Recommended Readings: Pedro Páramo

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I’m going to do something a little different this month in replacement of the normal creative writing posts (although I still might do one later on).  I’d like to recommend some readings to get everyone in the Halloween mood!  I won’t recommend long novels, like Dracula, though you should take your time at some point and delve into some of the horror classics if you are so bold.

My first recommendation is a book called Pedro Páramoby Juan Rulfo.  It’s a short novel, so you could probably get through it in a couple of sittings.  But seriously, it’s one of my favorite books OF ALL TIME.  It’s so eerie and beautiful and… oh you just need to read it.

I’d hate to dumb it down by calling it a Mexican ghost story, because it’s so much more than that.  When you read it, the entire story feels like you’re walking through a dream.  For such a short novel, the characters are incredibly well developed.  The town it takes place in, Comala, is also well developed, and I consider to be a character in its own right.

I don’t want to give away anything in the book, so here’s the quick recap.  A man, named Juan Preciado, promises his dying mother that he will visit his father, Pedro Páramo in his hometown of Comala.  When he gets there, he finds out that it is LITERALLY a ghost town.  All the people there are ghosts.  The story alternates narratives of when the town was alive, and when it “died.”

Upon doing a quick Google search, I’ve found that there is also a movie adaptation from Mexico, from 1967.  Read the book.  Seriously, a movie could not do this story justice (and no, I’m not one of those “the book is better” people).

And a final note:
This is my personal, and often controversial opinion about literature.  When it comes to highly allegorical/metaphorical pieces of work, like this novel, people tend to agree on one meaning of it, and it sticks through time.  However, even when the author comes out and states his/her meaning, it does not always need to be true.  This is the problem with the film.  It’ll spell it all out for you.  Somewhere in literary criticism, we decided that certain symbolic things equaled particular meanings (i.e., dove = peace/eagle = freedom, etc), and one could not deviate from that.  And we also tend to always read literature from a Christian lens (mainly because most of the authors have that background, so we assign it to all their works).  Is this wrong?  Of course not.  But do you need all of that to enjoy a story and get depth out of it?  Definitely not.

So go to the local bookstore, get this book.  Or go to the library.  It’s a “ghost lite” story, meaning, it’s a little spooky, but by no means scary.

Until next time.

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