Ive been cordially invited to join the visceral realists. I accepted, of course. There was no initiation ceremony. It was better that way.
Im not really sure what visceral realism is. Im seventeen years old, my name is Juan García Madero, and Im in my first semester of law school. I wanted to study literature, not law, but my uncle insisted, and in the end I gave in. Im an orphan, and someday Ill be a lawyer. Thats what I told my aunt and uncle, and then I shut myself in my room and cried all night. Or anyway for a long time. Then, as if it were settled, I started class in the law schools hallowed halls, but a month later I registered for Julio César Álamos poetry workshop in the literature department, and that was how I met the visceral realists, or viscerealists or even vicerealists, as they sometimes like to call themselves. Up until then, I had attended the workshop four times and nothing ever happened, though only in a manner of speaking, of course, since naturally something always happened: we read poems, and Álamo praised them or tore them to pieces, depending on his mood; one person would read, Álamo would critique, another person would read, Álamo would critique, somebody else would read, Álamo would critique. Sometimes Álamo would get bored and ask us (those of us who werent reading just then) to critique too, and then we would critique and Álamo would read the paper.
It was the ideal method for ensuring that no one was friends with anyone, or else that our friendships were unhealthy and based on resentment.
Dont give me this crap, said Álamo.
A rispetto, professor, is a kind of lyrical verse, romantic to be precise, similar to the strambotto, with six or eight hendecasyllabic lines, the first four in the form of a serventesio and the following composed in rhyming couplets. For example . . . And I was about to give him an example or two when Álamo jumped up and cut me off. What happened next is hazy (although I have a good memory): I remember Álamo laughing along with the four or five other members of the workshop. I think they may have been making fun of me.
Copyright ©2001-2003 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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