Friday, June 19, 2009

Of Perry Mason, Colette, and NVM Gonzalez

I don't know why, but recently I've been regretting the fact that I never got NVM Gonzalez's autograph when I had the chance to. I think I must have read something online that reminded me of my encounters with the national artist, so now I'm kicking myself for not having been brash enough to have had my picture taken with him or even just to have asked for an autograph. This was more than a decade ago. He would drop by my professor's office (we had our classes there; this was before the construction of the CAL building; anyway, there were only 3 or 4 of us) and invite her to lunch. He'd notice us and quiz us on our knowledge of good literature. One time, he lamented the fact that young people didn't read anymore. He gestured at me with his cane (made in Bavaria, he said), "What was the last book you read?" It didn't occur to me to fib, so I answered, "Perry Mason." Our professor had just given us a few of her old Spanish novels and I had ended up with a Perry Mason one. NVM Gonzalez scoffed, "Perry Mason! That's not literature!" My professor attempted to explain about the Perry Mason, but he was already brandishing a book he was carrying at the girl next to me. "Do you recognize any of the writers featured here?" My classmate unfortunately had to shake her head. NVM moved on to me. Thankfully, I recognized a few names, but I zeroed in on Colette. I kind of crowed, "I read Colette!" Dubiously, he regarded me, the confessed reader of Perry Mason, "Can you name her works?" I did. I think I got to mention La Vagabonde and Gigi, but that was enough. I had redeemed myself. NVM Gonzalez's face broke into a happy grin and he offered to shake my hand. I was triumphant. I had just proven that not everybody from my generation was hopelessly unread. More importantly, I had just proven that I was not unread. More than ten years later, I was still cherishing that shining moment, lol. He never got my name, but he would recognize me whenever I encountered him (usually at the FC). One time, I think that was after a charla on flamenco music, he tried to convince me to learn to play the flamenco guitar. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I couldn't even learn to play "Leaving on a Jet Plane" on the guitar. He went on to discourse on the virtues of the flamenco guitar. I think he said it had 14 strings. Or was it frets? Obviously, I was a very unwise person not to have hung on to every word. Anyway, yeah, I had several chances (I had some of his works too, but, of course, I never knew beforehand that I would bump into him, so I wouldn't have had them with me) but I never got his autograph. It's obviously one of my life's regrets. :)


kryzteta said...

This is off topic.

I can't search using your site :(