona, Spain, for the town’s infamous running of the bulls. Then, over the next six weeks, he channeled that trip’s maelstrom of drunken brawls, sexual rivalry, midnight betrayals, and midday hangovers into his groundbreaking novel The Sun Also Rises. This revolutionary work redefined modern literature as much as it did his peers, who would forever after be called the Lost Generation. But the full story of Hemingway’s legendary rise has remained untold until now. 

Lesley Blume resurrects the explosive, restless landscape of 1920s Paris and Spain and reveals how Hemingway helped create his own legend. He made himself into a death-courting, bull-fighting aficionado; a hard-drinking, short-fused literary genius; and an expatriate bon vivant. Blume’s vivid account reveals the inner circle of the Lost Generation as we have never seen it before, and shows how it still influences what we read and how we think about youth, sex, love, and excess. 
Cover and blurb via amazon
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This month, Spain Book Review goes a tad off-road, with Everybody Behaves Badly. Not strictly about Spain or written in Spain, but since it’s about Ernest Hemingway getting his Spain on, I figured it works just fine. The book covers both Spain and Hemingway’s time in Paris. By 1921, Hemingway was already on his way to literary famousness, but was in need of the great American novel. So when handsome young Ernest headed to Spain with a troupe of friends in 1925, their trip would end in the genius that is The Sun Also Rises.
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The book starts out with the early years in Paris and how Hemingway felt the desire to add a novel to his career, since he had only published short stories at that point. Hemingway and his new wife Hadley go to Paris, as members of the lost generation, and the author goes into full detail of the lifestyle of a man in need of literary success. The book focuses heavily on details of Hemingway’s early life, telling both a story and writing a biography in one.
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Everyone knows the story of The Sun Also Rises (this link has my review if you don’t) – a group of friends go to Pamplona, enjoy some bullfighting and a random fishing trip, have affairs, drink waaaay too much and the whole escapade turns to hell. Everybody Behaves Badly is the real life excursion. Hemingway and wife Hadley went to Pamplona in 1923 and 1924, and in 1925, went with a group of friends – Harold Loeb, Duff Twysden, Bill Smith, Pat Guthrie and Donald Ogden Stewart. What unfolds is what Hemingway could later turn into his famous novel. Hemingway, now famous for womanising, was with his wife but was interested in Duff Twysden, as was writer Harold Loeb. And we all know how well romantic rivalry mixes with alcohol and bravado. The back story of the fateful 1925 trip is spelled out in great detail as the members of the lost generation explore sexual freedom and creative processes on what was supposed to be writing trip about bullfighting but ends up with jealousy and fist-fighting.
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The last portion of the book is dedicated to the editing and publishing of The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway’s life is really taking off, and his wife (and now young son) are not fitting in with his choices. Hemingway nicely starts an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway ruthless cut and edited his book to create a great piece of work, and decides to also edit out his own wife. Hemingway needed to get in with a new publisher, Scribner’s, a challenge in itself, all while working greats of the day, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, to create a book which has been in print for 90 years now.
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Hemingway’s life has been viewed from every angle, but this, while not all new info, tells the story of the pivotal time of Hemingway’s life. Much is made of his life during the Spanish Civil War, but this gives us a new insight to Hemingway in Paris, his early romantic life and his lifestyle in these early days. My dream Spanish road trip (a game played a few years back) was with Hemingway and Dalí, and reading this book made me even more convinced I made the right choices. My own bullfighting research trips don’t get this wild (thank God), and I’m glad to have read this behind-the-scenes moment in time. Perfect for lovers of Spain, the 1920’s, Hemingway, or like me, all three.

A Novel Blog – Part 3: Sorry, Readers, I Ran Away With The Circus

cricket world cup

Okay, I didn’t join a literal circus, but it has felt that way. I have been MIA on my blog for the last few months with good reason. Last year, I was chosen as a Cricket World Cup volunteer and got a snazzy colourful uniform (as you can see from the pic above). I figured this little project wouldn’t be too much work, right?

Don’t know what the Cricket World Cup is? Don’t worry, you’re not alone (Hey, only a BILLION people watch). It’s a once-every-four-years cricket tournament with the top 14 cricketing countries. It was being hosted between New Zealand and Australia, which also ended up as the teams in the final match. I got to work at Eden Park stadium, and witnessed two of the biggest matches – NZ v Australia, and NZ v South Africa. As a huge cricket fan, I got to see some of the world’s greatest players, and New Zealand has been gripped with cricket fever for February and March. I never even looked at my desk, or my books, in all that time. Imagine yourself, surrounded by your heroes, and other people who love them, and then think… would you be busy working, or busy living it up? I got asked out on more dates at those games than I have been in my whole life, didn’t see that coming.

Plus alas, is that a good reason for ignoring my readers? It was not the only life-changing thing going on. Rolling into town was the juggernaut which is the Volvo Ocean Race. If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably become an accidental expert on the subject. I was chosen to work as one of the teachers for the Volvo school programme, showing children all about boats and the activities surrounding this round-the-world adventure. Once the schools had gone, I was charged with a massively fun job of guarding the boats and sailors from the public each day. Boring? HELL NO. It was amazing. I talked boats all day while out in the sunshine, getting invites to go sailing, touring boats that thousands wished they could look inside, was at the forefront of all the prep-work the yachts needed, danced all night, sipped drinks in VIP lounges…. this was work. Old friends, new friends, free stuff, and that odd, powerful, feeling you get from having an all-access pass dangling around your neck, making judgments as to who is fit to go near the gazillion-million dollar yachts. Back to my desk to write? Hardly, it was all day in the blazing sunshine, and three weeks just flew by before the boats left for Itajaí (that’s in Brazil).

Every little kid has dreams, plenty of them. As a child, all I wanted was to travel the world with the Volvo Ocean Race. I have been involved several times, and this time, and being able to work as port crew for the stopover was an unexpected delight. It has changed my life in a number of ways, which I don’t need to bore anyone with here.  Here is a little video about one of the boat here in Auckland. (At 2-ish mins, I caught one of the balls, a fun souvenir. Is it cheating when you’re on the dock with the sailors?)

Also, a look at what it’s like to sail around the world (the school kids love this one)

What’s the point here, Caroline? The point is, I have been highly disinterested in writing since about Christmas. I lost my focus, I lost interest in the finishing and preparing Death in the Valencian Dust for sale. So I took time away from writing, with the intention of never bothering to write another word ever again. I have also worked in the sports arena. Sailing is what I live for, as hungry to achieve my dreams as I was as a kid. For all the work I’ve done in these last few months, I have received so much back in reply. When it all died down, about a week and a half ago, I had suddenly found hidden desires to finish my book. Not only will Death in the Valencian Dust be ready come May 8, so will its companion, the Secrets of Spain trilogy all together in one (HUGE) book. Editing, cover art, promos – I’ve been onto everything and, what’s more, I’m proud of what I’ve produced.

So, all I had to do was have nothing to do with writing or Spain, and I’ve found the energy and drive to finish a trilogy about Spain. Who knew? And yes, my next book is already underway, and the cover art is already back from the artist, I’ll share that really soon!

(Just don’t ask me about Luna Rossa withdrawing from the America’s Cup in Bermuda. I’m still gutted about that life change)

Help and Hear a Writer about Spain/Ayuda a un escritor sobre España

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Off I go again, time to write another book. In fact, I have three projects on the go at the moment, but it’s time to knuckle down and finish (read: start) Death in the Valencian Dust. This project was planned and researched long ago, and now it’s time to start the first draft of this story, the third book in the Secrets of Spain series. Even though I have all this well in hand, I am putting out a request for assistance for any of the following –

Any photos of Valencia and Madrid in 1975 – people, buildings, anything big or small

Newspaper articles relating to ETA in 1975

Coverage of Franco’s death in 1975

Any tidbit in relation to the assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco in 1973

Pretty much anything about the Movimiento Nacional

Bullfighting photographs from the late 60’s and through the 70’s

The execution of Catalan anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in 1974

Any piece of information is useful, no matter how simple. While I have already been studying all these subjects, sometimes the most helpful tips come from others. Be it a photo, link to an article, either one or one hundred pages long, anything would be much appreciated from all the fine Spain lovers out there. Everyone who helps will of course be acknowledged in the book.

I get asked often how the process of booking writing goes. I can only speak for myself, so throughout this book I will be tweeting each day I work, and what I managed to achieve (or not achieve). I will use the hashtag #ValencianDust in my tweets (even if just so I can keep track of my own progress!). I will start tomorrow, September 8, day 1 of the project. I was meant to start last week but an emergency situation got in the way. Let’s see if I can start on a high, since I am also starting my Spanish language studies again (God knows my nerves when speaking Spanish hinder my ability to ever progress).

Thank you!

Tiempo para escribir otro libro. De hecho, tengo tres proyectos en marcha en este momento, pero es hora de que los nudillos hacia abajo y acabado  Muerte en el polvo Valenciana. Me estoy poniendo a cabo una solicitud de asistencia por cualquier de los siguientes –

Las fotos de Valencia y Madrid en 1975 – las personas, edificios, cualquier

Los artículos de prensa relacionados con ETA en 1975

La cobertura de la muerte de Franco en 1975

Cualquier dato en relación con el asesinato de Luis Carrero Blanco en 1973

Casi cualquier cosa sobre el Movimiento Nacional

Tauromaquia fotografías de los años 60 e 70

La ejecución del anarquista catalán Salvador Puig Antich en 1974

Cualquier pieza de información es útil, no importa cuán simple. he estado estudiando todos estos temas, a veces los consejos más útiles provienen de otros. Ya sea una foto, enlace a un artículo, ya sea uno o cien páginas, nada sería muy apreciada. Todo el que ayuda, por supuesto, ser reconocido en el libro.

Gracias!