Barcelona – Stories Behind The City
By Jeremy Holland
Summertime Publishing – £9.99
The author of Barcelona – Stories Behind The City, Jeremy Holland, was born in Los Angeles, which isn’t in the least surprising, as the writing herein is more Americana than a cryptic combination of such bands as Los Lobos and Bon Jovi. Now some might consider this a good thing, while others not so good. Personally, it’s American spelling that irks me beyond negotiation. It always seems wrong somehow. While certain terminology such as the horrendously over-used and horribly misused word, ‘awesome,’ makes my skin crawl to the point of literally want to vomit…
The only reason I mention the above within the context of this book review, is that one doesn’t normally equate a menagerie of Americanisms within the parameters of Barcelona literature. And while this may come across as pedantically besides the point, it does nevertheless influence (much of) the reading. Once this is fully realised/overcome/dealt with, certain segments of Barcelona – Stories Behind The City makes for entertaining reading.
To be sure, there’s a fistful of thought provoking one-liners scattered throughout the book that are particularly pleasing, of which the following three are more than deft examples: ”All of these guys have the gift of the gab and zero conscience” (‘CSI Barcelona’); ”Locals sit on shaded benches in the square across the street, legs crossed, reading newspapers, as a flock of escaped parakeets chirp in a powder blue sky” (‘The Sound of Barcelona’); ”Alex had been raised in a family of mathematicians, happiness and sadness weren’t quanifiable, so they didn’t exist. Same went for God or any other super natural being” (‘Barcelona Gothic’).
While my favourite short story ‘Monica & Juan’ – a depiction of family life, on the edge, on the nickel (now there’s an Americanism not oft used) in economically drained Spain – it’s ‘Running the Gauntlet’ that might in and of itself, reside as this book’s most powerful: ”As they crossed the slippery pavement of Las Ramblas, prostitutes manifested out of nothingness. They whistled. ”Hey, Papi,” they shouted. ”I suck dick.” Their toned muscles and prison hardened expressions in the glare of ornate street lamps, provoked more dread and loathing in the testicles than sexual desire.”
As stated on the back cover: ”Dubbed, ‘The Great Enchantress,’ by art critic Robert Hughes, Barcelona was seducing visitors long before the city’s rise to a tourist hotspot following the Olympic Games in 1992. Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell all once called the Catalan capital ”home,” while countless others have been charmed by the city’s character and splendour.
While Jeremy Holland’s literary offering may not (obviously) stand alongside that of Hemingway and Orwell’s, it’s still a worthy contribution to that of Barcelona’s ever growing magic and mystique.