Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Memoir: The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, Author: Susan Orlean

"...every time Cristina kills a bull she forms part of a singular and unforgettable tableau--that of an attractive, self-possessed young woman elegantly slaying a large animal in a somber and ancient masculine ritual--and regardless of gender, she is a really good matador..." from The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean

This is a paradox for me. On the one hand I'm proud of women who make it in arenas that formerly only men were allowed to compete in. On the other hand, she's participating in the brutal torture and killing of an animal. I wish I could say my gender was too intelligent and advanced to participate in that.

Another paradox is this. Did you know that after they kill the bull they eat it? On the one hand, I'm glad the bull doesn't die in vain and isn't wasted. On the other hand, the bull didn't have to die at all.

But I digress. Cristina Sanchez:

She is one of many people Susan Orlean writes about in her creative memoir book, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup. Orlean traveled to Spain to spend time with Sanchez and to watch her fight bulls.

Orlean has her own misgivings with bullfighting. She writes:
"But on the other hand I was lost and nauseous and knew I didn't understand how so many people, a whole nation of people, weren't shaken by the gore, and the idea of watching a ballet that always, unfailingly ends with a gradual and deliberate death. I didn't understand it then, and I doubt I ever will." The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean

Reading the story of Orlean's time with Cristina Sanchez, I was struck by something. In the countries where it's practiced, bullfighting is like demolition derbies and drag races are here. They take place in county fairs. There are food vendors and people selling bullfighting t-shirts, hats and other swag.
"...it could only exist where strangeness is expected and treasured and long-standing and even a familiar part of everyday." The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean
The same can be said for demo derbies. If you don't believe me then you've never seen a riding lawnmower demo derby, or a big yellow school bus one.

Cristina Sanchez said: "People who don't understand the bullfighting world think you have to be extremely strong, but that's not the case. What is important is technique and experience. You have to be in good shape, but you don't have to match a man's strength. Besides, YOUR REAL OPPONENT IS THE BULL, AND YOU CAN NEVER MATCH IT IN STRENGTH." The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean

I read that quote and I wonder, how many other situations are like that? How many instances are there where women think they can't compete with men because men are stronger but they don't really have to compete with men, at all. They just have to stand up to the bull, whatever the bull may be for them.

So anywho - creative memoir. I couldn't find a good definition. I've read a lot of it but Orlean is my favorite. I will be writing another post from this book about the Maui surf girls story which inspired the movie, Blue Crush. Then I'll write at least one post, maybe more about The Orchid Thief, a book which I really loved. It inspired a movie, Adaptation, which I haven't seen but it's on it's way from Netflix. (I may space the blogs out, though. Don't want to bore my readers. Anymore than normal, that is.)

In other news, I read Tawna Fenske's romantic comedy novel, Believe It Or Not. I loved it. Making Waves, her first book, was good. This one was even better.

Susan Donovan's latest novel also just came out. I Want Candy is the sequel to her book, Cheri On Top. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of them.


  1. Sounds interesting. ...Though I'd be too wimpy to be able to read it. So happy to enjoy the little tidbits here.

  2. I'm with London. I'd be way too wimpy. Ha ha.
    Even reading this I found my eyes skimming when I read the word gore. Had to force myself to go back and read what you said. Any time there is an animal being injured, hurt in some way, I grab the remote and switch channels. Just. Can't. Watch. It's hard to visualize a stadium full of enthusiastic bullfight supporters.

  3. "They just have to stand up to the bull, whatever the bull may be" Great line. We live in a more sanitized world, we would see some very disturbing things in country fairs and farmer's markets, especially the butcher stands.

    I like a good memoir.

  4. I'm with Roberta and London on this one. I'd be way too wimpy. I've never understood bull fighting, dog fighting, cock fighting and all the other 'sports' that some people enjoy.

  5. Ladies - the title story is actually the last one in the book. The rest is an eclectic mix. I can be weird and I read several but I was really only interested in this one and the one about the Maui surf girls.

    Carol - thanks. I struggled to say what I wanted to say there.

    1. Sorry... we just got overwhelmed by the OMGkillingananimalahahah!

  6. You are welcome. It's a great line, I may have to use that line in discussions. I'll give you the credit.