Considering that I typically am away at work for no more than ten hours a day, if you count the travel time there & back, lunch, etc; and considering that I rarely get more than eight hours of sleep (though on the weekends I sometimes catch up in happy twelve hour binges), and considering that if one does careful and considered math in adding these numbers up and subtracting them from twenty-four, the generally acknowledged number of hours in a full day, one is left with the round number of six hours (six full hours!) I have just one question: where, for heaven’s sake, does the time go?

I’ll tell you one place it goes: reading. Most recently, just now finished, a stunning novel entitled The Queen of the South (La Reina del Sur) by Arturo Perez-Reverte, who may have just become my new favorite writer. I wish I read Spanish well enough to read it in the original; he mixes Mexican slang and Castillian to tell the story of a narca and the world of drug trafficking, in the hills of the high Sierra of Mexico and the coasts of southern Spain. And catch that pronoun carefully: a narca, a woman, fighting through chance and circumstance and guts to become the Queen of her trade, the Queen of the South. We pick up the story when Teresa Mendoza starts running for her life, from northern Mexico to Spain, and we follow her through the twelve years following, when she doesn’t stop. The story is told through a nice narrative trick, that of a journalist following Mendoza’s trail, finding evidence in the first person to retell a story that happened in the past, and then retelling that story as it happens in the third person. It’s a story with rhythm, the rhythm of the narcocorridos sung along the border, and of the rush of the sea, slapping the hulls of a very illegal boat and a very illegal cargo; it has the rhythm of the highs of coke itself, and yet the compelling slowness of a person’s life and of real journalistic research. It’s a hell of a book, beautifully written (and translated), beautifully researched, compelling enough to be true (and smooth enough that I had to check that it wasn’t).

And so my complaints about lack of time are just whinging: in truth, I’ve spent few happier hours than those spent tonight finishing this novel, sitting outside in the California dusk under my grapes, eating fresh bread & chevre & drinking port and imagining the described sand under my toes, the adrenaline, the roar of the speedboats with their bales of shrinkwrapped cocaine, and over all the struggle it takes as a woman to realize you are utterly alone & to still love, to still fight for your life. That last bit rang true as well, and that is why this is an amazing book. Viva Perez-Reverte, who also wrote The Club Dumas, The Flanders Panel, and others; now I will have to read those as well.

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