NUESTRO FIN DE SEMANA was the first play written (when he was 29) by Roberto Mario Cossa, who from what I can gather is a fairly significant name in ANUESTRO FIN DE SEMANA was the first play written (when he was 29) by Roberto Mario Cossa, who from what I can gather is a fairly significant name in Argentinean theater and film though he's essentially unknown in the English-speaking world. My edition of this book was published in the '60's for English-speaking readers, probably for Spanish Literature college courses. It has a brief introduction in English, a glossary at the back, a handful of footnotes for understanding slang and specific Argentinean references, and (in my copy, at least) some helpful blue ballpoint marginalia written in a student cursive you just don't see anymore these days. I bought this book over a decade ago from Mercy House Thrift in Harrisonburg, when on Saturdays you could buy paperbacks for twelve and a half cents from a large room lined with floor-to-ceiling books. I'm reading it now because I need to be practicing my Spanish and it's one of the only books I own that isn't in English. Either my time on Duolingo has paid off or Cossa writes in a simple, clear Spanish (or probably a little bit of both) because I breezed through this with a very high level of comprehension--it's probably the longest Spanish-language text that I've understood completely.
Set in the affluent San Isidro neighborhood of Buenos Aires in the 1960's (when and where it was written), NUESTRO FIN DE SEMANA is a story of anomie, malaise, and desperation. Eight fortysomething friends and colleagues gather for a low-key weekend on the patio of married couple Beatriz and Raul, a struggling typewriter salesman. They're all lower middle class, comfortable but miserable, losing themselves in whatever escapes they can find, be it sleeping, drinking, recollecting the past, watching television, or becoming obsessively devoted to meaningless sports. There was a golden age in the past when they presumably were happy, a golden age which they continually allude to, but the present age is marked by disappointment and inflation.
The play accurately captures a feeling that was supposedly widespread amongst the middle class in 1960's Buenos Aires, a feeling that resonated with audiences and allowed the play to become very successful. Reflective of its themes, the play is fairly uneventful--undramatic, almost--at times, even boring. The few things that do happen in the sparse plot are predictable, though that's also in keeping with the doldrums of the theme. If played as a satire I could imagine some of the situations being quite funny, but I have a feeling that the play was meant to be played straight, in which case the characters come across as one-dimensional caricatures each meant to convey some individual aspect of tedious escapism.
Cossa's debut play is effective at evoking a tone, but it offers no solutions. Yes, these people have problems--but if all the methods they find for addressing these problems (drinking, dancing, etc.) are fruitless, then what does Cossa believe they should be doing instead? There's not one character who stands above the general malaise of the play, not one character who seems to have even the slightest idea about what is actually meaningful in life if middle class diversions apparently aren't. And so the final effect the play achieves is a bitter feeling that existence itself is meaningless, and I'm simply not a fan of that kind of hands-in-the-air surrender....more
Pretty dated. Sontag repeatedly refers to how "we" think about cancer and AIDS, which is rather unsettling since it's so far removed from how I or anyPretty dated. Sontag repeatedly refers to how "we" think about cancer and AIDS, which is rather unsettling since it's so far removed from how I or anyone else I know thinks about those illnesses. Granted, Sontag does provide a glimpse into the mindset of a previous generation... but the research is too superficial, the organization too disjointed, the intention too unclear for it to having any real lasting power. It's a quick read with some interesting information here and there, but it's quite a letdown from what I was expecting....more
My four-star rating includes the introduction by editor Todd DePastino, which provides fascinating historical context about the labor conditions, raciMy four-star rating includes the introduction by editor Todd DePastino, which provides fascinating historical context about the labor conditions, racial tensions, economic philosophy, and gender/sexual relationships of the time--details which aren't really evident if you just read London's essays.
The essays themselves are a mixed bag. "Confession," in which London details some of the lies he told in order to hustle people, is really amusing and written in a lively, comic style. With the context DePastino provides, its even more interesting, as you realize how London used sentimental ideas about home and family in order to pull at heartstrings and force women to open up their pocketbooks. "Pictures" is surprisingly complex; by the end, London equates passing through life with turning the pages of a book, a rather disturbing notion given that the previous (literal) page of this otherwise rather lighthearted book depicts something quite horrifying. "'Pinched'" and "The Pen" provide an interesting glimpse at prison life and work crews in the 1890s, though none of it will be particularly new to anyone who's seen a prison film.
The other five stories are "action-packed" but not particularly exciting, with London hopping on one train, avoiding a cop, and then hopping on another train, over and over at every town throughout North America. The book provides some interesting insight into the life of a young white American man in the 1890s, but only a couple of the essays are anything more than throwaway magazine clippings....more