Spreading the Word in Mexico

When I was in Mexico recently a few people asked me if I was a padre—”a priest” one helpful questioner translated for me. I like the idea of people thinking that I’m a man of the Word. Yes, it is true that my spiritual beliefs are what people charitably called atheistic. Yes, I am a hopeless moral relativist. Yes indeed, when my friends speak kindly of me, they say, “But he’s our nihilist.” All these things are true, but I have one thing that qualifies me to be a prophet: I am a man of the word—and most people don’t pay enough attention to notice issues of capitalization.

I believe people thought that I was a priest for three reasons. First, I am a gringo and I saw no other in my time down in the southern part of Mexico. Why would a sober white man be slumming it as I was? Second, I wear almost exclusively black. They seemed to associate that more with the clergy than with the Beat Generation. And third, I was studying a big, hard-cover book. They thought it might be a bible.

In these post-modern times, it does seem to be the case that adults do not read books. Those who do usually read relatively thin, paperback books. Large, hardback books are not read; they are studied. And in general, that is the case. There is usually a reason I am reading any given book—it isn’t just for pleasure.

For example, let’s look at today’s loot:

The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition This is definitely not light reading, but it is highly pleasurable—because I’m weird that way. I plan to wax poetic about it in my next blog entry.

The Works of Rabelais I am working on an article about anal cleansing, so of course I have to read Gargantua and Pantagruel. You do see that, don’t you?

Don Quixote (translated by Edith Grossman) and Don Quixote (translated by Charles Jarvis [sic]) In addition to these two translations, I have ordered four more. This all has something to do with something that ends in my reading Don Quixote in Spanish. That is to say that there will be more than one article involving this reading.

There is (more than?) an element of religious zealotry about all of this. I do want to bring the Word of Cervantes (indirectly via his translators) to the masses—or some subset. People ought to be warned, and if they mistake me for a man of the Word rather than a man of the word, that’s probably good enough.


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