Aquí. Along the U.S.-Mexico border, Tijuana/San Diego. Way up North. The corner of Latin America. Mexico has always been a centralized country. The government has historically been strongly centralized. It wasn’t until a few decades ago that any kind of bureaucratic procedure ceased to be sent all the way to Mexico City to be processed (regardless of your location in the country). Now, at least, it’s state centralized, where some requests need to be sent to the state capital, no matter your location within the state. Things are slowly changing. This centralization was also present in literary spheres. Roxana Rodríguez Ortiz explains: “La centralización de la cultura nacional ha restringido la difusión de la escritura fronteriza (entre otras), rica en contenidos, expresiones y voces.”[I] [The centralization of national culture has restricted the diffusion of border writing (among others), rich in content, expression, and voices]. Because all of the serious literature (and culture) was claimed to be happening in or around Mexico City and all major publishing houses are in Mexico City as well, border writers have faced challenges in being recognized nationally. Rodríguez Ortiz describes publishing challenges: “Los escritores fronterizos enfrentan un grave problema que es la publicación, difusión y promoción de sus obras de manera nacional, pues no tienen acceso a las grandes editoriales establecidas en la ciudad de México, situación que limita el auge de jóvenes creadores regionales, quienes al no poder publicar en una editorial de prestigio del Distrito Federal, lo hacen en editoriales locales o incluso se autopublican.”[II] [Border writers face a serious problems, which are publication, distribution and promotion of their works on a national level because they don’t have access to the large presses established in Mexico City, situation that limits the rise of young regional writers, who, unable to publish in prestigious publishing houses of Mexico City, they publish in local houses or self-publish]. This situation, Rodriguez Ortiz explains, marginalizes border literature.
Around the 70s and 80s, the generation of Northern writers before Cristina Rivera Garza, Rafa Saavedra, and Heriberto Yépez (the writers) had already distinguished themselves from the style of writing that was seen in Southern Mexico. The present “generation of norteado (means both ‘northernized’ and ‘disoriented’) poets,”[I] as Yépez sometimes refers to himself, changed the rules of the game completely. The writers’ style of writing is experimental, to varying degrees and in different ways, and they all either flow and blend literary genres, or push a particular genre to the limit. Yépez and Saavedra often touch upon polemic themes such as sex, drugs, or the outlandishness of everyday life. Despite their innovative expressions, their acclaim was still dependent on the South. These writers, however, benefit from their own irreverent nature. Yépez explains: “No parecerse a Paz, Elizondo, Krauze, Dominguez, se paga con el precio del ninguneo. Lo cual tiene muchas ventajas: no pierdes el tiempo queriendo encajar en el contexto de una literatura en clara decadencia estructural, una pirámide tan iluminada y agujerada como la de Teotihuacán.”[II] [Not resembling Paz, Elizondo, Krauze, Dominguez, you pay the price of being unknown. Which has a lot of advantages: you don’t waste your time trying to fit into the context of a literature in such clear structural decadence, a pyramid as lit (enlightened) and as full of holes as the one in Teotihuacán].
THE WRITERS and writing
Rivera Garza emphasizes her identity as a writer. She explains “soy escritora, y de ahí parten todas mis identificaciones.”[III] [I’m a writer and from there depart all of my other identifications]. This is evidenced in her relationship to language, more precisely, the written word, and the writing process. “Me dejo definir por la palabra. Yo soy yo y una cierta actitud hacia el lenguaje. En términos más prácticos: yo soy yo y mi teclado.”[IV] [I let myself be defined by word. I am me and a certain attitude towards language. In more practical terms: I am me and my keyboard]. The act of writing then becomes, “el acto físico de pensar.”[V] [the physical act of thinking]. And this materiality extends beyond the embodiment of thought, to the physical presence of fingertips on a keyboard.
This material self-referentiality reflects these writers’ act of writing. The emphasis becomes the now and here, the present context and feeling, while the relationship to the machine/keyboard/word-processing tool is an intimate one. And so we come to understand Rivera Garza’s writing “mantra:”
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
MANTRA EN INFINITIVO
*Recordar el teclado. Recordar los dedos sobre el teclado. Recordar ahora, hace un momento, las yemas de los dedos sobre el teclado. No olvidar el teclado. Recordar el teclado miento escribo las palabras escribir en el teclado.
Detenerse en el medio. Resaltar la materialidad del medio. Gozar la imposición del medio. Los límites del medio. Los límites que son la realidad del medio. Recordar que el lenguaje es el medio.
Detenerse otro segundo más en el medio. Y recordar, mientras tanto, el teclado. Nunca jamás olvidar el teclado. Ver la aparición de la palabra sobre la pantalla. Ver, ahora, hace un momento, la aparición de la segunda palabra. Ver la aparición. Es una frase. Es una línea. Es una oración.
Recordar el teclado. Recordar que el teclado es una forma de la oración. Un halo sobre todo eso.
**Sentir las yemas de los dedos sobre el teclado. Recordar la materialidad del lenguaje. Sentir el contacto de la huella dactilar con la superficie lisa de la tecla. Constatar la materialidad inaudita del medio. Gozar. Padecer. Volver a gozar. Sentir el choque. Una huella dactilar. Una letra. La frase. La línea.
Detenerse en el medio. Resaltar el medio. Decir: este es el medio. Esta sólida existencia súbita. El lenguaje. Una forma de corporeidad. Detenerse. Gozar. Una huella dactilar.
Escribir: este es el medio. Que es escribir. Escribir el medio. Abolir la transparencia. Salir de la trampa. El lenguaje no es el fin, no es el receptáculo, es el medio. Resaltar el medio. Escribir.
Tocar, sinuosamente, sensualmente, viscosamente, los límites del medio. Tocar, que es una huella dactilar sobre la superficie lisa de la tecla. Tocar, que es escribir.
Recordar el teclado. Ahora, hace un momento, no olvidar el teclado. Nunca, ni por un momento, olvidar el teclado. La materialidad de esto. Esta práctica. Escribir.
Olvidar el teclado. Olvidarlo todo. Escribir.
# posted by crg @ 8:14 AM
[[*Remember the keyboard. Remember the fingers over the keyboard. Remember now, a moment ago, the fingertips over the keyboard. Don’t forget the keyboard. Remember the keyboard while I write the words write on the keyboard.
**Feel the fingertips over the keyboard. Remember the materiality of language. Feel the contact of the fingerprint against the smooth surface of the key. Confirm the surprising materiality of the medium. Enjoy. Suffer. Enjoy again. Feel the shock. A fingerprint. A letter. A phrase. A line.
Heriberto Yépez similarly describes himself as a “grafómano” or graphomaniac, describing how the blog suited him well as he had no restraints, no publishing deadlines, and no limits what or how often to write.[VI] This writing obsession and flexibility (Yépez writes in a variety of genres including poetry, essays, novels, critiques, autobiographies, and other mixed texts) has simultaneously gained him acclaim and disdain.
The physical consciousness (the being and the doing coming together) Rivera Garza speaks of, the sense of ‘writing realities,’ is reflected in the writers’ writing. She describes: “La escritura en todo caso, es un proceso de producción de lo real.”[VII] [Writing in any case, is a process of producing the real]. In this sense, writing reality is not simply writing about the surrounding environment, context, or reality, but rather, simultaneously creating realities. Rivera Garza explains: “What is interesting to me in the process of writing is precisely the opportunity to enter a universe I might be able to visualize but that will only know, if at all, through the writing of it.”[VIII] Enmeshed in a different relationship to the blog and the world, Saavedra explains it differently: “No posteen su vida. Posteen la vida. It’s different.”[IX] [Don’t post your life. Post life. It’s different]. In all three writers’ texts, you see the creation of alternate worlds through the unfolding of a unique language; worlds that reflect the border, quotidian context, at the same time they exist independently from it.
TIJUANA BLOGUITA FRONT (TJBF)
The conceptualization of the writing process and the writing itself as autonomous, free-standing, alive, and present entities, at the same time they are inextricably tied to the writer, is present in the writers’ blogging history. Rivera Garza describes when and how she started blogging. On November 2002, Cristina Rivera Garza found herself leading a writer’s workshop in Tijuana. All participants informed her they had blogs and had repeatedly encouraged her start her own. These participants were part of the growing (now defunct) Tijuana Bloguita Front (TJBF). It wasn’t until two of her students asked her, during a party, “are you scared of the blog?” that she decided to open her own blogspot blog: Words are the Very Eyes of Secrecy. “Lo demás fue pura adicción. No hay manera que un adicto a la escritura, teniendo un blog, no escriba.”[X] [The rest was pure addiction. There’s no way for someone addicted to writing, to have a blog, and not write].
Rafa Saavedra and Heriberto Yépez were precisely the ones behind the TJBF. Saavedra holds two degrees in computer science and communications.[XI] When he first started his blog in October 2001, he sent messages to his friends and encouraged them to start blogging as well. In August of 2002, Yépez opened his blog. Soon after, Saavedra organized the TJBF, a network of bloggers of at one point of more than 100 well-known and emerging border writers. Yépez describes the Front: “what the TJBF does isn’t literature, but something better: a series of daily life journals or on-line philosophy. It has also served as an excuse to organize parties.”[XII] In their recent article on “Blogs and Literature,” Yépez and Saavedra recount this era of the genesis of the blog movement in Tijuana with certain nostalgia. Yépez explains blogs helped unify and give cohesion to a generation of local artists, musicians, writers, readers, vagrants, etc…mostly through parties. “…y es que, ha llegado el momento de aclararlo, los blogueros literarios éramos raros, casi todos los primeros blogueros de Tijuana que formábamos este grupo no tenían intenciones literarias, el blog era un medio para decir lo que pensábamos, sentíamos, vivíamos, y aunque casi todas y todos eran estudiantes, a pocos les interesaba la literatura centralmente, lo que centralmente nos interesaba a todos era existir, Tijuana, las calles, la noche, el sexo, la fiesta total—y poco a poco el blog se volvió un grupo de personas que escribían sobre sí mismos y sobre otros y ahí mismo hablaban de donde sería la siguiente fiesta. Y eso era lo principal.” [XIII] [And the time has come to clear things up, the literary bloggers we were few, almost all of the first bloggers in Tijuana that were part of this group didn’t have literary intentions, the blog was the medium through which we said what we thought, felt, lived, and even though most were students, few were interested primarily in literature, our primary interest was to exist, Tijuana, the streets, the night, the sex, the total party—and slowly the blog became this group of people who wrote about themselves and about others, and spoke there about where the next party would be. And that was the main thing].
BLOG AS MEDIUM
The festive approach of Saavedra and Yépez is reflected in the blog form. In the blog, the present is readily available and the past ceases to be visible. The need to affirm life in face of this structural ephemerality is reflected in the early blog writing of these two writers, where they describe particular scenes, settings, and occurrences with great vitality. Saavedra wrote on his blog:
Febrero 27, 2002
que playback, que karaoke, que risas
y apuntarse a ser cómplices de todo en las noches divertidas
y ver tranquilamente como se diluye el porvenir en grupo
y saber que no sucederá más.
* De la serie What is the fucking point Servilletas y clubes
What playback, what karaoke, what laughter
And signing up to be accomplices of everything in the fun nights
And calmly see how what’s to come dissolves in group
And know that it won’t happen anymore.
* From the What is the fucking point series Napkins and clubs]
Yépez writes on this nonlinear characteristic of blogs and its effects: “Por el blog terminamos de perder no solo fe en los géneros literarios, que ya no existían en Tijuana, sino también en el carácter lineal de la escritura”[XIV] [Because of the blog not only did we completely lose faith in literary genres, which didn’t exist in Tijuana anymore, but we also lost faith in the lineal character of writing]. The experimental nature of their writing fit in with and was encouraged by the blog.
Rivera Garza speaks of her initial interest in the blog medium, “Me intrigaba en ese momento, así lo quiero creer, la democracia irreverente de la blogósfera—el hecho de escribir a la par y junto con hombres y mujeres para quienes la escritura no era una profesión ni un oficio sino un gusto, un ejercicio, acaso un reto, algo encontrado al azar en el ciberespacio.”[XV] [At that moment I was intrigued, I like to believe, by the irreverent democracy of the blogsphere—the fact of writing with and next to men and women for whom writing was not a profession nor a vocation but a pleasure, an exercise, maybe a challenge, something found at random in cyberspace]. The blog is a place to write collaboratively, because “la escritura no tiene que ser ni solitaria ni silenciosa,”[XVI] [writing doesn’t have to be lonely and silent], where the act of publishing “salta, digamos, olímpicamente el editor [cuestionando] y [poniendo a temblar] estructuras jerárquicas casi transparentes de lo establecido.”[XVII] [jumps, let’s say olympically, the editor, questioning, and shaking almost transparent hierarchical structures of the established]. Yépez also speaks of the democratizing nature of the blog. The blog democratizes writing, it makes writing an everyday act anyone can engage in.[XVIII] When writing ceases to be the restricted practice of established “writers,” literary practice as a whole is challenged. Yépez also describes the libratory nature of the blog with respect to writers themselves. “Y si de algo nos liberó el blog fue […] de querer ser validados por supuestas autoridades literarias”[XIX] [And if the blog liberated us from anything it was from the desire to be validated by alleged literary authorities]. For these reasons, Yépez describes the blog as “antihegemonic.” Saavedra describes it as: “La mejor crónica de una generación? Por supuesto. Live and direct, sin delays ni evocación equivoca y maniqueísta, sin pudor y muy alejada de esa doble moral mexicana” [The best chronicle of a generation? Of course. Live and direct, without delays, no wrong or Manichean evocation, without modesty and very far away from the two-faced Mexican morality].
The blog then became, by its very nature, a challenge to established literary practices, facilitating the rise and recognition of contemporary border literature by expanding self-publishing possibilities and facilitating wide-access to works. The blog medium also provided interesting possibilities with text and language experimentation for these writers. Below we will look at Rivera Garza’s “blogsívela” to explore the relationship between form and content in blogs.
CRISTINA RIVERA GARZA y la blogsívela
On January 1st, 2003, Rivera Garza decided to start a blognovel. She posted at 5:43pm, “Diré que voy hacia la escritura ahora para saber ‘lo que escribiría en caso de que escribiera.’ Diré también que, con toda seguridad, voy a pedir su ayuda conforme avance. Diré que hace tiempo he querido hacer esto: seguir los designios de la escritura errante. Sin borradores. Sin correciones. Sin versión final.”[XX] [I will say I approach writing now to know ‘what I would write if I wrote.’ I will also say, confidently, that I will ask for your help as I move forward. I will say that it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to do this: follow the plans of wandering writing. Without drafts. Without corrections. Without final versions]. With this, Rivera Garza affirms the nature of the blog as being more than a simple tool, more than even a space where writing can happen collectively, or where the roles of writer/publisher/distributer collapse into a single entity. The blog becomes a platform to experiment with literary genres, in this case, the novel. Opening, or in a sense, revealing, the process of writing to a larger audience through blog posts dissects the process, changing how the writer thinks about this process. The blog counters “el mito de la novela terminada”[XXI] [the myth of the finished novel]. Rather than imagine the novel as a closed and completed entity, the blog presents the novel as a process, as a series of posts that overlap, as ideas that run throughout, or ideas that never coalesce, allowing for a deeper understanding of the nature of the novel—how it’s written, how it’s being written, how it exists, or doesn’t and where. Changing the form inevitably changes the writing. Rivera Garza explains what happens to the posted text of a blog: “Lo que pasaba en el texto era, sin duda, el texto mismo: el texto en su sentido más apegado a la materia del texto. El texto material y el texto más humano. El texto que se negaba a revelar (en el sentido de andar balconeando a “su contenido”) y se proponía velar, sí-velar, es decir, escribir, cualquier cosa que no fuera él mismo.”[XXII] [What happened in the text was, without a doubt, the text itself: the text in its closest sense to the material of the text. The material text and the most human text. The text that refused to reveal (in the sense of spying “its content”) and proposed to veil, sí-velar (yes-veil), that is to say, write, whatever it was not itself]. The nature of the text is then to veil its true meaning.
Here, we have a significant play on words. “Novela” in Spanish means “novel.” But “novela” could also be a composite word: “no-vela.” Rivera Garza uses “vela” as a verb (from “velar”) which means to veil, to obscure, to hide, but can also mean to watch over, to guard, or to stay up overnight. By asserting a “sí-vela,” Rivera Garza affirms what she considers the true nature of the novel.
On February 25th, 2003, she posted: “La novela, susurrará de la manera más arrebatada posible, sí vela. La novela esconde, oculta, deforma, oscurece, opaca. La novela es la capa que usa el lenguaje para cubrir lo que no puede (ni debe) asir, concebir, fijar, detener. En perpetua vela, la novela vela veladamente con su propia vela. Vela tú, la novela sí vela. De ahora en adelante, y por las causas anotadas anteriormente, la novela se referirá a sí misma como sívela.” [The novel, will whisper in the most turbulent way, ‘sí vela’. The novel hides, obscures, deforms, darkens, opaques. The novel is the cape language uses to cover up what it can’t (and shouldn’t) catch, conceive, fix, stop. On perpetual guard, the novel veils veiling with its own veil. See it yourself, the novel ‘si vela’ (does veil). From this moment on, for the before stated reasons, the novel will refer to itself as ‘sívela.’]
And so the blogsívela was born.
The blogsívela then accepts—and praises—the power of language. Its dark nature, its power to obscure and hide meanings stands next to its power to guard and protect this same meaning. Rivera Garza explains this dark nature as positive because it is through this meaning making that language thrives: “Quiero novelas semiherméticas. Novelas que produzcan la distancia exacta entre el escritor del texto y el lector de la escritura de ese texto. En papel o en el espacio virtual de la blogósfera, aspiro producir y leer novelas que puedan velar (en el sentido de ocultar y proteger, y también de trasnochar y custodiar) en el mundo en el momento mismo en que producen los significados dentro de los cuales existe ese mundo.”[XXIII] [I want semihermetic novels. Novels that produce the exact distance between the writer of the text and the reader of the writting of that text. On paper or in the virtual space of the blogsphere, I aspire to produce and read novels that can veil (in the sense of hiding and protecting, and also stay up all night and guard) in the world at the same moment they produce the meanings in which this world exists.]
In early January of 2004, Rivera Garza changed her blog once more. No more blogsívela. At least not explicitly. Rivera Garza created a cyberutopia: U-tópicos contemporáneos [Contemporary U-topics], a place where she was free to continue experimenting with writing forms. Here she posts almost daily. Most of her posts are short photo essays, ‘morning’ translations, random jottings, or invented constraints such as writing in telegram format using only verbs or infinitive forms. Rivera Garza describes her passion for what she calls “escritura colindante” [adjacent writing], the places where “radical creative liberty” exists.[XXIV] On July 10th, 2004, she explained: “En la vida como en la escritura, lo verdaderamente interesante ocurre en las colindancias—esos espacios volubles donde lo que es no acaba de ser y, lo que no es, todavía no empieza. Lejos de tratarse de espacios armónicos donde lo distinto se intercambia, creando la posibilidad de una síntesis, estas colindancias son espacios de choque…” [In life like in writing, the truly interesting happenings occur in the adjoinings—those fickle spaces where what is, isn’t yet, and what isn’t, hasn’t started yet. Far from being harmonious spaces where difference is exchanged, creating possibilities for synthesis, these adjoinings are spaces of clashes].
These adjoining spaces in the writing form evoke the physical border. The U.S.-Mexico border, the city of Tijuana/San Diego, permeate these writers’ works. Just as soon as the geopolitical border is evoked, however, it becomes obvious the writing is not reducible to a reflection of this physical context. These adjacent spaces are also present between literary genres, genres all three writers are notorious for blurring.
TWITTER vs. BLOGS
Currently, the writers have a strong presence on Twitter. Yépez and Saavedra have shifted to Twitter as their preferred frequent posting medium altogether. Their blogs, though existent and present, are not as lively as they once were. While before, Yépez’ blog had more or less frequent posts of links to articles, videos of interest and world news, now he mostly posts links to his weekly column on the Journal Milenio. Saavedra keeps up his post variety (links to articles, sites of interest, music sharing, photographs…) but is less present, though not completely absent. The last posts on Crossfader were from October of this year. Rivera Garza is the most active on her blog, but also uses Twitter and speaks of her appreciation for the Oulipo-like constraints it poses.[XXV] Recently, she has published two sets of Twitter short stories on her blog (November 23rd, 2010, and November 30th, 2010). These texts are compilations of around 24 tweets of young, up and coming writers from Mexico. In a similar vain, Saavedra produced a mash-up metatext that combined stories involving deep secrets called SOWEIRD. He explains: “A mí me interesaba trabajar con los secretos de gente que conozco, que me sigue y sigo en las redes sociales. ¿Qué tanta confianza tendría para contarme algo? ¿Qué estaba dispuesta a compartir? ¿Qué sentiría al ver publicado su secreto?”[XXVI] [I was interested in working with secrets of people I know, that follow me and that I follow on social networks. How much would they trust me to tell me something? What were they willing to share? What would they feel seeing their secret published?]. Saavedra received a total of 44 secrets of every kind, all of which he used and rendered unrecognizable via his remixed text.
“La computadora es un electrodoméstico. Si, pero es el único electrodoméstico que ha cambiado al lenguaje.” [XXVII] [The computer is a home appliance. Yes, but it’s the only home appliance that has changed language].
As new digital technologies continue to emerge it seems writers and non writers will continue to engage with them and find new ways to adapt them to their needs, and/or let the new forms adapt them. These new technologies are giving rise to new genres and possibilities, such as these Twitter inspired texts. This dynamic and generative digital environment promises to continue blurring literary genres, reader/writer roles, even national borders, making way for new and exciting, and at times frightening forms.
Heriberto Yépez uses Twitter to post links to his weekly Milenio column, in the same fashion as his blog . Facebook is currently his preferred platform for posting other information, links, and thoughts.
 Phrase of Marguerite Duras from Écrire
[V] Cristina Rivera Garza, “Blogsívela. Escribir a inicios del siglo XXI desde la blogósfera”, Palabra de América, Seix Barral, Barcelona, 2004, p. 173
[VI] “Blogs y literatura: una post-conversación e intervención ensayística,”Literal (Sinaloa), 2009
[IX] “Blogs y literatura: una post-conversación e intervención ensayística,”Literal (Sinaloa), 2009
[XI] Email communication with Rafa Saavedra November 17, 2010
[XIII] “Blogs y literatura: una post-conversación e intervención ensayística,”Literal (Sinaloa), 2009
[XV] Cristina Rivera Garza, “Blogsívela. Escribir a inicios del siglo XXI desde la blogósfera”, Palabra de América, Seix Barral, Barcelona, 2004, p. 169
[XX] Cristina Rivera Garza, “Blogsívela. Escribir a inicios del siglo XXI desde la blogósfera”, Palabra de América, Seix Barral, Barcelona, 2004, p. 177
[XXI] Cristina Rivera Garza, “Blogsívela. Escribir a inicios del siglo XXI desde la blogósfera”, Palabra de América, Seix Barral, Barcelona, 2004, p. 176
[XXIII] Cristina Rivera Garza, “Blogsívela. Escribir a inicios del siglo XXI desde la blogósfera”, Palabra de América, Seix Barral, Barcelona, 2004, p. 177