Killer Crónicas
Bilingual Memories
Susana Chávez-Silverman
Susana Chávez-Silverman may have invented a new language --- although the passing back and forth between English and Spanish is a nice doubling for those who grew up with the two. It is a mix that ought to, and in this case does, pull in the best of both idioms, along with puns and internal jokes that will be a wonder to those who have a passing acquaintance with them.

Unfortunately, it will be a mystery to those who don't have it, so if you start reading Killer Crónicas and don't get it, you should immediately return to an ESL class, or Spanish Two, so you can delight in the double whammy that is here put into an elaborately filigreed gourd and shaken.

Chávez-Silverman can conjure up a person or a place (or an emotion) in a couple of words. Here she is in Buenos Aires, about to depart for the north, after a trying day saying good-bye. She goes into a little shop, and tries on a jacket, "it slides beautifully over every part of me not too tight en el busto and even the arms fit fine on my long chango arms,

    y me siento perilously close to tears y de repente me colapseo on a little bench in that white white botique and ahora hot tears are coursing down my cheeks y las chicas atónitas y ¿qué te pasa, pero ehtáh bien? Y yo, ob-vio que no...

§     §     §

Chávez-Silverman explains that the word "killer" in the title "gestures towards the foundational texts (such as 'El matadero,' or the chronicles of the so-called new world) that sparked my fascination for Latin American --- especially Argentine --- literature and culture." She explains in the "Glossary Crónica,"

    Para explicar estos mis flights (of fancy), tendría que empezar por decir que son, it is --- my language --- cual homing pigeon on acid.

"Like a homing pigeon on acid!"

She tells us that she has been playing "language games" her whole life. These twenty-four "chronicles" describe her travels to Spain, Argentina, San Francisco, in and around Los Angeles; and, too, affairs of the heart here and abroad ... the fun (and dolor) of growing up in a bilingual family, her mother "secretive," her father "as funny as hell."

When we reviewed her earlier title for Wisconsin, Scenes from La Cuenca de Los Angeles, we wrote,

    Susana Chávez-Silverman's writing is designed for those of us with this star-crossed affection for the two languages, the two cultures, the two sides of the same coin. Chancing onto La Cuenca turned into a far-out, no ... a güey-out treat for me.

It was and now, is, still, sinfin, sinrazón, sinvergüenza ... lo mismo.

--- Carlos Amantea
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