Friday, June 26, 2009

Tonight: Rachel Kushner in Laguna

Excerpt from the NY Times review:

In the early 1950s, a doll called Scribbles shook up the toy industry. Her face had no features of its own but could be sketched on with a special marker, washed clean and drawn on again. Creepy as this may sound, she's a handy metaphor for creating a self in an uncertain environment like the one in Rachel Kushner's multi-layered and absorbing first novel, "Telex From Cuba." Here a little American girl plays with her Scribbles the way Madame Defarge knits, while the international drifters around her settle in to bury pasts that include murder, adultery and neurotic meltdown.

Meanwhile, Cuba itself is being remade; President Prio is replaced by the Americans' favorite, Batista, and the Castro brothers gather revolutionaries in the hills of Oriente Province.

For the last half-century, Cuba has been America's cultural Other, a nearby example of what capitalists dread most (Communism! revolution! beards!). But before that, it was America's outpost. Most of Kushner's story takes place in the sweltering canebrakes and comfortable homes of the expatriates who run the United Fruit Company and prosperous nickel mines of Oriente Province. A large cast of latter-day colonials employ Cubans in their homes and import Jamaican workers for the hardest jobs; they dab on expensive Jean Patou Colony perfume, mix as little as possible with the natives - including Batista, who's a mulatto - and pride themselves on treating hirelings better than they think they have to.

Rachel Kushner will read and discuss her novel,Telex from Cuba, a National Book Award finalist, tonight at 6 PM at Laguna Beach Books.

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