On Writing

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A Year in Reading: Ana Castillo


My reading tastes vary widely with regards to genre. I end the year returning to earlier works I’ve admired and required for personal growth and development as a writer. A book on the struggles of being a writer, which is filled with the send-ups his poetry is noted for, I think, is a collection published posthumously of the letters of Charles Bukowski. A few pages in and I had to take out a highlighter. Almost any page I open up to there is something highlighted. Here is a random example from a letter to an editor with poetry submissions: “I have no definite talent or trade, and how I stay alive is largely a matter of magic.”

A few years ago the stunning talent of the late poet and prose writer Roberto Bolaño came to the world’s attention. I’ve gone through many of his published works and understand why he is seen as a “writer’s writer.” This fall, meanwhile, I packed for my flight read pleasure the thick novel The Savage Detectives. I’ve learned from those who’ve delivered to the public their mastery of language, such as Bolaño. In addition, it’s a deliciously detailed story of young poets in Mexico City in the 1970s, a decade where I, too, found myself studying in that incredible metropolis. I might have run into Bolaño, but chances are that I did not. Too bad.

At the end of the year, I find myself pulling out of my private library The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by journalist Naomi Klein. I return to this non-fiction book for some insight into the world around me. It is a compelling study on new world order economics. She credits Milton Friedman of The Chicago School of economics with being the lead mastermind of what she calls “unfettered capitalism.” Klein proposes that according to Friedman’s tactical nostrum real change can only happen out of crisis. While most of the world may stockpile supplies in the event of a disaster, “Friedmanites,” she writes compellingly of examples worldwide, including in the United States of the last 30 years, stockpile free-market ideas. Whether the crisis is out of a natural disaster or is provoked by men, causing major disruptions in any given society, such capitalists are prepared to profit with disregard for humanity. In the 1970s I was a graduate at the University of Chicago where Friedman taught while advisor to many governments, including that of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Friedman’s words to his students: “Economics have nothing to do with people.”

As a U.S. woman of color, daughter of the ’70s, Chicago born and raised poet always moved by events and movements near and far, whether poetry, fiction, or non-fiction prose, I enjoy going back to writers who reached deep in their souls and had the valiance to share with the public what they saw to be a truth.

More from A Year in Reading 2015

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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