Monday, December 31, 2007

Val At His Best

Val: Your story about the plum tree, your tribute to your father's craftmanship and all the other stories of your family's life in Cuba and in exile with which you have regaled us on Babalú over the years are not inferior in art or interest to Eire's or Samartino's. I do not say this to flatter you because I have nothing to gain by doing so. I simply want you to know where your greatest talent lies and have you recognize the concurrent responsibility of giving it the widest possible audience. Gather all these stories, put them in chronological order and you will see immediately what else needs to be included to fill out your book. And then do it. Manuel A. Tellechea, Babalú, March 14, 2007

I wrote that two weeks before Val booted me from Babalú for criticizing the Estefans. The praise was unfeigned, but I also wanted to insinuate something to Val that escaped him then.

I have always been honest with myself as well as with others, and I really don't believe it is possible to be one without being the other. I am never hesistant to praise where I see merit or criticize where I see fault. In fact I believe that doing one gives us more authority to do the other. Quite apart from whatever may be my credentials to judge Val as a writer, if I say that Val is as good a writer as Carlos Eire or any other Cuban memorialist — as I have in fact said before and after I was booted from Babalú — then I think my opinion carries added weight precisely because it is contrary to my estimate of him as a political thinker or polemnist. In praising him for one thing I was also implying that he should abandon the other.

Val will never follow the advice of this "intellectual and moral bastion" (as he sarcastically called me), and that's really unfortunate, because he will not hurt me but himself. So be it.

A reward for enduring his political ramblings on Babalú is the occasional post which Val devotes to those dearest and nearest to him. When he writes about his parents or something else that has touched his life as a Cuban exile, he is natural, sincere and likable. In fact, sometimes he even transcends the vein of the memorialist and reaches the higher artistic ground of the costumbrista (folklorist), as he did this morning in his tribute to his family's old sofa, emblematic of the hardships endured by newcomers to this country.

Too bad that Val does not cultivate this genre as much as he should. Instead he wastes his time aspiring to be a political scientist (whose political calculations always end in a bloodbath for the Cuban people). Many talents have been wasted by their wrong application as by a too high estimation of them.

The genial story of Val's beloved old sofa is spoilt, too, by the last sentence:

"There is nothing more disgustingly depressing than daylight on an old sofa, with or without an Adidas duvee."

We know, of course, what Val means, and it is a clever way to turn the discussion to Castro. But there is one problem. Val has written a tribute to the noble old sofa and ends by comparing the sofa to Fidel. Was anything about Fidel ever lovable, faithful, or missed? Will putting him on the ashcan of history be as traumatic for the Cuban people as taking his old sofa to the curb was for Val? I don't think so.


Fantomas said...

Hasta donde hemos llegado? unable to kill the beast, tenemos que conformarnos con escribir o leer acerca de un sofa viejo y los que se sentaron en el

Vana said...

So is he in fact writing a tribute to Fidel? it's a given fact that Val will screw it up, la caga a la entrada o a la salida, pero la caga.

Anonymous said...

Rene said...

I still go to Babalu once in a great while and from time to time find excellent stuff there. However, most of the time it just puts me in a bad mood to see fellow Cubans savaging their brothers for having even a slightly different opinion, not on principles mind you, but on strategy and tactics. Even when I agree with some of the people who post there, they are so intolerant and even persecuting, that it's hard not to think they are not much different from the regime on the island.

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Thanks Manuel.