Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blogs Noted: Lofty Ambitions, Robert Lanza, Gecko Tails, Gelato Baby, BldgBlog, and More

Lofty Ambitions Blog
By Douglas Dechow & Anna Leahy
P.S. Check out their guest-blog post for Madam Mayo, Top 5 Aviation Museums.

NPR: The rediscovered album, the "mysterious masterpiece," "UFO" by Jim Sullivan
It really is fine. (Did they beam him up?)

HuffPost: Dr Robert Lanza, "Is Death the End?"
Time may be what you make it.

Gecko tails
By my amiga Julie Wakemann-Linn. She's the editor of Potomac Review and a writer--- now blogging (and writing) in Tanzania.

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
More Africa: Sierra Leon after the eclipse

The Guardian: Mapping Facebook Friends
Ha, looks correlated with the entirely expected.

Gelato Baby
The pix are calorie-free.

Velly, velly twickee
How to get clicks on your facebook ads.

Pluma Fronterizo
Calling all librarians!

BldgBlog: City of Holes and streeeeetching time

SF Parking Super Efficiency Strategy
It's not for everyone. Oh so 2010. (Teux deux: get iPhone app.)

C. Westbrook Designs
3 D printed jewelry. And a case for the iPhone.

More anon.

How to Make Your Own Favicon in 5 Easy Steps

A favicon is a "favorites icon," a tiny picture that shows up in the browser's location bar. It's the same picture you'll see when you add a website to your home page.

# 1. Make an itsy bitsy pictureI like to use Apple's Keynote program, which is lickety-split.

# 2. Take a screen shot of itCommand-shift-4

# 3. Then save the screenshot as a "jpg"

# 4. Go to
Follow the instructions, and be sure to save your favicon as an "ico"

# 5. Plug the "ico" file into your website's html code

In my website for “Conversations with Other Writers,” in “source mode” it looks like this:

   < META NAME="description" CONTENT="Podcasts of C.M. Mayo's conversations with other writers" >
  < LINK HREF="/FAVICONS/conversations-favicon.ico" REL="shortcut icon" TYPE="image/x-icon" />
  < LINK HREF="/FAVICONS/conversationso-favicon.ico" REL="icon" TYPE="image/x-icon" / >
  < LINK REL="apple-touch-icon" HREF="/FAVICONS/conversations-ipadicon.png" />
  < TITLE>C.M. Mayo's Conversations with Other Writers: a series of occasional podcasts -- listen in on or itunes

  C.M. Mayo's Conversations with Other Writers: a series of occasional podcasts -- listen in on or itunes

I've noted in bold where you would substitute the name of the file of your own favicon.

An ipadicon is the same thing as a favicon, but for an iPad. Same instructions as above, but instead of making a jpeg, make a .png; no need to go to that website, just upload your .png directly into the html code.

A few of my favicons so far:

For my home page,

Maximilian von

Giant Golden Buddha: Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercise page

Madam Mayo Blog

Marfa Mondays Project

More anon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guest-Bloggers: Two Adorable Bostonian Ladies

Who have nothing more to say! Except, woof woof.

P.S. For $5, they'll "heart" you too, check it out at

Apropos of which, a found poem (from offers found on on December 10, 2010)

"I Will"


I will slice your psd into html and css
I will spy on your boyfriend
I will send you a laser cut and etched gingerbread man

the list of zombie survival tips
a Hot New Toy from SANTA
a birthday card signed 'Jackie Chan' and posted from Hong Kong
my secret blogger autoblogging technique
my Family Secret recipe for Yummylicious Oriental BBQ Chicken Wings
a rock that I have energized with Reiki in your name
6 origami straw stars

I will plan your wedding in an Irish castle
I will plan your trip to Singapore
I will answer 10 questions about Berlin, Germany

4 make-up and beauty questions
three surveys of your choosing
2 questions about being a Pilot
a Contact Lens question

Any question you have about the Navy
Anything you need to know about frogs

I will ask my Magic 8 Ball any question for you


Monday, December 13, 2010

Hell, I Knew It Was Paradise: Bob Van Wormer and the Beginning of Sportfishing in Baja

New podcast: a brief reading from my book, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions, 2007).


UPDATE: I just learned today, December 14, that Roberto Van Wormer, this beloved legend of Baja California, passed away a few days ago. (Strange, I had him so much on my mind in the past days... I had recorded the podcast without knowing he had passed away.) I'll post a more detailed link as soon as I can find one. Here's what I have for now (and when you click on the link, scroll down, way down, to read the comments).

P.S. You can subscribe to my podcasts on or iTunes.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Blogs Noted: University of Chicago on Friedrich Katz, Rachael Laudan on Mexican Potatoes, Joe Ahearn's Bat Terrier, Quarterly Conversation & more

University of Chicago News
Friedrich Katz, the great historian of Mexico, has died.

The Smartly NY
Deborah Batterman on (Un)American Activities

Rachel Laudan
On why Mexican potatoes are so lousy

Colonial Mexico

Conduit of Joy

John Cleese on Creativity

109 Year Old Man

Eddy & Schein
10 Mistakes to Avoid (note especially the one about ID.)

5 Ways Augmented Reality is Making Your Life More Sharable

History Unfolding
What You Learn in France

Pen Hallow Press
Independent publishing and letterpress publishing

The Quarterly Conversation
Fall 2010 issue

Eternal Earthbound Pets
Not a blog but, oh well, maybe when the Rapture comes...

Answers from SilenceAn enlightened take on 2012

Bat Terrier
Joe Ahearn's blog
A good on-line design mag. (video) San Francisco earthquake footage.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ein Kaiser unterwegs (An Emperor en Route)

New post over at the Maximilian ~ Carlota blog , on Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan's book on Maximilian's travels 1864 - 1867.

The Maximilian ~ Carlota blog, a blog for researchers (both serious and armchair) on Mexico's Second Empire / French Intervention, is updated on Tuesdays.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Trailer for Sky Over El Nido

I am endlessly astonished by the changes in the book business. As a writer, it feels like riding the Matterhorn: I'm never sure what's around the next bend (a dip or the Yeti?). Back in 1995, when the University of Georgia Press published Sky Over El Nido, my first collection of stories, a book typically came out in hardcover, received a passle of reviews from magazines and newspapers, and then (if luck had it) there would be paperback edition. Maybe movie options. Maybe foreign rights. Maybe (very rarely) audio. But that was pretty much the whole show. And in less than a slew of weeks, the book would be gone from the bookstore shelves-- adios! Out of sight, out of mind, out of print. (And whoever bothered to read back issues of newspapers for old reviews?) Now, of course, we have websites (mine,, went live in 1999). We have e-books outselling print books, and who knows, maybe "vooks" (video books) will soon take off. Newspaper and magazine reviews are ever scarcer, while blogs, legions of them, have filled in the vaccuum. And because of on-line booksellers such as, buyers can find a universe of books, from ye olde best-sellers to the most obscurely self-published, from 1895 or 2005, 2010 or 1973--- and at 4 am, should they happen to be surfing at such an hour.

So: herewith, some 15 years after the book's original publication, is the trailer, a 2 minute video, for Sky Over El Nido. Yes, Sky Over El Nido is still in print in a paperback edition. E-book coming soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feria Internacional del Libro, Guadalajara: El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano

This Saturday November 27th at 6 pm at the Feria Internacional del Libro in Guadalajara, I will be presenting my novel, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano (Grijalbo Random House Mondadori), which is the magnificent translation by Agustín Cadena of my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books).

(Last year, I presented the English version, and blogged about the fair here and here--- and also about Literal, its editor, my amiga Rose Mary Salum, and a little literary history including about Tameme and El corno emplumado. One of the people I was especially happy to see last year was Spanish and Ladino translator Trudy Balch, who, alas, passed away last month in New York. Read Trudy's fascinating guest-blog post about Mexican activist Gaby Brimmer here.)

The two writers who will be presenting my novel at FIL are Carlos Pascual (author of La insurgenta, winner of the Grijalbo award for best bicentennial historical novel), and historian Alejandro Rosas. (Alejandro also presented the English version of the novel in Mexico City last year.)

P.S. Carlos is also an actor; I think he may read a section of the novel.

The details / Los detalles:
Presentación del libro
El último príncipe del imperio mexicano por C.M. Mayo
Carlos Pascual, Alejandro Rosas
18:00 a 18:50
Salón Elías Nandino, planta alta, Expo Guadalajara

The event is free and open to the public.

More anon.

Trudy Balch

Trudy Balch, translator of Spanish and Ladino, rest in peace. It was an honor to have known you.

P.S. Read Trudy's guest-blog post for Madam Mayo blog, about her translation of Gaby Brimmer's most unusual memoir, here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Recollections of Maximilian by Marie de la Fère: A Rare English Language Eyewitness Memoir

The historian Robert Ryal Miller mentioned this rare manuscript, a circa 1910 English language handwritten eyewitness memoir of Maximilian, in a letter to me some years ago. He had found it at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, and was preparing an edited and annotated version for publication. Alas, Miller died in 2004 without, as far as I know, having published it. I have not seen what Miller wrote, I am sad to say, for I understand he had identified the author whose name was not — as I too, immediately suspected -- "Marie de la Fère." When I visited the Bancroft as part of my own research for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, I dutifully looked up this manuscript. I was glad I did, for, among so many other things, it gave me insight into the strong feelings of the monarchists and Maximilian's character. After Miller's death, as I felt this memoir deserved more readers than we intrepid few who have eyes for microfiches... Continue reading about it at my other blog, "Maximilian ~ Carlota."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blog Tour (What's a Blog Tour?) for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano is out in Mexico, and so I'm south of the border for the time being (and happy to say, it's already gone into a second printing!). Meanwhile, the bookstore tour behind me (from DC to CA in 2009), I'm doing a fall U.S. "blog tour" for the English original, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which is now out in paperback.

What's a "blog tour"? Just a series of "visits"-- it might be a Q & A or a guest-blog post, on blogs that cover subjects related to the book. In some cases my publisher, Unbridled Books, provided books for a giveaway to readers. It's a delightful kind of tour because I get to find out about other bloggers, reach out to new readers-- and not have to pack a suitcase!

So far:

Mary J. LohnesInterview with C.M. Mayo "The Politics of Love"

Latina Book ClubQ & A with blogger Maria Ferrer
A review and an interview by blogger Margaret Donsbach

Hist-Fic-Chick: Celebrating History Through Literature
"Haunted Historicals: The Curious Coincidences Involving Senator Claiborne Pell's Mansion"
--> Now a podcast (and check out more podcasts on my page at iTunes).

Girls Just Reading "The Story of the Story of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire"
Also: a review by Julie

Jenn's Bookshelves
An interview; also a review by Jenn.

Some previous stops on the "blog tour" (some from 2009) include:
"What Connects You to the 1860s?"

"12 Tips to Help You Hang in There and Finish Your Novel"

Largehearted Boy
Playlist for The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

Red Room
C.M. Mayo Celebrates a Batch of Bookstores

Potomac Review Blog
"Who Knew That Mexico Had a Half-American Prince? (And How Did His Mother, a Washington Belle, End Up in Mexico?)"

Reading Group Guides
"A Book Group Meeting Menu"

Savvy Verse & Wit
Interview by Serena M. Agusto-Cox

Coffee with a Canine
C.M. Mayo & Picadou

Write On! On-line
Interview by Deborah Eckerling

Christina Baker Kline: Writing/Life"Break the Block in Five Minutes"

Critical Mass: The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle
Interview by Rigoberto Gonzalez

---> Coming up this week: She Read a Book blog

More anon.

P.S. Read more about blog tours at Diane Saarinen's Book Blog Tour Guide Blog; also historical novelist Sandra Gulland has an informative post at Red Room about her amazing 2009 blog tour for Mistress of the Sun.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guest-Blogger Janice Eidus on 5 Vampire Links to Sink Your Teeth Into

Creeeepy coincidences!! I just posted my "Haunted Historical Fiction" podcast, and, aside from plowing down the ever-rising Himalaya of e-mail, I have on my schedule for this week "start translating vampire story" (more about that anon). Then, in comes this week's guest-blog post on ... vampires?! Well, it's by my amiga, the crackerjack New York-and-San Miguel de Allende novelist Janice Eidus, author of the sublime The War of the Rosens, whose new -- yes--- vampire novel, The Last Jewish Virgin, is getting rave reviews. National Public Radio's Marion Winik calls it "Twilight... with a sense of humor, a brain, and a feminist subtext." Over to you, Janice!

Five Vampire Links To Sink Your Teeth Into

With my new novel, The Last Jewish Virgin (which I call my Feminist Fashionista Jewish Vampire Novel), I tried to reimagine and reinvent the vampire myth for contemporary times. The main character is Lilith Zeremba, a young woman living in New York City. Proud of her rationality and secular beliefs, Lilith is determined to remain a virgin until she reaches her goal of becoming a mega-successful fashion designer. Despite herself, she finds her soulmate -- her bashert, as it’s called in Yiddish -- in a completely unexpected, untraditional way -- replete with vampires, as well as feminism, real estate, fashion, and a seriously funny look at contemporary urban Jewish life.

While writing The Last Jewish Virgin, I immersed myself in all things vampires, along the way discovering and rediscovering novels, short stories, poems, critical works, films, plays, TV shows, and websites. Now it’s my pleasure to share five delicious vampire sites with you:

#1. New York Times’ critic Jason Zinoman’s series for Slate Magazine on Alan Ball’s HBO show, True Blood.
(Below are links to a few of his columns; you can easily find others). His writing is accessible, witty, and original. While dissecting True Blood, he simultaneously explores the historical, literary, and metaphorical roots of the vampire myth as well as its contemporary incarnations. If you’re drawn to things vampiric (even if you’ve never watched True Blood), you’ll be intrigued. Don’t miss his take on the “vampire-vs.-werewolf” debate (he comes out strongly on the side of True Blood’s vampires), as well as his analysis of how the show’s creators shock and disturb viewers with the increasingly “fluid sexuality” of their characters.

This is Your Brain on Blood;
True Blood Reinvents Vampire Sex;
Style, Soap, Sex – and Splat!

#2. Fresh Fiction
Fresh Buzz generously reprints NPR columnist and vampire aficionado Margot Adler’s “Vampire Book List” in its entirety. Adler’s list is extraordinarily extensive and never elitist. She’s fascinated by the ethical and moral dilemma vampires face because of the tremendous power they wield over mortals. (Among my own favorite vampire books are: Bram Stoker’s Dracula -- like a vampire, it never grows old for me; Fledgling, in which the late African-American writer, Octavia E. Butler, blends the vampire myth with science fiction in order to explore race and prejudice in a fresh way; Anne Rice’s romantic and cinematic Interview With The Vampire; The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas, about a lonely, intellectual vampire obsessed with understanding who he is and how he came to be.)

#3. The Coolest Vampire Art Gallery
Quirky and cultish, this online art gallery straddles the line between serious and kitschy. If you happen to “love the sight of female vampires in art,” and yearn to see portraits of such vampire vixens as “Macabre Mistress” and “Midnight Temptress,” this is the site for you. (You also can vote here on such pressing issues as whether Brad Pitt or Keifer Sutherland is the hotter vampire.)

#4. Only Good Movies: Vampires
A comprehensive list of “best” vampire movies culled from all over the internet, with well-deserved special attention devoted to the Swedish film Let The Right One In (recently remade in English), an exquisite horror/romance based on the novel of the same name. It’s the story of an emotionally fragile, bullied twelve-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a female vampire child who ultimately rescues him from the bullies. (Among my favorite films are Near Dark, the best -- perhaps the only! -- vampire/Western/horror film ever made; The Vampire Lovers, based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s bold lesbian vampire tale, Carmilla; John Badham’s incredibly sensual Dracula; The Lost Boys, the teen/comedy horror film that speaks as much to adults as teens; Andy Warhol’s Dracula, in which Udo Kier’s languid Dracula is wasting away due to the world’s scarcity of virgin blood; The Hunger, surely inspired by Le Fanu’s Carmilla, starring two of our most beautiful contemporary actresses, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon; and, Vampire’s Kiss, about a deranged vampire/literary agent played by Nicolas Cage -- in other words, one vampire that’s difficult for at least one writer I know to resist.)

#5. Monstrous Vampires
In an entertaining and vivid fashion, this website presents an encyclopedic wealth of information and visuals about all things vampire, from classic literature to real life blood fetishes, from the mythic to the concrete. Read here to learn about “Minor Historical Vampires,” including Vlad the Impaler and Erzsebeth Bathory, as well as “Psychic Vampires” and “Psychotic Vampires.” Along the way, learn a thing or two about “Animal Vampires,” “The Vampire As A Scapegoat,” “Human Living Vampires,” “Famous Vampire Hunters,” and “The Blood Fetish Vampire.” This website may be the Ur-website of all vampire websites.

--- Janice Eidus

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

P.S. Read Janice Eidus's previous guest-blog post for Madam Mayo, apropos of her splendid novel,
The War of the Rosens: "Five (mas o menos) directly or very indirectly Mexico-related Websites"

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mexico City Melissa Garden with Picadou

This is a photo of my Melissa Garden, a rooftop with pots of lavender; and that's my muse, the inky minky chica, Picadou. Read more about Melissa Gardens here.

P.S. The other day I was googling "Melissa Garden" when I came upon an artist named, in fact, Melissa Garden Streblow. Check out her website; she's very talented.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I Love QR Code!

If you have an iPhone, you can read the QR code and it will take you to my webpage, My next book will have QR code for each page, so you can go from the book to videos, podcasts, photos, articles, other websites, and more. Stay tuned.
P.S. Need a QR reader? It's free at

More anon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roger Mansell October 8, 1935 - October 25, 2010

After a long battle with cancer, Roger Mansell, my dad, passed away early in the morning on October 25. He was a great father and he also left the legacies of his research, archive, and encouragement and example. After a career in business (mainly in the printing industry) he dedicated himself to researching the Allied POWs under the Japanese during WWII. He was never a POW himself; he had served as a lieutenant in Korea in the late 50s. It was his love of history and the opportunity to be of service that prompted him to dedicate more than twenty years to compiling an unprecedented data base on the POWs under the Japanese. He also dedicated many of his days to helping other researchers, both professional and amateur, including many family members of POWs who were trying to find out what had happened to their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and friends.

The data base, with its camp rosters and much more, is at

His forthcoming book, The Forgotten Men of Guam, is being edited by historian Linda Goetz Holmes. It tells the story of what happened to the military men and civilians (mainly Pan Am Clipper crews) who were captured on Guam after Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Over the years he had amassed a magnificent archive of World War II-era research materials consisting of more than fifteen linear feet of documents, including memoirs and interviews with survivors, some fifteen hours of video recordings, and approximately four hundred published titles (many extremely rare), which he donated to the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, last month. (Click here to read about the archive.)

Those of you in the literary and translation communities may know him as the publisher of Tameme, the bilingual literary journal, and later chapbook series, which I edited. Tameme, a 501 (c) nonprofit foundation dedicated to publishing new writing from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and its publcations, would not have been possible without his knowledge of printing and his help with the administrative tasks. I'll be posting more about his work for Tameme in another post soon. (I don't know yet what will happen with Tameme; I hope to be able to make an announcement about that early in the new year.)

Please visit, the website I created for him, to read about his work, which I hope may continue to help people researching this period, and to tell this terrible story of the POWs, which had been so long buried in inaccessible archives.

More anon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reading Tonight: College of Southern Maryland, Connections Literary Series

An announcement and an interview about an event tonight.

Mayo to Read from ‘The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

LA PLATA, Md. (October 14, 2010)—What would you do for love, power and success? Would you accept a job and travel to a distant land? What would you be willing to give up to secure your place in history? These are just some of the questions author C.M. Mayo considers in the novel, “The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire,” which will be featured when Mayo launches this season’s Connections Literary Series Oct. 15 at the College of Southern Maryland, Leonardtown Campus.

Mayo’s novel, named one of the best books of 2009 by Library Journal, is based on the true story of half-American toddler Agustín de Iturbide y Green, a great-grandson of Maryland's former governor George Plater and grandson of revolutionary war hero General Uriah Forrest. The novel recounts the political tumult and heartbreak surrounding the arrangement in which the child was made Heir Presumptive to the throne of Mexico by the recently installed Emperor Maximilian von Hapsburg, the former Archduke of Austria.

Mayo is the author of Sky Over El Nido and the travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles Through Baja California, the Other Mexico. She is the founding editor of Tameme, a bilingual Spanish/English chapbook and also editor of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion." She has received a Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and three Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards and Washington Independent Writers Awards. Currently she divides her time between Mexico City and Washington, D.C., where she is on the faculty of The Writers Center.

As part of CSM’s Connections Literary Series, Mayo will read from and discuss her historical novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, beginning at 7:30 p.m., October 15, in Leonardtown’s Building A, Auditorium. Tickets are $3 advance sale at the CSM box office and $3 at the door with a student ID, or $5 general admission at the door. Books are available at the CSM College Store. In preparation for CSM’s Connections program, Mayo discussed the role of emotional truth and the importance of character and place in developing historical fiction.

CSM: You've noted that you sought to tell the "emotional truth,” in that you wanted to explore the emotions and motivations of the characters and their historical acts. How did you discover each character and was it harder to imagine and write certain perspectives over others?

Mayo: The true story, simply told, makes no sense. What was the archduke of Austria doing sitting on the Mexican throne? Why did he take this half-American 2-year-old child and make him his heir presumptive? Why did the child's perfectly healthy parents turn him over to Maximilian? I believe the answers are in the nature of the characters themselves, and that is why, despite having done many years of original research, I wrote the story as fiction.

Each character was a kind of journey, some as easy as a jog to the corner, while others felt like a barefoot slog across the Gobi Desert, just endless, exhausting, and excruciating. (The Emperor Maximilian was probably the toughest; certainly, he was the strangest.) It was not a linear process by any means, but looking back, I see now that there were four basic steps in building each character: (1) reading deeply and broadly about them and their world; (2) imagining their physical presence, gestures, clothing, possessions, environment; (3) thinking through their hopes and fears, personal, familial, financial, spiritual, etc.; and (4) generating vocabulary that reflects their character and passions, what novelist Douglas Glover calls "language overlay."

One technique I used, and that I recommend to my writing workshop students, is "random questions." For example: what's the name of your character's pet; what does she eat for breakfast; what does she say under her breath when she's seething mad; what's her biggest secret; fondest wish; who does she resent; what does she believe about God; if she inherited some property what would she do with it; what's her favorite flower; and so on. It might seem trivial, but there's always something good to harvest in there. I think we all know more about other people than we realize on a conscious level, but there are these techniques-these "keys" to unlock the door of the mind.

CSM: Likewise, since this is historical fiction and your object was to tell the story of Prince Agustin de Iturbide y Green, did you ever have a hard time letting go of any secondary characters? I am thinking in particular to the story of Lupe which is so beautiful and devastating and yet ultimately unfinished in that we never learn what happens to her.

Mayo: There are so many secondary characters in this novel, they jump in, they float off - Lupe, the kitchen maid-nanny who is abandoned and then runs away, is one of the more important, certainly. In a way, none of the characters' stories is finished, but this is because the main character of this novel is not a person, but an idea.

The prince is the novel's main character - not the prince as a person, however, but as an idea. He is, as is any heir presumptive to throne, the living symbol of the future. An idea this big lives in the minds of many people - therefore, the novel has a crowd of characters, from Lupe the nanny all the way to the Pope himself. So we see the prince from Lupe's eyes, as we need to, and then the story moves on, as the prince is seen from other eyes. Each and every character, each and every scene finds it focus on the prince.

CSM: How do accessibility and timeliness play a role in the language used in a historical novel such as this?

Mayo: The language in the novel was closely modeled on memoirs and newspapers of the time. Yes, though it was only 150 years ago, they did sometimes speak in ways that we in the 21st-century America would find strange. Many of the educated characters had a far more elaborate syntax and vocabulary than we come across today. Americans often used what I think of as a coy negative, e.g., "it was quite the opposite of an ironing board." "Toothsome" was a word I found often, but that is rarely used today, and I think, at least from context, readers can figure out what it means, and it's strangeness gives a touch of historical flavor, no?

I put in "natch" but, for some reason, which I still don't understand, my editor objected to that! You might have noticed that in chapter one, Alice's little brother calls her boyfriend, the Mexican Mr. Iturbide, "a greaser." Several readers have objected that this sounds too modern, but in fact, at that time, the 1850s, the wake of the US-Mexican War, the word "greaser" as a slur was in use and it strikes me as exactly the kind of thing a naughty little brother would say.

All I can say is, a novelist does need to do a lot of research, take a lot of care with the language, but it has been my experience that no matter what you do, someone will say, ah, but they wouldn't have said that, when, in fact, they did. It convinces some readers, but not others. Also, much of this is translated. Maximilian, for example, probably thought to himself in German, while he spoke French to Bazaine and Spanish to the Mexicans, yet I needed to render all of this in English. But that issue of the translations is an essay unto itself.

CSM: Phrases of French, German and Spanish are incorporated liberally throughout the novel. Could you talk a little bit about why you chose to do this and what it offered you as a writer?

Mayo: The novel is about what was a truly transnational episode in Mexico's history: the French, with aid of the Belgians, the acquiescence of Great Britain, Austria and Spain, and with the blessings of Rome, invade Mexico and then install upon the throne the ex-Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg, many of whose personal guard, by the way, were Hungarian. They were not all speaking Spanish, I can tell you that. Maximilian and Carlota spoke in German to each other and in German to their German-speaking staff, but they used French for diplomatic correspondence and Spanish for anything official in Mexico. To have kept everything in English throughout the novel would have killed the flavor, flattened the cultural differences, which, really, were like the Himalayas.

CSM: On your website you talk about building this virtual reality for the characters to interact in, how did you go about creating the framework for 1860s Mexico?

Mayo: Reading, reading, and more reading--- biographies, histories, memoirs, newspapers, archives, you name it. I should also mention Torcuato Luca de Tena's Ciudad de México en tiempos de Maximiliano (Mexico City in the Time of Maximilian), and of course, extensive note-taking. In some ways, the fact that I have lived in Mexico City for more than 20 years was a hindrance. It was such a different place then, a compact city with crystalline skies. What we have today, in the spreading amoeba-like megalopolis of more than 20 million people, I think of as a motley combination of Los Angeles, Miami, Paris and Lagos. Nonetheless, traveling to the various sites in the novel, in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, as well as Washington, D.C. and many cities in Europe was crucial. I took a lot of photographs and notes, especially in Trieste, where I visited Maximilian's castle.

CSM: Could you talk about the role of food throughout the book?

Mayo: What you eat tells us who you are. What you serve your guests is equally revealing. It's a clue to a character's mood, relationship, social class, culture, and of course, it's fun to read about food!

One of my favorite scenes is when Princess Iturbide, very proud of her Mexican heritage, convinces Frau von Kuhacsevich to try the Aztec delicacy known as "huitlacoche," or corn smut (a black fungus that grows on the ears of the corn), which Frau von Kuhacsevich had considered disgusting, "on a par with roasted maguey worms, mosquito paste, tacos of ant eggs and the like," until Princess Iturbide compared it to truffles. Truffles! Ah, with the right metaphor, suddenly huitlacoche became quite chic.

You probably noticed that apple pie plays a recurring role in the novel. This is the quintessential Yankee dish, of course. There's also a lot about whipped cream, a favorite of the wily German Jesuit, Father Fischer. Later in the book, as the Empire begins to fail, we see the price of lard and meat go up, and there are increasing shortages. In the penultimate chapter, Mrs. York, the well-to-do- wife of a businessman, has to serve very weak tea to her guests. I don't go into it in the novel, but in the final months of the Empire, many people did starve.

CSM: Throughout the novel, you pose the question of the strength of the female characters in comparison to how the men view them. Was it always your intention to make this argument or was it more of an organic byproduct of your research and writing?

Mayo: I didn't have any intention here, it came out of the story itself. The Empress Carlota of the novel is very closely based on research. She really seemed to be a kind of Joan of Arc, unflinchingly courageous and with almost super human reserves of energy. The problem, of course, is that she was very young, only in her early 20s, and increasingly isolated and unstable. Similarly, Alice, the prince's mother, also took a proactive role; she fought desperately hard to get her son back. Both Carlota and Alice (the American mother of the prince) had in common a great sense of social self-confidence. As for the men's terribly condescending views of the female characters, these were, alas, typical attitudes of the time. If anything, I toned them down for modern readers.

CSM: You've noted that the story is in part the "idea of Mexico." How do you see this "idea" continuing to play out in terms of U.S./Mexican relations, immigration, etc.?

Mayo: I like to say the novel is the story of the end of an idea about what it might have meant to be Mexican. The conservative Mexican monarchists, the French and the Pope all thought Mexicans should be subjects of a crown. On the other hand, the Mexican Republicans believed that Mexicans should be citizens of a Republic. A subject obeys; a citizen participates - an enormous difference. Today Mexicans are citizens, but they did not become citizens in an historical process identical to ours.

We had George Washington, who headed a Republic that respected the separation of Church and State; Mexicans had Agustín de Iturbide, a general who set himself up as emperor and defender of the Catholic Church and who ended up before a firing squad. Then, after decades of strife, including the U.S. invasion at the end of the 1840s, the French invade and install Maximilian as Emperor - a second doomed attempt at a Catholic monarchy.

Mexico's struggles, both internally and against invaders, have been bitter, far more so than most of us realize. The image that we have of Mexico today is, in part, a construction of the 20th-century Mexican State, the tourism industry and the media. The longer I live in Mexico, and the more I read about its history, the more peculiar I find some of the popular images of Mexico that we have here in the U.S. Mexico is quite different, and socially and politically far more complex, than what most Americans imagine.

CSM: Lastly, could you talk about why you choose to tell the epilogue from John Bigelow's perspective instead of say Alicia Iturbide and why it is so meandering and brief?

Mayo: That is the "what does it all mean" chapter and I don't know, but I never got the impression that Alice thought deeply about things. It seems to me that she lived life very much on the material surface, and that her main purpose by this time - the early 1880s - was to establish her son in the life she wanted for him.

Bigelow, on the other hand, was not only a diplomat, but a philosopher and a journalist, someone who had an unusually broad perspective and the habit - as I found in reading his diaries - of reflecting deeply on his experiences. I think we can see Alice more clearly through his eyes than through her own. He did visit her in Mexico City, by the way-- this chapter is largely drawn from his diaries. His visit took place at the height of what is today called the Porfiriato, the rule (whether directly or behind the scenes) of Porfirio Diaz, one of the generals who had defeated Maximilian's forces and who much later, in 1910, was overthrown in the Revolution. And here, too, about Mexico's prospects, Bigelow was far more perceptive than Alice.

I can see why you would describe it as meandering, though I would call it an exploration in flashbacks. The chapter opens with the end of Bigelow's journey to Mexico--- his train is leaving Orizaba, on the way to the coast at Veracruz, where he will board the steamer to return to New York. The whole chapter, his visit to Mexico City and with Alice, is rendered as a flashback as he attempts to come to terms with Alice and her son, and times past, in his own mind.

Finally, one of the things that most impressed me about Bigelow was his consistent effort to find compassion for others. He disapproved of Alice, but, judging from his other writings, I feel confident that he would not have judged her harshly any more than he would judged anyone harshly--- for I do think he took to heart "judge not that ye not be judged." And this is precisely what I am asking of the reader for all the characters - whether Alice, Angelo, Pepa, Maximilian or Carlota or, for that matter, the bandit.

I don't try to excuse anyone but rather to show that they were human, they had their reasons - good reasons, if only in their own minds - to do and say what they did. Jumping to judgment is very boring, really. We can't see the complexity, humanity in a character when we do that. As Susan Sontag said, "The novel is an education of the heart." Can we see ourselves in the other? That's what it's all about.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Henry R. Magruder's Sketches of the Last Year of the Mexican Empire

The Tuesday post is up over at the Maximilian ~ Carlota blog, on Henry R. Magruder's Sketches of the Last Year of the Mexican Empire.

This is part of a series of blog posts on eyewitness accounts of the Second Empire / French Intervention. So far:

-> Charles Blanchot, L'Intervention Française au Mexique
(aide-de-camp to General Bazaine, Supreme Commander of the French Forces in Mexico)

-> José Luis Blasio, Maximiliano íntimo
(Maximilian's secretary)

-> Paula von Kollonitz, Eine Reise Nach Mexiko im Jahre 1864
(Member of the court who came with Maximilian and Carlota to Mexico)

-> Sara Yorke Stevenson Maximilian in Mexico
(Daughter of an American businessman resident in Mexico City)

Many more to come. The Maximilian ~ Carlota blog is updated on Tuesdays.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bio-Typing: Beyond Body Language by Johnny Seitz

Bio-Typing is a very strange but fascinating book by an autistic mime. (One of the blurbs on the back is from none other than Marcel Marceau.) The author says:

"Based upon how a person walks, stands and breathes, I can predict very accurately how they see themselves and how they approach problems and other people, and how best to establish a rapport with them and what not to do. The system has been greatly refined over 56 years of applying it in my own life...

As you read this book, you will discover my understanding of not just one, but three distinct patterns to human movement or actually muscle recruitment patterns to be found in the execution of everyday actions that include walking, standing and breathing. These patterns are immediately apparent if you know where to look. Your own body perfectly falls into one of them...

...These groupings transcend gender, age, race and culture. Surprising, as it may seem, a short, squat individual and a tall, lanky one can both fit into the same Bio-Type. Whether stocky or slim, whether an elegant dresser or a football player, they can exhibit similar movement patterns and be grouped into the same Bio-Type.

Perhaps more surprisingly, each person of a specific Bio-Type approaches and deals with other people in remarkably similar fashion. And in turn, any person of a specific Bio-Type can be effectively related to in specific ways with what you might call "rules of engagement"...

By recognizing that people think and act differently based on their Bio-Type, you can learn to set aside your own expectations and judgments...."

Ever since reading it yesterday, I watch people's feet as they walk and indeed, as the author asserts, people can easily be identified as "forward fallers," "backward fallers," or "torso-sway walkers."

Check out the website at More anon.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Yvette Grutter and C.M. Mayo, Democrats Abroad in Mexico City

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of presenting my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, at the exhibition of paintings by artist Yvette Grutter for the Mexico City chapter of Democrats Abroad. Ever since, I've been meaning to post this photo, which gives an idea of Yvette's gloriously vivid works (she's the one with the halo!).(Check out her website at The venue was a sueño: an apartment overlooking Chapultepec Park, and with eagle's eye view of Chapultepec Castle.

Also in attendance: Michael K. Schuessler, biographer of Elena Poniatowska and Pita Amor, and editor of the sublime Alma M. Reed's memoir, Peregrina: Love & Death in Mexico--- more about that amazing book anon.

P.S. A lot of you have been asking me when I will present the novel in Spanish, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano, which has just come out in Mexico with Grijalbo-Random House-Mondadori. The answer is: soon. To sign up for my newletter, click here; for updates on events, click here.

More anon.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blogs Noted: C. Marina Marchese, Seth Godin, Savita, Another Bourgeois Dilemma, Sandra Gulland, David Agren, Frederick Ruess, Fred Ramey

Red Bee Blog
By C. Marina Marchese, author of Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. I love what she's doing with honey and apitherapy-- and introducing the concept of terroir.

Seth Godin
Getting better at seeing.

Savita Blog
A nice design blog.

Another Bourgeois Dilemma
(Yeah, I have a lot of these. But not bike trips to Tuscany. I hate bike trips.)

Sandra Gulland
About research overload! By a brilliant novelist.

David Agren
Mexico City-based freelance journalist.

Frederick Reuss on Huffington Post
My fellow DC novelist and Unbridled Books author on "Secrecy and Censorship: Book Burning in the Era of E-Books" (Can a laptop spontaneously combust? Just wondering.)

Three Guys, One Book
A guestblog post by Fred Ramey about Unbridled Books.

More anon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Podcasting at and iTunes

Adventures in podcasting continues. Listen in to the free downloads at either or itunes. A few of the topics I'll be covering in the coming weeks: a talk about some literary journals (reprise of a talk I gave at the Feria Internacional de Libros in Guadalajara, celebrating Literal); "Hell I Knew It Was Paradise" and "Lay Thine Hand Upon Him" from my memoir of Baja California, Miraculous Air; and, for writers, "How to Break a Block in 5 Minutes."

Here's the menu so far:

"Twelve Tips to Help You Hang in There and Finish (and Sell) Your Novel"
A blog post for "Madam Mayo," and a guest blog post for "Work-in-Progress" and the Writer's Center's "First Person Plural."

El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. Lectura de un extracto del prímer capítulo, "La consentida de Rosedale"
C.M. Mayo lee un extracto de la novela El último príncipe del Imperio mexicano, traducida por el novelista y poeta Agustín Cadena (Grijalbo Random House-Mondadori, septiembre 2010).

"The Writing Life: A Report from the Field"
A panel discussion at the Artlantic Festival at the Writers Center, May 22, 2010, with Yours Truly, David Taylor, Alan Elsner, Kevin Quirk, and moderator Jessie Seigal.

C.M. Mayo at the Library of Congress, July 20, 2009
A presentation of the the novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, and an overview of the author's research in the various archives in the Library of Congress, among them, the papers of the Iturbide family, the Emperor Iturbide, and the circa 1920 copies of a substantial portion of the Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko archive in Vienna. This lecture was sponsored by the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, which is the center for the study of the cultures and societies of Latin America, the Caribbean, the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish Borderlands, and other areas with Spanish and Portuguese influence.

C.M. Mayo at the Historical Society of Washington DC, October 18, 2009
A presentation of the the novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, with special emphasis on Washington DC history (notably Georgetown and Rosedale, the historical estate in Cleveland Park) and an overview of the author's research in the Historical Society of Washington DC.

And more anon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guestblogger Kyle Semmel: 5 Quick Links "Out of Denmark"

One of the most vital aspects of Washington DC's literary scene is its international flavor. After all, the city is home to embassies from almost every nation on earth, many multinational agencies, from the IDB to the World Bank, not to mention the many universities with their language and international relations programs and so much more. I write about Mexico and translate Mexican writing, so I've long been a big fan of Washington DC's Mexican Cultural Institute, and I salute the community of Spanish language writers and Spanish translators. But many other embassies offer cultural programs in DC, and many other translators work with untold numbers of languages. That said, it is rare to find an event of such quality as one coming up tomorrow -- Thursday September 23, 2010-- at the nearby Writers Center (just over the border) in Bethesda MD. I asked the organizer, my amigo the writer and literary translator Kyle Semmel, to provide details. Over to you, Kyle!

It’s a good time to be a translator (as I am) of Scandinavian literature. But it’s an even better time to be a reader of Scandinavian fiction.

Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (translated by Reg Keeland) holds the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and his two previous novels still place first and second on the NYT's paperback bestsellers list. Larsson and a handful of other Scandinavian crime novelists —- Henning Mankell, Camilla Läckberg, and Karin Fossum, among them -— have won so many fans worldwide that readers might be surprised to learn that the literature of the far North isn't all dark nights and darker passions, serial killers and sinister plot twists.

For several years I've translated a number of Danish authors. And I'm pleased to say that three of Denmark’s leading authors—- Pia Tafdrup (whose travel essays I've translated a few of), Simon Fruelund (whose work I translate regularly), and Naja Marie Aidt—- will appear at The Writer’s Center, where I work as the communications and publications manager and interim director, as part of the 2010 Fall for the Book Festival. The event is made possible by a grant from the Danish Arts Council’s Committee for Literature and support from the Embassy of Denmark.

Come on out to The Writer's Center for this one-of-a-kind event. It's free, and you'll have the opportunity to see some of Denmark's finest authors-- before they're household names here in the States. Here are some quick links:

1. For the event at The Writer's Center
2. For Naja Marie Aidt (with English text)
3. For Pia Tafdrup (with English text)
4. For Simon Fruelund (a short story, my translation) at A River & Sound Review
5. For Danish literature in general: Danish Literary Magazine

-- Kyle Semmel

P.S. Check out Kyle Semmel's interviews with Danish writers Naja Marie Aidt and Pia Tafdrup for FIRST PERSON PLURAL.

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

San Francisco, 1905

A mesmerizing short film of a drive down Market Street in San Francisco, in 1905, just before the earthquake.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blogs Noted: Neuronarrative, Listen Well, Rose Rosetree, Mex Files, Farmer in the Dell, Obit-Mag, American Egypt

By David diSalvo

Debbie Stier
Publishing expert. A treasure of a blog for those interested in where, by digital Jove, is this all going?!

Listen Well
Mystic audio.

Mex Files
by Richard Grabman, author of Gods, Gapuchines, and Gringos: A people's History of Mexico

American Egypt

Deeper Perception Made Practical
By Rose Rosetree. Movie star auras! Gray slime! This is must reading for novelists. I am not kidding.

A Farmer in the Dell
For those who love exclamation points! But seriously, this is a charming and informative blog. And the food looks delicious!


More anon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest-blogger Kim Roberts: Top 5 Spoken Word Venues in Washington DC

The literary scene in Washington DC, which would be a shining beacon anywhere else in the nation or the world, crouches in the dense and noisy shadow of the national government and all its multitudinous personalities' to-ings and fro-ings and shennanigans from Capital Hill to K Street & etc. Alas! Anyway! I'm a jump-up-and-down fan of Kim Roberts' splendid work, both as a poet and as an advocate for poetry, and not only within the Beltway, but radiating far beyond. The author of three books of poems, including the forthcoming Animal Magnetism, winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, January 2011), Roberts also edited the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010) and, for over ten years, has edited the acclaimed online journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Her new book is Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC (Beltway Editions, September 2010, in partnership with The Word Works, Inc. and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC), for which there will be two -- both free and open to the public-- launch events:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 5:00 pm
As part of The Humanities Council of Washington, DC 30th Anniversary Celebration and Grantee Showcase. Exhibits, readings, performances, and film, with an awards ceremony, and a champagne and cake reception. Historical Society of Washington, Old Carnegie Library, Mount Vernon Square, DC. (202) 387-8391. (Free, but reservations required.)

Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm
Featuring Kim Roberts, with performances by Chris August, Twain Dooley, Gowri K, and Patrick Washington 15th Annual Baltimore Book Festival, Festival Stage, Mount Vernon Place, 600 block of North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD.

Over to you, Kim!

Washington, DC is one of several cities at the forefront of the development of spoken word, notable especially for its development of youth poetry slams (we were the first city to have one!), the range of organizations that nurture women performers in particular (or were run by dynamic women performers such as Toni Blackman and Toni Asante Lightfoot), and for being the only city in the nation to offer monetary grants to support hip hop arts and culture. Lip Smack, arranged in a timeline format, covers the years 1991 to 2010. For more information, or to order a copy (for only $10!):

Want to hear the poetry? Here are my top five spoken word venues in the Washington DC area:

# 1. Busboys and Poets
Three combo restaurants and performance spaces, Busboys has named a Poet-in-Residence at each, and runs several popular ongoing reading series. The two locations in DC are at 14th and V Streets NW, where Derrick Weston Brown hosts the 9 on the 9th series, usually packed, and at 5th and K Streets NW, where Holly Bass reigns supreme over their Open Mic series. Busboys is also home to the DC Poetry Slam Team.

# 2. Sulu DC
A monthly showcase of Asian American and Pacific Islander American performers that takes place at Almaz Restaurant and Lounge in the U Street neighborhood. Events usually combine spoken word with live music, stand-up, and video. Try to catch Regie Cabico when he takes the stage.

# 3. mothertongue
Although this series has reduced its programs from monthly to about four showcases a year, it is still going strong. Performances take place at the Black Cat on 14th Street NW, and admission fees benefit a rotating series of area nonprofit social service organizations. This all-women performance venue has nurtured some of the region's top performers.

#4. DC Guerilla Insurgency
Although they run an indoor space in the colder months, the way to really experience this group is on warm nights when they converge on Dupont Circle. The insurgency specializes in poetry of confrontation and resistance, to a backbeat of hand drums.

# 5. Beltway Slam Team
There are two slam teams representing DC, as of this summer. The DC Slam Team meets monthly at Busboys, but a looser, more interesting group has formed that combines spoken word performers from DC and Baltimore. Meeting monthly at The Fridge in the Barracks Row section of the Eastern Market neighborhood. Try to catch Chris August or Sonya Renee.

--- Kim Roberts

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guestblog posts, click here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 15th in Mexico of 1865

This year marks both the centennial of Mexico's Revolution and the bicentennial of its Independence from Spain, the latter traditionally celebrated with "El Grito" (the shout) on the evening of September 15th, with a militrary parade and more celebrations to follow on the 16th. (Many Americans confuse Cinco de Mayo with Independence. In fact, Cinco de Mayo celebrates a temporary victory over the invading French Imperial Army at the city of the Puebla on May 5, 1862.)

A little awkwardly for a Republic, not one of the first but the definitive leader of Mexico's Independence was Agustin de Iturbide, known as "the Liberator" who crafted the Plan of Iguala, and then set himself up as emperor. As he was unable to pay the army (among other challenges), he had to abdicate soon thereafter and, to make a labyrinthical story short, he was executed by a firing squad in 1824.

For much of the past century, when modern Mexico was remaking its image in the wake of the Revolution of 1910, Iturbide was widely considered an embarrassment, almost a cartoon character-- an emperor, with a crown?! And it's not uncommon even today in Mexico to mention his name and get a chuckle. But in the 19th century, when Mexico was embroiled in revolutions and foreign invasions--- this a time when the monarchical form of government was still, and certainly in Europe, widely (if not unanimously) considered the most viable and stable model of government--- many people, and in particular, conservatives, and including the leadership of the Catholic Church, considered the martyred Iturbide a hero.

Ironically then, when Maximilian von Habsburg accepted the throne of Mexico-- with the support of the Church, not a few Mexican conservatives, and the backing of the French Imperial Army-- one of the first things he did, in 1865, was celebrate Mexico's Independence!

You might be shaking your head over this. Backed by the French Army, the ex-archduke of Austria celebrates Mexico's Independence?

But this was, in Maximilian's mind at least, a savvy politcal move, for he was also also celebrating Agustin de Iturbide--- that is to say, the hero of Mexican conservative nationalists--- and--- more irony--- Morelos, one of the original leaders of Independence (not an ally of the more conservative Iturbide, to be sure).

Why did Maximilian celebrate Morelos? Here's a key: Morelos's illegitimate son, Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, a general and ex-ambassador to the United States, had been a prime mover behind the offer of the throne. (Once the French occupied Mexico City, in the year before Maximilian arrived, Almonte had served as President of the Regency. When Maximilian arrived, Almonte became his Gran Mariscal de la Corte and his wife, chief lady of honor to the Empress Carlota.) In sum, Maximilian owed his position in Mexico, in part, to Almonte, and Almonte's ongoing support was necessary to keep the Mexican Imperial Army in line.

Maximilian's celebration of September 1865 was an elaborate one and it included a solemn ceremony in which the children and two grandsons of Agustin de Iturbide were elevated to the status of Imperial Highnesses.

Childless himself, Maximilan made a contract --- negotiated, though not signed, by none other than his wife, the Empress Carlota--- with the Iturbide family, in which the two grandsons of Iturbide would be handed over to his custody. Maximilian was to be "co-tutor" along with Josefa de Iturbide, a spinster aunt. The parents of one grandson, Salvador, had both died, and as Salvador was a teenager, he was sent to school in France. The parents of the two-and-a-half year old Agustin de Iturbide y Green, Angel de Iturbide (second son of the Emperor Iturbide) and Alice Green de Iturbide, an American from a prominent Washington DC family, were exiled, much against their will. They immediately went to Washington, to meet with Secretary of State Seward, and then to Paris, to lobby with U.S. Minister John Bigelow to try to get their son back from Maximilian.

Those of you have been following this blog know that the resulting international scandal is the subject of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. To read all about it--- as well as my extensive original research in the Emperor Iturbide and Iturbide archives in Washington DC--- I invite you to visit my webpage which includes videos, podcasts, genealogies, photos, a bibliography, and an extensive Reader's Guide.

This week also marks the publication of the novel in Spanish, translated by Mexican novelist Agustín Cadena as El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. It will be in bookstores in Mexico City this weekend, and in the rest of the Republic the week after that. The publisher is Grijalbo (Random House-Mondadori).

Here is the 3 and 1/2 minute trailer (double click to view the larger screen):

More anon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Guest-blogger Richard Goodman on 5 Wondrous Works of New York Art

It's an honor and delight to once again host my amigo, Richard Goodman , founding member of the New York Writers Workshop and author of French Dirt and The Soul of Creative Writing, apropos of his latest, A New York Memoir. Over to you, Richard!

A New York Memoir is, essentially, a long love letter to New York City. It covers a period of thirty-five years, beginning with my knock-kneed arrival at Port Authority in 1975 down to the present day. The book consists of fourteen essays that chronicle people I've met and the inspiration I've received as a writer living here. It shows what it's like being young here, growing here as an artist and person, and growing old here. The author Susan Vreeland said the book is "a heart laid bare." I hope so.

Now comes the hard part. Maybe even harder than writing the book. Five links to....New York? This produced some intensive head scratching, and I can't afford that with what little hair I have. Just thinking of five books about New York (no movies? no plays?) would make me bald. So, I'm resigned to the fact that any list I create will seem insufficient. Given that, I decided to list five links to works of art about New York, regardless of genre, that express what was, and continues to be, one of my chief, valued reactions to New York City: a sense of wonder. Here they are:

1. Weegee's photography
Born Usher Felig, he became, simply, Weegee. As a professional photographer, he literally covered the waterfront in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. His black and white photographs of basic New York City street life are raw, real and intimate. Henry Miller called Brassaï "the eye of Paris." For me, Weegee was the eye of New York.

2. Paul Mazursky's 1976 film, Next Stop, Greenwich Village
The wonderfully romantic vision of 1950s bohemian New York is obviously autobiographical. It's suffused with a protective tenderness. It's also passionate and, when the main character's-- a young actor, of course-- mother, Shelley Winters, is on screen, terrifically funny. I don't know of a better expression of what it's like to "embrace New York with the intense excitement of first love."

3. E. B. White's Here is New York
Which brings me to the author of those quoted words above, E.B. White, and his little gem of a book, Here is New York. I don't claim to have read even a quarter of the books written about New York, but of the books I have read, this is by far the best, the most true. White captures the soul of New York City. Though he himself describes it as "a period piece," he is, for once, wrong. See for yourself.

4. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
I read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man at the perfect moment: when I first arrived in New York. I identified with it totally. Yes, it's about a young black man who arrives in the city twenty or so years earlier than I did and who lives in Harlem and becomes involved with a white-directed socialist cause, but those are just details, details. The book is about the great impact New York has on a young man's psyche and how he contends with new emotional realities he never could have imagined.

5. Eloise
Finally, on an entirely different note, I offer you Eloise. Yes, that six year-old, obviously wealthy, privileged little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel where Fifth Avenue meets Central Park. Not the kind of existence I have even remotely had here. So, why Eloise? Because for many a child-- and I would suppose more girls than boys, but not exclusively so by any means-- Eloise is New York. This is probably true much more for my generation, and I really have no idea of how many kids still read Eloise, but I would bet that she, and Holly Golightly, have been responsible for the purchase of many a train and plane ticket to New York by eighteen year olds.

--- Richard Goodman

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guestblog posts, click here.