Loop by Brenda Lozano tr. Annie McDermott

wp-1629982535768..jpgI picked up Loop for WIT (Women in Translation) month and I loved it. I had few expectations going into reading it and was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed its unique, meandering, playful style.

It was also the first work of fiction I have read, after a nine week pause, while I have been working on my own writing project, so its style of short well spaced paragraphs, really suited me. I highlighted hundreds of passages, an indicative sign.

Change. Unlearning yourself is more important than knowing yourself.

It was helpful to listen to the recent Charco Press interview linked below to understand that it is a kind of anti-hero story, inspired by her thinking about The Odyssey’s Penelope while her lover Odysseus is off on his hero’s quest – of the inner journey of the one who waits, the way that quiet contemplation and observation also reveal understanding and epiphanies.

Odysseus, he of the many twists and turns. Penelope, she of the many twists and turns without moving from her armchair. Weaving the notebook by day, unravelling it by night.

Penelope and OdysseusThe narrator is waiting for the return of her boyfriend, who has travelled to Spain after the death of his mother.

His absence coincides with her recovery from an accident, so she has a double experience of waiting, a greater opportunity to observe the familiar and unfamiliar around her, to see patterns, imagine connections, dream and catastrophise.

Childhood is so uncertain, so distant. It’s almost like childhood is the origin of fiction: describing any past event over and over to see how far away you are getting from reality.

And then there is her quiet obsession with notebooks, with the ideal notebook, another subject that evolves in her pursuit of it. It’s thought provoking, funny, full of lots of literary and musical references, which I enjoyed listening to while reading and quite unlike anything else I’ve read. And a nod to Proust. The dude.

I was left with a scar. I think telling stories is a way of putting a scar into words. Since not all blows or falls leave marks, the words are there, ready to be put together in different ways, anywhere, anytime, in response to any fall, however serious or slight.

Random observations over time create patterns and themes, eliciting minor epiphanies.

Wild-Is-The-WindA celebration of the yin aspect of life, the jewel within. And that jewel of a song, sung by both David Bowie and Nina Simone, Wild is the Wind.

…the present is also, as its name suggests, a gift. It doesn’t suggest longing or loss. It’s just a present, a gift, a time with no strings attached which is totally ours, to use however we want, however we please. There are days when I find the future overwhelming, with all the bright lights and commotion.

I highly recommend it if you enjoy plotless narratives that make you think and see meaning in the ordinary. And relate to the little things.

Dwarf things. Small things. Little things in relation to the norm. Insignificant things. Things with different dimensions. Curiously, the stories I like the most are made up of trivialities. Details. Trifles. These days, people look to what’s big. The big picture, big sales figures, success. Bright lights, interviews, breaking news. Whatever’s famous. Importance judged by fame. Maybe small things are subversive. Living on a modest scale compared to the norm. Maybe the dwarf is the hero of our time.

Brenda Lozano Author LoopBrenda Lozano is a novelist, essayist and editor. She was born in Mexico in 1981.

Her novels include Todo nada (2009), Cuaderno ideal (2014) published in English as Loop and the storybook Cómo piensan las piedras (2017). Her most recent novel is Brujas (2020).

Brenda Lozano was recognized by Conaculta, Hay Festival and the British Council as one of the most important writers under 40 years of age in Mexico and named as one of the Bogotá 39, a selection of the best young writers in Latin America.  She also writes for the newspaper El País.

Further Information

On Charco Press’s Instagram IGTV page there is a video interview with Brenda Lozano for WIT Month where she speaks about the process of translation as a part of the art of writing, about her influences as she wrote Loop and about how she has taken the story of Penelope and Odysseus as inspiration.

Don’t be alarmed if this isn’t going anywhere. Don’t expect theories, reliable facts or conclusions. Don’t take any of this too seriously. That’s what universities are for, and theses, and academic studies. Personally, I like cafés, bars and living rooms. Not to mention comfortable cushions. So nice and cosy.

12 thoughts on “Loop by Brenda Lozano tr. Annie McDermott

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you Claire for this marvelous review. I am reading Loop for the Reading Women Authors group on GR. Your review and the interview with Lozano make it so much more pleasurable a read. Oh, and the Bowie version of Wild is the Wind is gorgeous, not just the sound but the video.

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  2. First of all how lovely to hear that you’re working on a writing project, I hope it’s going well.

    This book sounds like a wonderful read for a lazy summer day, especially during these times of lockdowns and worry. I think Lozano’s quite right about the importance of small things – something that more people may have realized over the past couple of years.

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  3. Thanks Claire for this great review. I didn’t listen to Wild is the Wind while reading Loop in January but I’m going to now. I wonder if you’ve read Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli- also a novel about journeying- with lots of musical and literary references.

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    • I hope you enjoy the different versions of Wild in the Wind Mandy. I have recently acquired Lost Children Archive having now read a couple of her books of essays including Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, a precursor to the novel. Thank you for the reminder.

      Another novel that had me listening to music all the way through it was Bernice McFadden’s excellent The Book of Harlan, in part inspired by her own ancestors and a few other memorable historical figures I enjoyed reading about.

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  4. Dear Claire, I have been away for a while, and I returned today to WordPress to enjoy the quietude and book-love here, and I feel grateful to have read your blog on what sounds like a wonderful book, something that calls my name already. I love plot-less narratives, and I am always on the look out for books which talk about small things in life. The older I become, I seem to find more solace in things which often go unnoticed. I love what this book explores. I will wait for the British Council here to purchase a copy. Or even better, I will make a purchase suggestion.

    I am so glad to know that you have been busy with your writing project. I hope it would go well for you, Claire.

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  5. Pingback: A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson – Word by Word

  6. Coincidentally I was just listening to one of the critics on the NYT podcast discussing this, last night before bed, and I was intending to look up a copy at the library and now have your response to encourage me further. She sounds very intriguing. It would be interesting to reread Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad here, too.

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