Reading Belleza y Felicidad (Sand Paper Press) is like listening to a funny/sexy/serious/gorgeous phone conversation between best friends. In this case, the friends are Argentinian writers/artists Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón, with translation by Stuart Krimko.
Laguna and Pavón’s friendship began when Pavón attended an exhibition of Laguna’s visual art in Buenos Aires.
The alchemy generated by their first conversations eventually led to the desire to create a spatial dimension for the writing and art they were making. It quickly took shape as a physical location, a storefront gallery and art-supply store….Belleza y Felicidad [the name of the gallery as well as this book] soon came to represent a refuge in real space as a well as an important node in the realm of the imagination….The place operated as if it were really an excuse to recreate a new category of literature; the gallery was, itself, the art (xi).
When you can create as well as work alongside your friend, you know you have a true friendship—one of life’s greatest joys. Unlike romantic relationships, being BFFs is socially optional. You both choose what frequency/duration/with what level of vulnerability—and you choose each other every time you hang out.
You can talk to her about crushes, exes, work shit, rape culture, Etsy finds, and Broad City. She’s there for you despite time and/or distance, about any and everything. Throughout their text/conversation, Laguna and Pavón share an anxiety about their art and being artists.
I’m going to write a realist novel. Right now!
I’ll do it, I will! No matter what it takes.
Because my style runs the risk of repeating itself
and repeating itself and being boring and getting stuck in the world of fantasy… (83).
I want to be a poet
poet, poet, poet
poet, poet, poet
not a novelist
not an essayist…
I don’t want to pursue a career
I don’t want to win a scholarship for a workshop
I want to be a poet (235).
Laguna tires of repeating her style while Pavón literally repeats her aspirations to be a poet. They share an interest but manifest it with individual nuance.
I want to write a poem
that’s like being at a party
with eyes full of tears
facing the dance judges.
In some corner of the floor
overcome by my pain.
Covered in worms,
shit all over me,
Coagulated menstrual blood overflowing my panties
with my pad so full it goes fz-fz-fz… (95).
I was afraid of you too Fernanda.
When I was traveling I wrote a poem about you, it was called
but I lost it. I can tell you parts of it, it went something like this:
I’m looking for music for going into Fernanda’s house
the stairway, the hallway, the plants, the table
I’m looking for music for talking about Fernanda’s house… (233).
Both artists share an interest in surrealism—Laguna wanders into the profane/sexual while Pavón drifts into a de Chirico-esque landscape. Yet despite this interest in the surreal, they both enjoy being objective or “realist” as well.
She’ll write a realist story,
she’ll take examples from reality
that are most “that,” as thing-like as they can be.
A story in which there isn’t a single element that has a double meaning (85).
We looked at each other and hugged each other and it was athletic sex
and again we looked at each other and hugged each other
and I sat down in the armchair
and opened my legs and I was dressed
and it was athletic sex
and then I looked at him stretched out in the chair
his legs his shoulders
and once again
athletic sex athletic sex… (249).
They both say that which is—Laguna via process and Pavón through repetition—with humor. But how to end this conversation? Circling back to being an artist—what’s it all for? Why art? Why why?
When a female human being thinks
about whether she is a human being or not.
A woman believes that she is so bright
that therefore she doesn’t know what she wants.
A woman believes she has to be smart
that the rest of the world has to convince itself she’s a stupid person because deep down she believes that the more she’s cast aside
the freer and happier she’ll be.
And so she finds
meaning in her sadness or her lost time.
Or something like that…I don’t know.
Anyway…it’s very difficult to finish a poem
and give it a fixed meaning.
But it came out ok, right?
A woman is someone like me, for example (113).
Annihilation comes in through the door
and looks at everything with tits great eyes of lava,
we sink to our knees,
we unbutton our shirts,
it hurls two bolts,
one for Fernanda
and one for me
that go straight to our hearts.
it’s pure electricity.
There are many words written on the gallery walls,
the world love among them.
Love, Love, Love… (211).
Laguna looks at the end and finds herself looking at her self, a simultaneity of subject/object. Pavón sees the end cinematically—a grand scene of apocalypse/rapture, replete with love and friendship. Laguna implodes while Pavón bursts out—both electric with love.