Friday, October 08, 2010

Me and Mario

I read a lot.  I collect books.  I may even hoard books.  Probably fetishize some.  Spend an inordinate amount of time reading about books.  Shopping and hunting for books.  I know a few writers, too. (I chatted with a semi-famous American critic and novelist today.  I hadn't seen him since summer started.  He gave me the update on his work in progress - a novel about Nixon - and seemed genuinely pleased to talk for a while.)  And I love to read about writers.  Really, anything involving books I pretty much love.

But I do have a few blind spots.

For some reason, I am not very interested in Latin American fiction.  Maybe because I think I don't like magical realism.  Or maybe because in 5th grade I wasn't allowed to take Spanish.  Or because I am an ignorant gringo.  Or for no good reason.  I'm just not that interested in Latin America.  And because of this, for a long time I had no idea that I was regularly crossing paths with and sometimes interacting with Mario Vargas Llosa.  Someone finally clued me in several years ago.  He used to spend part of the year teaching at Georgetown University and that was why I was seeing (or not seeing) him so often.  Once in a while I would get a phone call from him - the first time he identified himself I asked him if he was the Mario Vargas Llosa.  And he sort of shyly said that yes, he was a writer.  Turned out to be a very nice fellow.  And a good dresser.  I hope I look as good as he does when I am that age.  His wife is very nice, too.

Anyway, the point of all this is that even though I have this book obsession, I never got around to buying any of his books.  Even though I had not read anything by him, I knew a lot about him and held him in high regard.  I had plenty of time to build a nice collection and I could have had all of his books signed.  Which would have been wonderful because as everyone knows by now, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature today.

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