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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Secret Lives of Cities

This piece by geoff on Metaxu Cafe, reports on the PEN World Voices Festival: The Secret Lives of Cities panel, which brought together authors whose work has focussed on a particular city: Juan de Recacoechea on La Paz, Yousef Al-Mohaimeed on Riyadh, Francisco Goldman on Guatemala City, and Joshua Furst on Minneapolis.

One of Goldman’s riffs began when the moderator, Matt Weiland, made a comment about the experience of someone who lives in a city, a “city liver,” then cocked his head, realizing that sounded odd.
“Guatemala City is hard drinking, so city liver is there,” said Goldman. “It’s a lawless city,” he went on. Seventy percent of the cocaine that reaches the US is transshipped there. Squatter slums have grown on the horrible muddy inclines around the city: a pulsing, perverted life. There’s space for enormous creativity, effervescence, “criminal busyness.” Crib houses are packed with stolen Indian babies from the highlands, being fattened up for the US adoption trade. Chop shops are dug into the ravines, Goldman said, and cars stolen in New York City may end up there. The city is extremely murderous. More people were killed there in 2006 than in Afghanistan. The gangs are medieval in their arcane structure and fervor. The city is pulsing with a very, very dark life.
“Frank is working for the tourist board of Guatemala,” Weiland said dryly.

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