I started to read when I was either two or three years old (different people vary in their recollections of this, my mother claiming she taught me how to read when I was 9 months old through the gestalt technique, which I know works, but I know she didn't actually have time to do this, so who knows, really). I hate saying this because some people think this is bragging, which makes no sense to me now since we are all adults and clearly you can read also since you're doing it now, effortlessly, but whatever. I say it because it's relevant to this post. I think. It might not be, but it's too late.
Anyway. My family, or rather, my mother's family, owns a bookstore. My grandfather started it when he was young and pretty much kept at it his whole life. The bookstore had all kinds of text books and literature. Except. My grandfather is a very opinionated man. Something that he passed on to everyone in the family. My mother and uncles always have an opinion on everything and their opinion is the right one, you have a different opinion? You're a fucking moron.
Anyway. Yeah. Lovely people. The thing is, books were an essential part of life. But not just any random books. Good books. And good books by their standards (this is why Bukowski was deemed "Garbage" by my mum. Burroghs was also crap. And Miller, except for his "Colossus of Maroussi", which my mum thinks is the only good book he ever wrote), so the scope of things I could read was very limited. They would stock books that my grandfather didn't approve of at the bookstore, but they hardly ever sold them, the customers were treated with infinite contempt if they insisted on buying them.
One of my friends told me about his trying to buy a book from my grandfather without knowing he was talking about my grandfather. Very funny story.
But my mum married my dad, and he was not to be bullied into throwing his books away. And that's when I learnt that books could be funny. Jorge Ibargüengoitia wrote articles for a Mexican newspaper that were later collected in several books. "Instrucciones Para Vivir En México" is one of them. This man had a wonderful and irreverent sense of humour when it was not stylish to have one, especially in Mexico, where we are all very serious about our drama. Or used to be, I don't know.
Tracking his books down when I had a bit of money, I realised he had novels and theatre plays, all kinds of stuff. And all of it absolutely wonderful. He opened my eyes to mexican literature.
I don't think anyone has taken the task of translating his books, probably because it would be very, very hard to get the humour just right; if there was ever any reason to learn Spanish fluently, Ibargüengoitia would be it.
Ah, but look at this (go to page 96, or maybe in the index click on whichever essay by him you find. Not as funny as in Spanish, I don't think, or maybe it's the subtleties that are missing, or maybe that's why some people don't always find me funny).