Welcome to Bookmarked, a weekly newsletter following my journey as I read one book from every country. If you like the sound of my project, I’d love it if you shared Bookmarked with a friend.
Loop by Brenda Lozano is a fictionalised journal written from the perspective of a thirty-year-old woman while she waits for her boyfriend Jonás to return to Mexico City. Jonás has left Mexico for Spain, his recently deceased mother’s country of birth, for an undisclosed period of time, leaving the narrator to sit, wait, and wonder when he’ll return. And as she waits, the narrator documents her every thought in her notebooks—a brand called Ideal for her fiction and another called Scribe for her journal.
As our narrator waits for Jonás she describes the various functions of her notebooks—as good substitute coasters and a useful way to elongate your arm to reach for the light switch—as well as comparing the lines on their pages to the waves of the sea. This is the beginning of recurring motif, in which the narrator describes seeing herself as the Penelope to Jonás’s Odysseus: “I’m Penelope. I weave, unravel, weave and unravel again. Will the day ever come when the waiting stops? Is there anyone who isn’t waiting for something?”
Though the book is written in a series of circular vignettes that are linked by recurring themes and chains of association, we do learn a few concrete things about the narrator along the way. She has previously survived a serious accident. When she woke up from the accident, a song by Shakira was playing on the radio. Jonás’s mother died shortly before the narrator started dating him. She regrets that they never got the chance to meet. She really loves Wikipedia.
As the narrator waits for Jonás to return, she often gets lost in her own thoughts. Over the course of the book, her mind wanders from Proust to The Beatles, the novel she wishes she’d write to dreams she’s previously had, pencil sharpeners to Coriolanus. And she makes tonnes of literary references, too: the words of Proust, Beckett, Homer, Wilde, Shakespeare, and Ovid enter her consciousness time and time again. The implicit violence of life in Mexico is also a recurring theme, as the narrator presents her thoughts on the country’s unsolved murders and the indifference of politicians.
It’s eight-thirty a.m. I read the new granola packet. It’s horrible, Jonás, a woman telling her story, in the first person, all about why she started making granola at home. The brand is named after her son, who disappeared in this pointless so-called War. A mother trying to raise money, through homemade granola, to fund a private investigation. I felt powerless, I lost my appetite. What the fuck is happening here?
It’s an understatement to say that Loop is a highly experimental book. I’m generally not a huge fan of meandering narratives but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Loop. Had I been able to appreciate more of the book’s literary references I’m sure I would have got even more out of it, but nonetheless I was charmed by Lozano’s dizzy, playful prose and the narrator’s bright, mischievous voice. As a 184-page meditation on waiting and love (and really nice stationery), it’s a good read that won’t take you too long.
Loop by Brenda Lozano, translated by Annie McDermott (Charco Press, 2019 / Alfagura, 2014)
More books by Mexican authors
Here are the other books I was recommended this week:
Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, tr. Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza, tr. Sarah Booker
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, tr. Lisa Dillman
Umami by Laia Jufresa, tr. Sophie Hughes
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
After the Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, tr. Rosalind Harvey
Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París, tr. Christina MacSweeney
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, tr. Sophie Hughes
The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia, tr. Simon Bruni
What have you read recently?
If you’ve read a brilliant book in translation or you’d like to pass on a recommendation, I’d love to hear about it! For this project, I’m focussing on contemporary fiction and short stories, with a preference for female authors—but I’m always happy to venture further afield for a good recommendation.
You can get in touch by replying to this email or leaving a comment. I’ll be featuring your recommendations in upcoming newsletters, and I’ll keep a growing list here.
Bookmarked is written by Tabatha Leggett. Thank you to Carolina Orloff from Charco Press for her recommendations for this issue. If you know someone who would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them!