Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Friday, 23 April 2010

Book Night in Madrid

Yesterday was the feast of St. George. While he's better known in England and Ethiopia for slaying a dragon, in Spain he's honored as the patron saint of books. So last night Madrid celebrated La Noche de los Libros.

In the evening the family and I went to hear friend and fellow writer Lawrence Schimel read his bilingual children's books in the park near our house. He's written a bunch of them and had the crowd of kids, including my son, paying attention as well as you can expect. I later asked my son which book he liked best and he replied, "All of them." I guess he's not going to grow up to be a critic. I'm relieved.

Later that night I went to hear some more readings. The streets were filled with bearded men. Black sweaters were everywhere, even more so than usual in Madrid. Pipe smoke wafted through the air. Bookshops had set out stalls in the streets. Why can't every night be like this?

First stop was Entrelíneas Librebar, a cozy little café in my barrio that sells used foreign books and small press Spanish titles. As I arrived couple was singing and playing a guitar, and while that had nothing to do with books they were pretty good. Next up was writer Escandar Algeet reading from his Alas de Mar y Prosa. Some nice turns of phrase; pity his audience was so small. I was the only one there who wasn't a friend of his! This happens when you're a struggling writer. Trust me, I know.

Then I headed to Bukowski Club, currently my favorite bar in Madrid. As you can imagine from the name, it's home to a lot of literary readings for hard-drinking writers. The rum and coke I had there was twice as strong as the one I got at Entrelíneas. I arrived in time to hear the last poem of Roberto Menéndez's Campo de amapolas and didn't really get a chance to size up his work. The crowd gave him loud applause as he finished, though, so I guess he did well. Next up was David Panadero reading from Terror en pildoras, a study of episodic horror films. He had some interesting insights and I wished he had stayed on stage longer. I'll probably buy his book eventually.

I did buy one book at Entrelíneas--Jack Black's You Can't Win, in a Spanish translation titled Nadie Gana. This is a Beat memoir written in 1926, a generation before the Beat movement. It was highly influential on William S. Burroughs, among others. It's published in Spain by Escalera, a small press that specializes in translating Beat Generation literature, and publishing books by Spanish writers with a similar style. I've been looking for this book for some time. It's one of those titles I've mean reading to read for years but was waiting to stumble across at just the right time. That always makes for an important reading experience. Those who believe in coincidence won't know what I'm talking about.

By this time I was tired and more than a little buzzed so I didn't make it to another of my favorite literary cafes in Madrid, Café Comercial. I write there a lot during the day and once got photographed by tourists because I fit in so well with the cafe's reputation!

So all in all I had a great time. I wasn't sure whether to put this post in my writing blog or here, but decided it had to do more with settling in Madrid than writing, since I was strictly a member of the audience. It doesn't hurt to have a bit of crossover on your blogs!

Next Time: two adventurous ways to cross Africa! Yes, I know I said that last post, but how could I skip La Noche de los Libros?

"The Bookworm" by Carl Spitzweg (1850) courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Anonymous said...

Glad Julian enjoyed the stories, and thanks for coming out. I was nervous because of the rain a few hours before, but in the end it cleared up in time. WHEW!

It does sound like you had a good if tiring literary night.

And reading/listening to beat literature in Spanish definitely qualifies as settling in to Madrid! :-)

Sean McLachlan said...

Well, I had already learned all the specialized terminology for military history, so I needed new subject matter. How do you say "daddy-o" in Spanish? My dictionary didn't list it. :-)

Ediciones Escalera said...

Hey Sean,thanx for mentioning Nadie gana in your Noche de los libros entry. You´re the kind of reader we love to catch.
All best,
Ediciones Escalera

Sean McLachlan said...

Looks like I'm not the only one in the writing world who Googles himself on a regular basis. :-)

Ediciones Escalera said...

Actually, tracking our books on the Internet has nothing to do with vanity, It´s just part of our job. We just wanted to show u our gratitude by dopping by for a quick, personalized greet, nothing else.

Sean McLachlan said...

I was joking! I google myself on a regular basis as part of my job too, although I have to admit a wee bit of vanity. :-)
Keep up the good work with Ediciones Escalera! What projects are in the pipeline? I'm thoroughly enjoying Nadie Gana.