Alex Telander's Reviews > Spain in Mind

Spain in Mind by Alice Leccese Powers
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's review
Nov 02, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: books-read-in-2007
Read in March, 2007

SPAIN IN MIND EDITED BY ALICE LECCESE POWERS: Take a trip to the wonderful and historical country of Spain, but not just the Spain of the present day, but of the past century, and the century before; as seen through the eyes of such renowned writers as Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Edith Wharton, Henry James, and many more. Presented in an almost pocket-sized wonderful paperback edition and edited by Alice Leccese Powers, who’s previous In Mind series have been very popular; Spain in Mind is the ideal book for those thinking to travel to Spain, those who are traveling, or those who wish to know more and just want something easy and interesting to read. The beauty of a collection of travel stories is that they can be read over short periods of time and enjoyed just as much as an entire travel book by one person. This is not just a travel book about Spain, but a historical, political, critical, and anthropological book about the country that more and more people visit every year.

Having just come back from a week’s vacation in Spain, on the Costa del Sol, this book was an ideal companion for the long plane ride over, and during the week I was able to sample and experience many of the tastes and sights Spain has to offer according to Spain in Mind. Calvin Trillin writes lengthy and descriptive about the famous Spanish peppers known as pimientos de Padrón which he only travels to Spain for, and eats in vast amounts. Trillin has even tried growing the peppers in his native New Jersey, but so far has failed, and has to return to Spain often to satisfy his addiction. On one family get together, I was able to experience these pimientos and while I don’t hold them in such high esteem as Trillin, it was wonderful to read about a famous dish and then be in Spain to try it for the first time.

I was born in Spain and spent the first eighteen years of my life there, before coming to California; I hadn’t been back in four and half years until this trip. Alice Leccese Powers starts the book with a comprehensive and enchanting introduction that brought back all the memories of Spain for me, and will serve as an excellent introductory course to those having never traveled to Spain or simply not knowing much about the culture. On the matter of the renowned Spanish siesta, Powers indicates that in this dynamic and modern world, it is still very much alive: “Although there are reports of the decline of the midday fiesta because of the pressures of modern life – commuting, two-family households, a bustling economy – it is still difficult to find an open pharmacy in Madrid in the middle of the afternoon.” I can attest to this with firsthand experience with regard not just to pharmacies, but to many different stores, even the parking! Between two and three in the afternoon, parking is free in my hometown of Fuengirola, presumably because the meter maids are taking their siesta.

Sadly, bullfighting is still very much alive in Spain, with the colorful posters covering every bare space of public wall with the lionized torero or bullfighter shown in regal splendor. Hemingway’s piece is of a long battle between two bullfighters in 1959 who challenged each other to kill the most bulls. While it isn’t my cup of tea, the writing is of course Hemingway: uniquely described with brevity and accuracy. Powers wonderfully balances this with a Henry James piece. The author has this to say on the subject of bullfighting: “Yet I thought the bull, in any case, a finer fellow than any of his tormentors, and I thought his tormentors finer fellows than the spectators.”

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Monica (new)

Monica Thanks for these reviews, Alex. I'm one of those people who learn and think from the heart. So much about Spain is unknown to me. I just watched Alan Renais' "Guernica" on the same disc with "The Mystery of Picasso" and was shocked by what inspired Picasso's works as a result of that tragedy. When I sent a Spanish internet friend, whose been living his life in Peru, a link with pictures from Spain, his reply email opened my eyes to so much I'd never have learned otherwise. Your reviews fill a gap left by Ginnie who must be off reading, thanks.

Alex Telander Wow, thanks, that means a lot. Glad to know my reviews can do something. If you're interested in getting the book, please go through my website (where you can find lots more reviews!), and that way I get a little bit back.

Thanks again for those wonderful comments.


message 3: by Monica (new)

Monica Thanks for your site. It's been duly bookmarked. A goal this year is to get my printer working so I can print things like this and take them to the couch or recliner:)

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