By Carole Schor
This month’s Literary Sala will feature Merilyn Simonds, the popular Canadian author of sixteen books, and local San Miguel historian, Joseph Toone. Join us on December 14th at 5:00 PM at the Hotel Aldea (Ancha de San Antonio #15) for this spectacular event. Admission is 50 pesos for Literary Sala members and 100 pesos for non-members, including a wine and snack reception.
Prolific writer and Canadian literary “activist” Merilyn Simonds is the author of the creative nonfiction classic, The Convict Lover, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her novel, The Holding, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Merilyn is also an indispensible consultant to the San Miguel Writers’ Conference.
Merilyn’s topic on December 14 is, “The Future of Books,” and will be about her latest book entitled Gutenberg’s Fingerprint. The book explores the greatest change in the literary world, the invention of the printing press, which not only brought literacy and knowledge to the whole world, but also heralded the beginning of the manufacturing era. Merilyn investigates the past, present and evolving future of what we call a “book” in paper, type, ink, and press. She unravels our assumptions about reading, writing, the nature of creativity, and the value of imperfection. Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is a timely and fascinating book that explores the myths, inventions, and consequences of the digital shift and attempts to answer the question: what is lost and what is gained as paper turns to pixel.
Merilyn loves books, be they print or digital, or now audible. “I am part of the last generation to grow up in a world where books were made of paper, where writing meant moving a pen or pencil through the cursive alphabet, and publishing involved big companies with big machines. I’ve watched the digital revolution replace paper with pixels, pencils with electronic keyboards, publishers with the ability to produce our own books.”
Books and writing have always been a part of Merilyn’s life, beginning with writing her first book in the 1970’s on a Smith Corona typewriter. “As I wrote Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, I thought a lot about books, what they are, what they mean, why I love them, how they are changing and how they are becoming what they started out to be.” She loves the feel of a book in her hand. “There is something deeply intimate about a book. It nestles in my hands for hours, my fingers tracing down its spine. I gaze into its pages with rapt attention.” Still, she has embraced the digital revolution (perhaps somewhat reluctantly, as a seismic change in the literary landscape) for the ease of storytelling. “Because, in the end, what matters are stories—stories that we’ve been telling each other, in one form or another, for as long as we’ve lived.”
Joseph Toone is a storyteller as well, with a specialization in the stories and tales of our own San Miguel de Allende. His tours combine Mexican history, faith, and culture with insight into how today’s traditions are a mix of the indigenous and Spanish. Joseph’s knowledge of the interplay of pre-Hispanic cultures and Catholicism in the history of San Miguel, his familiarity with the history of each church and its evolution, all the saints, the virgins, and the cultural evolution of the city make for a lively and interesting tour for visitors to SMA.
Joseph has taken all the stories behind the symbolism, religious significance, and architectural charm in San Miguel and surrounding areas and created a series of books, San Miguel de Allende Secrets. His Christmas with St. Nick’s Nudes, Devils and Jesus’ Doppelganger is a unique guide to the San Miguel Christmas traditions that are an extraordinary mixture of an ancestral pagan past and the Catholic faith. Easter with Plagues, Prison, Piñatas and Popsicles will tell you everything about Semana Santa, the uniquely Latin tradition of Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. Want to know why there are fireworks every night and morning and what the church bells mean? Joseph’s History and Culture with Virgins, Barbies and Transgender Saints will tell you all you want to know. And if you’ve just enjoyed a fantastic week of Catrinas and calacas, you can find out more in Joseph’s book, Day of the Dead with Skeletons, Witches and Spirit Dogs.