John Ross busted in El Paso for possession of political wisdom
El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City just out from Nation Books, so he took a room at the Casa Byrd for a few days.
Keep up with John, his Blindman Buff weekly dispatches and the itinerary of his journey at his website here. Also, check out his favorite good-works project, The Collateral Repair Project created to help the displaced, injured and hungry of Iraq. Especially the children.
John is an old school radical writer--he planned and organized the journey himself. Ham Fish, President-Emeritus of Nation Institute, told me once he was a publisher’s dream. “He loves getting his hands dirty selling books.” I agreed. In 1998 Cinco Puntos Press had published his epic novel about Mexico at the end of the century Tonitiuh’s People: A Novel of the Mexican Cataclysm in 1998. Now in 2010 his book tour is meandering through universities and radical book stores and community centers. Everywhere he goes he enthusiastically hustles his book and his wild leftie vision and his poetry. He writes a good story, he tells a good story. He’s funny and wise and blind and cancer free and curious. He gives a great and memorable performance, and afterwards he’ll tell stories from deep in his memory. His memory--faces, names, places, ideas, numbers--is a very deep well. He says he keeps the waters of that well clean and pure with the smoke of the weed. Everything he needs is always bubbling up tot he surface. At UTEP, a stone's throw from where Madero crossed over the river to do battle against Porfirio Diaz, John gave a primer on the Mexican Revolutions--1810, 1910 and what's going to happen in 2010. We talked 1950s Greenwich Village, Kobe Bryant (even John has his peccadilloes), Human Shields in Iraq (yes, he was there), Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure and Amiri Baraka, Subcomandante Marcos, Palestine, the Mexican Drug War, and then some more. John is never lost for conversation. I’m reading El Monstruo now. It’s a great read. Puro John Ross. Fun and wacky and dead serious. Here’s what Nation Books says.
Covering 4,000,000,000 years of history from the primal broth that first spewed out the monster to the Aztec-Mexica oblivion through centuries of rapine and revolution all the way to the Great Swine Flu Panic of 2009, El Monstruo is a phantasmagoric retelling of the story of Mexico City, with which Ross's own history has become hopelessly entwined.
In the tradition of Suketu Mehta's Maximum City, Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives and Joseph Mitchell's Up At The Old Hotel, Ross's El Monstruo is a unique exploration of the mother of all mega-cities. Never before has anyone told from ground level the gritty, vibrant histories of this left city of 23 million faceless, fearless souls, listened to the stories of those who have not been crushed by the Monster, deconstructed the Monstruo's very monstrousness and lived to tell its secrets.