Author: Néstor David Pastor

20 Quotes from the Book of Disquiet

There are some works of literature that require a certain kind of humility from the reader; an understanding that when someone on the train asks to know about the book you are reading, you will hesitate over the details–because you have trouble explaining what makes the book interesting or even relatable. It’s a frustrating experience, especially when the work deserves better, but it happens regardless of your intentions. Incidentally, I’ve found myself trying to explain The Book of Disquiet with the implicit understanding that it has no definition. So over the past month, with varied successes and failures, I’ve spoken to more than a few curious strangers about the book (don’t be surprised if you start seeing people all around New York City carrying around a copy). Anyway, it’s nearly impossible to describe this book without making it sound too abstract or too elaborate, yet somehow, I keep trying. In the last month, I’ve explained the identity of Bernardo Soares as a heteronym, the language of despair made accessible through the narrator’s lucid and poetic …

Notes on Marcel Proust and First Love

“Thus our heart changes, in life, and it is the worst pain; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality it changes, as certain natural phenomena occur, slowly enough so that, if we are able to observe successively each of its different states, in return we are spared the actual sensation of change.” –Marcel Proust, A Remembrance of Things Past Love has been such a damaging aspect of my psyche for the last two years that I’d like to think I’ve hardened, adapted my perspective in a way that allows me to appreciate all of the things that have happened and the (mostly negative) resulting consequences. I’ve been stubborn, as stubborn as the quote would suggest most of us are, refusing to acknowledge this gradual shift in perspective to the point that it almost doesn’t matter anymore. It’s still taking place unfortunately. It’s a process that began as soon as I opened my heart, something that took me years to do in the first place. Maybe I waited too long; so …

The Shrug

It happens more often than not that I lose my voice as a writer. And not only that, I lose everything. I feel absurd and out of place, like a character in a novel that has fallen off the page. Sometimes I struggle against this feeling, looking for inspiration anywhere I can find it. That means I revisit old work. I read my favorite authors or watch certain films that remind me of another time in my life, maybe a moment where I was more productive than I am now. Otherwise, I just let myself go and see where this empty feeling takes me. It could be somewhere awful, but usually it’s a sudden, unexpected moment of beauty that brings me back to myself. Then I forget about the entire process until the next time. This may sound familiar or it may not, but this is how I work as both a writer and a person. It’s very Sisyphusian, no? Anyway, one of the more difficult aspects of this experience is the feeling of being …

Notes on Gregory Rabassa’s Memoir, “If This Be Treason”

I suppose that to be considered a memoir, Gregory Rabassa’s If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents should have a tighter narrative, but it doesn’t nor did it ever intend to. Instead, the book revolves around a loose series of anecdotes; most importantly, reflections on his relationship with the mythic roster of Latin American authors that he has worked with over the years. If you want, you can gloss the makings of a philosophy on translation, though these thoughts only come in passing. The profession does not define nor does it dominate his perspective, but rather provide context for someone that seems to take life as it happens. Rabassa’s famously does not read a book before translating it, preferring to do so as he goes along. He alludes to this by comparing translation to nothing more than a reading, one that avoids the dogma of criticism, but remains preserved in print nonetheless. This instinctual approach to translation is more interpretation than anything else. In regard to the title, this idea of treason defines the …

Notes on Better Call Saul: Season 1, Episode 9

The story arc for the first season of Better Call Saul is not too different from its predecessor. Take an average, down-on-his-luck protagonist and watch as he tries to change his fate. But whereas Walter White is a dynamic character, going from Ned Flanders to Scarface; Jimmy McGill is static, a victim of circumstance. However, his descent does not seem inevitable until the penultimate episode of this first season. So what was the deciding factor in establishing this narrative? Were we supposed to hold on to a glimmer of hope that Jimmy McGill could be a decent and honest lawyer? It only takes nine episodes until we are given a definitive answer. Earlier in the season, we are given a glimpse of this realization. As with Breaking Bad, the characters in Better Call Saul are not scrutinized through the traditional lens of good or bad. Their actions can belong to either side, but the rest is open to interpretation. Jimmy McGill can only get so far through legitimate means. Here’s a quick overview: he doesn’t …

Notes on Divergent Narratives: Louie Season 5, Ep. 2 ‘A La Carte’

After watching “A La Carte,” the second episode of the fifth season of Louie, I want to begin this essay with the premise that Louie CK is a pretty enlightened individual…especially for the last few years. I say that because I take for granted that the quality of his writing, like many others before him, will be subject to the law of diminishing returns. In other words, Louie should be more stagnant at this point, but it’s not. Somehow it resists complacency and finds ways to adapt without sacrificing an aesthetic that his audience has come to appreciate as distinctly louie-esque. It’s a resolute melancholy, a rawness that stays grounded in both beauty and despair. This perspective, however grounded in reality (disregarding the occasional surreal and/or absurd sequences), is what offers insight into the human condition…or at the very least, provides a few laughs. It is a lack of a shame coupled with a lack of sympathy for his character. Yet it is often the characters around him that keep him honest. Pamela is the …

Notes on Latino Lack of Diversity in Hollywood and Selma Omissions

If you are Latino and have followed both the Golden Globes award ceremony and Academy Award nominations, then you might be celebrating eight Oscar nominations in several major categories or an unexpected win (and incredible speech) by Gina Rodriguez two weeks ago…down goes Dunham, down goes Dunham! By now you should have also come across articles criticizing the lack of diversity this year at the Oscars; more specifically, the meager two nominations for a critically acclaimed film like Selma…this after 12 Years A Slave won three Academy Awards last year, including nine nominations. Selma only received two nominations: one for Best Picture, which is also the most crowded and contested of all the major categories; and another for Best Original Song. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, “Glory” is a really terrible song; it almost ruins the experience as you’re leaving the theater. So I interpret the nomination as a sarcastic gesture to say the least. Taking a few steps back always comes with its distractions. This year, you have Birdman receiving …

Notes on Developing as an Artist

This essay is meant as a personal history of my own aesthetic narrative, as I would imagine it to be for artists in general. In essence, I will be attempting to explain my experience of developing a creative process through the larger context of what it means to be an artist. In this way, I can analyze my progress and lay the groundwork for others to potentially examine their own personal narratives in relation to mine. The first stage, which I will call the Nascent stage, is the very beginning of the creative process, sort of like an aesthetic mirror stage for the artist to recognize his or her own creative potential. It’s interesting that I would have the opportunity to begin this essay one week removed from my interview with Argentinean indie musician Juana Molina. She had mentioned that she no longer actively sought creative influences; instead relying on some of her earliest influences as a child to inform her creative impulses. These influences were often inherited directly from her parents’ decision to expose …

Notes on Walking Out of Inherent Vice

I couldn’t sit through more than an hour of Inherent Vice. I’ve never read a Thomas Pynchon novel either, but hearing some of the narration, I would assume his narratives to suffer the same form of dry monotony. Who knows? It might just be remorse for not having read the book beforehand. Anyway, I decided that this experience, at more than two and a half hours and on a work night, wasn’t for me. That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult for me to leave the theater, but I’m trying to be less stubborn when it comes to forcing an experience onto myself. It really felt like you needed the book as a point of reference to understand the film. There were a couple of guys sitting a few rows ahead of me. I’m going to assume they were  either Pynchon bros, Paul Thomas Anderson bros, or perhaps some combination of both. Anyway, they were visibly excited for the film to start. So I kept an eye on them and noticed how much more they …

Notes on Dr. King’s Legacy in “Selma”

I’m still in awe at how much attention the portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson in the film Selma has received in the last few days. Some have even gone as far saying that what happened in Selma was actually his idea (we shouldn’t take these criticisms seriously to say the least). To be honest, I didn’t think the film really made much of his legacy besides appealing to his vanity. Remember when he plagiarizes Dr. King when confronting Governor George Wallace about the repercussions of suppressing the movement? That’s about it. Maybe a few details have been rearranged or some have differing opinions on his role in the matter, but are we really having a discussion on the lesser of two historical figures presented in this film? I say lesser to emphasize that this is a black narrative. If anything, Dr. King gets a worse rap than the President. His legacy, which is often oversimplified for the sake of understanding, is  much more vulnerable to revision. In this case, it’s a good thing. Revealing, but …