Essays on Culture in the New Millennium
English translation by Travis Sorenson
“Few times in history has the art of pretending enjoyed so much continuity and led to so few consequences as during the hinge-like period between the twentieth century and the beginning of the next,” Eduardo Espina asserts in this collection of thirteen essays. He laments the serial falsification of events, as when the German pop duo Milli Vanilli won a Grammy for songs that they in fact did not sing. Even they were seduced by their own deceit, initially denying the accusations. Ultimately, though, the group was stripped of its award.
Uruguayan-born poet Espina ponders the paradoxes of modern-day life in these essays on a wide variety of subjects, including the proliferation of flags in his small Texas town after 9/11, serial killers, nostalgia and even the Olympics. In “The Xerox Syndrome,” Espina examines the history of plagiarism, from a statement by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:9 to contemporary times. Do people plagiarize, he wonders, because they love a text so much that they can’t leave it once they’ve finished reading it?
These pieces are always thoughtful and frequently humorous. In “Lives in the Supermarket,” he writes tongue-incheek that some supermarkets are better than museums. He would rather visit a Kroger than the MOMA, where at least there’s a bigger collection and no admission fee! Espina remembers the very first supermarket in Montevideo, Uruguay, where his grandfather worked and another one in Paris, where he spent five hours as “a tourist among cereals and sausages.”
Translated from the Spanish by Travis Sorenson, this serious but entertaining collection is a must-read for anyone interested in recent history, pop culture, language and everything in between.
“[Espina] gives us a stunning collection of essays on the absurdities of contemporary life—absurdities that he, with his roots in what he calls wryly a ‘slow’ country, sees with unusual clarity. The Milli Vanilli Condition is a delightful book—and also a genuinely wise one.”
—Marjorie Perloff, author of Wittgenstein’s Ladder
“Eduardo Espina’s essays are fascinating, bemused, wily, willful, witty, and wistful ruminations on the globalization of diminished intellectual capacity.”
—Charles Bernstein, author of All the Whiskey in Heaven
EDUARDO ESPINA is one of the most original and influential contemporary Latin American poets. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. In 1980 he was the first Uruguayan writer invited to participate in the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He has lived in the United States since then. A writer with cult status, Espina has published a dozen books of essays and poetry and was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in College Station, Texas.
TRAVIS SORENSON is an assistant professor of Spanish at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
The Midwest Book Review
Volume 15, Number 8
The Milli Vanilli Condition
Arte Publico Press
$17.95, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Few times in history has the art of pretending enjoyed so much continuity and led to so few consequences as during the hinge-like period between the 20th century and the beginning of the next, Uruguayan poet Eduardo Espina (one of the most original and influential contemporary Latin American poets) asserts in this collection of thirteen essays. He laments the serial falsification of events, as when the German pop duo Milli Vanilli won a Grammy for songs that they in fact did not sing. Even they were seduced by their own deceit, initially denying the accusations. Ultimately, though, the group was stripped of its award.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Milli Vanilli Condition: Essays on Culture in the New Millennium" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. An inherently fascinating, multi-layered read, "The Milli Vanilli Condition" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "The Milli Vanilli Condition" is also available in a Kindled edition ($9.99).