Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eloisa Alire Saenz (1929 to 2012)

Eloisa Alire Saenz (1929-2012)

Ben Saenz' mother Eloisa died Tuesday, February 21st. She was almost 83. Lee and I got to know her when she would come to readings to hear Ben perform and especially to those special times when Ben was receiving an award. Afterwards we would sometimes have a lunch or dinner. Also, once when Ben was in the hospital, we got to sit, talk and laugh with her and husband Juan. She was fun to be around. I could make jokes about Ben and she would  giggle, but I could tell that she was strong and steadfast in her love for her son. Indeed, for all of her children. I asked Ben to send along a photograph of his mom for the blog, plus the obituary that will appear in the Las Cruces Sun News. For those of you who are friends here in El Paso or Las Cruces, a rosary for Eloise will be at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral in Las Cruces (Espina and Idaho) on Sunday night, 6pm; and then Monday morning 10am, for the funeral services.

Ben writes about his mother and his family in his poetry--all books which I highly recommend, those from Cinco Puntos and those from Copper Canyon Press. And I think Eloisa is always informing his other work, especially his illustrated children's books which speak so warmly about the importance of family. 

It's one of the great joys of independent publishing to become good friends with the writers we publish. Ben's friendship to Lee and me, and his loyalty to Cinco Puntos, are ingredients of our lives that we cherish. For Eloisa, may she rest in peace. And blessings to Ben and his family.


Eloisa Alire Saenz, faithful servant of God, passed from this world on the morning of February 21st, 2012. She was born in Old Picacho, New Mexico on May 21, 1929 to Teresa and Ventura Alire. She was a devout Catholic throughout her life and served as a lector and communion minister at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral for many years. She also served her community by being an active member of the Catholic Daughters, an organization she cherished. She faithfully devoted herself to prayer and weekly knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. She was preceded in death by her parents, Teresa Chavez Alire and Ventura Alire, her husband, Juan Villanueva Saenz, her son, Donaciano Sanchez, and her granddaughter, Amy Houser. She is survived by the children she raised and loved: Linda Paredes and her husband Mark, Ricardo Saenz and his wife, Nancy, Benjamin Saenz, Gloria Woods and her husband Anthony, Jaime Saenz, and Jose Saenz and his partner Therassa Crunk. She is also survived by the grandchildren she adored and who adored her in return: Amanda Paredes, Roberto Saenz, Cynthia Woods, Mark Woods, John Frederick Paredes, Ivana Saenz, and Isel Saenz. She is also survived by five great grandchildren, Isaiah Gonzalez, Mariah Woods, Jai Paredes, Arika Fulton, and Christian Woods. She also leaves behind three surviving sisters: Luisa Matsuba, Erminia Montoya, and Esperanza Terrazas, and her brother-in-law, Frank Saenz and his wife Sylvia, her Godson, Justin Atma, and numerous nephews and nieces.

Eloisa was a woman who was greatly loved and respected. She was humble, generous, intelligent, forgiving, and kind. In her house, there was always room at the inn and she greeted friend and stranger alike with a ready smile and it was in her nature to help others in need. She loved to talk and laugh, and was, among other things, a fantastic cook. Throughout her life she gave great comfort to all those who surrounded her by nourishing them with her wisdom, her warmth, and the food she cooked. Her kitchen was the most sacred of places. For many years, she worked as a cook and housekeeper at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral and at Our Lady of Health Catholic Church. She cared for her husband, Juan through his illness, and she bore her losses and sufferings with a rare and uncommon grace. Despite all the difficulties she encountered, she never despaired, never lost her deep and profound faith that was an example to everyone who ever had the privilege of knowing and loving her. In the end, she wished to go and be with her God, with her beloved mother, with the husband that she lost eight years ago, and with Amy, the granddaughter she lost so tragically. She will live on in this world in the hearts of all the people she touched and loved.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012


James Carlos Blake by Maura Anne Wahl

Certainly you know GQ (aka Gentleman’s Quarterly), that swanky high-dollar magazine that keeps men (and women) strutting their glamorous, stylish selves into the 21st Century. Well, published a wonderful interview with James Carlos Blake to celebrate his new book Country of the Bad Wolfes (Cinco Puntos, January). Stayton Bonner of GQ did the honors as interviewer. We are excited that JCB and his novel are getting this kind of attention. But, in comparing the published version with JCB’s original draft, we realized that the editor at GQ slipped some very interesting parts onto the cutting-room floor.

Not to worry. We’ve retrieved them and are publishing them here. James Carlos talks about the habits of the writing life, his reasoning for choosing an independent press like Cinco Puntos for publishing his new novel, being an outsider and a borderlander (aka fronterizo), daydreaming a life on a desert island with the sublime Penelope Cruz, and other interesting tidbits of a fine writer’s imagination.

By the way, the only misstep Mr. Bonner took in the interview is by referring to Cinco Puntos as “a mom-&-pop operation.” Not that he’s wrong. We are “mom-&-pop” and proud of it, as are so many other independent presses in the U.S.—publishing companies that are stirring and heating the brew that is American culture, right alongside our counterparts, the NYC conglomerates.

But “mom-&-pop” is a dismissive adjective that diminishes the importance of what independent presses do.

Sure, we don’t have the financial resources as the Big Boys, but we are nimble in our ability to make decisions, to put a book out quickly and with hands-on accountability at all levels of editing production. Besides, publishing with an independent press can be an intimate process compared with the big houses. Here we collaborate with our authors in publishing his or her book, and we love and care for a book because it’s an important piece of our business, not simply another line item on a accounting form.

And we do very well getting the word out nationally. Country of the Bad Wolfes, in this instance, has received excellent reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer, and a variety of dailies. The fervent booklover, reviewer and blogger Robert Birnbaum—aka Our Man in Boston—also did a fine review while giving the New York Times a backhanded slap for not doing the same.

Consortium Book Sales and Distribution—one of the best and most respected in the business—distributes our book to the trade. Our relationship with CBSD gives us the muscle to level the playing field in the marketplace. You can find our books in your bookstores or wherever you buy books and e-books.

Enough said. We are proud to have published James Carlos Blake’s Country of the Bad Wolfes. Enjoy the rest of his GQ interview.

GQ: What's your writing routine?

JCB: I try to get to work no later than 9 AM, but sometimes that most fundamental rule of writing -- Put Your Ass in the Chair -- can be tough to obey. At noon or so I take a break for indoor exercise and then get back to work till around three. Then it's a run, and then it's ale o'clock. At the beginning of every new book, I tell myself I'm not going to work on one day of the week, but I can never fully abstain.

GQ: Favorite drink?

JCB: I'm an ale and beer man with a preference for Fat Tire and Sam Adams Boston Lager but will never turn down a Margarita (rocks, salt).

GQ: In your L.A. Times essay “The Outsider”, you write that you’ve always felt like an outsider. Why?

JCB: I don't really know. It isn't simply a matter of growing up in one culture and learning a certain language and then having to switch to another culture and language. There are countless people of that general description and experience who, so far as I can tell, don't feel at all like outsiders. One's own nature probably has as much to do with the effect of such a transformation as anything else. And of course some people who have never been twenty miles from home can feel like outsiders. For a fact, though, I've never felt as much at home anywhere else as I felt when I was a grade school kid in Brownsville. When I was moving easily between two cultures and was fluent in two languages. It's as though my only sense of belonging came from not belonging to solely one group. Maybe a lot of borderlanders feel that way, I don't know.

GQ: Your fictional violence is rooted in a historic remote time—a time when mannered cultural order still persisted despite man’s perhaps innate violence. Now, with Internet and loss of community, it seems the 21st century is without a moral compass. How do you think the current culture affects/shapes violence?

JCB: One might argue that today's consensual "moral compass" is called "political correctness," which is so sure of its correctness that it has no compunction about punishing all forms of speech or ideas that don't adhere to its own. It's the sort of moral compass that has pointed the way to such things as speech codes on campus. One might also argue that the internet itself has become a kind of "community" that dwarfs all others, and that in many ways it has become one more tool for the promotion of violent action. All this reminds me of something a young woman said to me about youth gangs today fighting over mostly "imaginary turf." It took me a while to understand how very perceptive that is.

GQ: Your work seems well suited for the screen. Have you ever thought about writing a screenplay or collaborating in that medium?

JCB: I have. May soon act on that thought.

GQ: Spend much time in Hollywood?

JCB: No. But I've enjoyed the brief visits I've made there.

GQ: If you were stuck on a desert island with one musical album, what would it be?

Penelope Cruz listening to Bach's The Art of the Fugue
JCB: The Art of the Fugue, by the great J. S. Bach, arranged for string quartet and performed by the Emerson String Quartet. And delivered to me by the sublime Penelope Cruz, who would no doubt be enchanted beyond utterance by a handsome older man with superior musical taste and a deep understanding of her Spanish soul -- and would immediately send word to Javier that "Como dicen los gringos, tu y yo somos historia."

GQ: What is the best western movie ever made?

JCB: "The Wild Bunch" or "Unforgiven." Ask me tomorrow and I'll give you a different answer.

GQ: Your last books were published by Harper Collins. For Country of the Bad Wolfes, you went with Cinco Puntos Press—a mom-and-pop operation in El Paso. Why?

JCB: At the time that I was finishing Country of the Bad Wolfes, word was that the NY Houses were shying from large historical novels, and that those they were publishing were not going to get much priority. My agent tested the waters and said it was so, and when I heard that the estimable John Sayles was having trouble selling his big new historical (I think he finally placed with Dave Eggers' little press), I figured the thing to do was try a small house that might give Bad Wolfes the sort of attention and care a NY publisher was unlikely to. It so happened that Cinco Puntos had recently queried me to see if I might be interested in reissuing my first two novels, which had gone out of print, and so I tried them first. They loved the manuscript and that was that. They're a very savvy bunch with more than 25 years of experience, and I'm very pleased with what they've done with the book. Any writer out there who's thinking he might prefer to try his luck with an independent house than with one of the bigs might do well to query Cinco Puntos.

GQ: What do you do for fun?

JCB: I like the outdoors. I'm a runner, a biker. I miss swimming in the Florida seas. I cook. I'm ever enlarging my classical music library. We have a bunch of cats, and as the Japanese say, a house with cats needs no artwork.

GQ: What author or book made you want to become a writer?

JCB: From Here to Eternity, by James Jones, and Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck.

GQ: Who’s your pick for the Super Bowl?

JCB: Brady and Company, in a walk...

[Note to James Carlos: You should have talked to me before making your pick! bb]