Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

October 3rd, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

I read Bless Me, Ultima in celebration of Banned Book Week.

It encountered opposition in Colorado due to its pagan content.

Having read it, I will say that it does in fact contain pagan content, but less pagan content than other books such as, say, the Bible. Bless Me, Ultima is full of blessings, praise, and worship for the open land, animals, the environment, plants, trees, herbs, roots, food and the wind.

Really controversial stuff. That stuff has got to go!

Bless Me, Ultima is about as pagan as a Christmas tree, which is saying that yes, it’s technically pagan, but that’s not really the point.

A cross between Siddartha and Catcher in the Rye, Bless Me, Ultima is a coming of age story about Antonio, a young boy struggling to ascertain his professional, familial, and spiritual identity in rural New Mexico.

In a typical passage of doubt, Antonio contemplates, “The power of the doctors and the power of the church had failed to cure my uncle. Now everyone depended on Ultima’s magic. Was it possible that there was more power in Ultima’s magic than in the priest?” The overall style and existential wandering is strongly reminiscent of Ecclesiastes.

In addition to the pagan content, there are also allusions to sex and multiple instances of graphic violence involving a minor; the innocence and naiveté of our protagonist quickly diminishes as he even encounters a brothel. But violence and whores are rampant in the Bible so I guess that stuff is okay.

But that liberal-pinko-commie crap with loving the environment and respecting what it provides us, no, that’s witches and warlocks.

There are also a LOT of Spanish cuss words. Had they been translated into English, Bless Me, Ultima would hardly qualify as a book for young readers.

So as Banned Book Week draws to a close, I feel that I will always be mystified by what my culture manages to get its panties in a knot about.

I have been reading Sarah Vowell’s latest, The Wordy Shipmates, and this country’s puritan underpinnings run deep.

I eagerly await the delayed publication of Jewel of Medina, a fictionalized account of one of the Muslim prophet Mohammed’s wives, Aisha. The publisher of Jewel of Medina, Gibson Square’s Martin Rynja’s house was recently firebombed, bringing the relevance of Banned Book Week to unfortunately horrific proportions.

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