“The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt is a book that holds special significance for me. It is a book about a book hunter …The Swerve
Back in Ajijic Again
I have now made my third foray onto this enchanted isle of beautiful sunsets, gorgeous senioritas, and delicious margaritas. I am talking of course, of the magical town of Ajijic, Mexico located on the shores of Lake Chapala nestled in the shadows of the Sierra Madre mountains.
Ajijic is an Indian name meaning the place where the water flows. In 2021 Ajijic was appointed Pueblo Magicio (Magic Town) by the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico for the work of this town in protecting and preserving its cultural heritage. It is a sight to behold and welcoming place to visit. While we are here we will be looking at property and seriously considering joining the already large expat community that currently lives here.
We already have friends who live here and we are making more every day. Many of our friends and acquaintances make regular pilgrimage here. It is a wonderful place to visit and I hope to live.
Yesterday we went to a musical event at a local hang out called El Bar Co. They had a rooftop band called The Romeos and it was packed. Here included are a few snaps from the event.
Buddha and I go back many years and I love him like a brother. But you know how I feel about my brother. And it’s because of this guy that I started coming down here in the first place.
Buddha brings a little chaos with him everywhere he goes. Like the other night. We went to a dive bar called El Chameleon. On the way there he was on a video call with a friend from Louisville and showing her the way. He was walking 20 paces ahead of me. I asked him where this place was and he said he knew how to find it. Is it past Colon, I asked. I don’t know, he answered. So he took a left on some street and we walked two blocks to a dead end. Oh! This is a dead end he says. Well, why did you turn down this street, I asked. Because I don’t know what I’m doing, he said. Then he took off again retracing his steps and gabbing to the woman in louisville the whole time while I am trailing along behind him and wondering why.
Finally we get to El Chameleon and I call him out on the video call and he tells the lady, I got to go. So we go in and have a couple of drinks and he settles down a bit and we have a nice conversation. Turns out he was in there the previous night with another friend of ours and he meets this beautiful Mexican Chick who tells him to ditch the blonde. That’s why I wanted to come back here tonight to see if she shows up again. The truth comes out.
The next day He tells me he has slowed down a lot and is not so much always in a hurry. Yes you are! I say, and I remind him of the events of the previous evening. He says, and I quote, “Fuck you! And for now on, The first thing I’m going to say to you when I see you is fuck you, just to save time.” Maureen is falling out her chair laughing. With that, Buddha gets up and walks over to a beautiful Mexican woman sitting at another table and whispers in her ear. She turns her head to look at him and smiles. Then Buddha exits the restaurant.
All par for the course way down in Mexico.
Take a deep dive with me to the bottom of The Gulf of Mexico as we explore along with Bobby Western the depths of the human consciousness.
Cormac McCarthy’s, The Passenger starts off with a mystery as Bobby Western, a deep sea salvage diver, explores a downed plane in the Gulf of Mexico off the Mississippi coastline. He and his friend Oiler find the plane submerged under 40 feet of water and all of the passengers onboard are dead and one is missing. Also missing is the black box. This missing passenger is the passenger from the title of the novel but we soon find that that is not what the book is about at all. Bobby is the actual passenger, as are we the readers, following along on Bobby’s journey into darkness.
We follow Bobby into the seedy bars on Bourbon Street in the City of New Orleans and meet a cadre of colorful characters from blue collar workers in the salvage business to street philosophers, transsexuals, race car drivers, mathematicians, physicists, and a Jewish private detective.
This is a novel of intrigue, paranoia, loss, grief and despair. It is also very funny with many moments of dark humor sprinkled throughout.
Bobby Western’s father worked with Oppenheimer on the atomic bomb for which he experiences generational guilt. His sister, Alicia, is a math wizard who is haunted by a crew of imaginary characters emanating from her schizophrenic mind. She is also a great beauty and Bobby is deeply in love with her.
The whole novel has a dreamlike quality to it but never fails to compel the reader to keep turning the pages to see what happens next.
This is perhaps McCarthys swan song and it echos much of his previous work. It is a tribute to a life well lived and a career well made. McCarthy has been compared to Melville, but I see traces of Beckett, and as another reviewer has pointed out, Kafka.
Much has been made of his signature style of no punctuation and a lack of tags for the dialogue. Sometimes one has to go back and reread a section to understand who it is talking. I found that to be true in this novel. But, I think the ambiguity is intentional on McCarthy’s part as it adds to the dreamlike quality of the work. Has written a prequel to this novel which acts as kind of a “coda” to The Passenger. I haven’t read Stella Maris as yet but when I do I expect it to give me a greater understanding of this one.
This book covers the waterfront on a variety of topics. Topics I am sure are McCarthys interests. He weaves them into the story in a very realistic, convincing and entertaining way. Here is a compendium of what his characters talk about or are involved in: Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, a trans-woman, incest, food and wine, schizophrenia, philosophy, particle physics, mathematics, and paranoia.
McCarthy has a prose style that is incomparable to other modern day writers. His descriptions are sublime and memorable. Such as: “ The lamps had come on down Bourbon Street. It had rained earlier and the moon lay in the wet street like a platinum manhole cover.” Or: “…the tide pools stood like spills of blood.” Or: “ …sunrise. It sat swagged and red in the smoke like a matrix of molten iron swung wobbling up out of a furnace.”
All in all a fine read of a much anticipated novel that more than delivers on expectations.