Not So Blessed by Ultima


A few months ago, friends and strangers recommended Bless Me, Ultima. I decided to read it after someone, with reading tastes very similar to mine, said that the novel was “an awesome read.”

I read it… then I met with the person who told me the book was “awesome” to let him know that I thought his assessment had been a bit much.

He was confused, so I clarified. “The language is so repetitive, straight up tiresome at times. I found it interesting—and was disgusted by the ignorance and hatred eating at the heart of some characters—but I’m surprised you thought it was awesome.”

He shook his head. “I said that it should have been an awesome read. But the repetitions, the purple prose, the unrealistic language, and a few other things kept me from enjoying a story that had a lot of potential.”

“Oh, okay,” I said. Yeah, I felt a little silly.

We discussed the book for a while, and said a thing or three about how we hoped for more from the movie.

I’ve yet to watch the movie…

On a similar note, I contacted several of the people who recommended Bless Me, Ultima, and do you know what I discovered? Not one of them had actually read the book before they told me that I would love it! They concluded that I would like it because there is an old curandera in the story. Hey, Magaly likes stories with Witches in them, so she would probably go nuts over this one. Um… no, not really.

This quote illustrates some of the “ignorance and hatred” I mentioned above:

“‘They were gathering cottonwood branches and weaving a coffin. That proves she was a bruja [witch]!’

‘Yes… and tonight they will gather around the dead body and pray from their Black Book…’

‘They will burn sulfur instead of holy incense. They will sing and dance around her coffin, pulling at their hair and flesh. They will slay a rooster and spread his blood on their dead sister. Mark my word, when the Trementina bruja [turpentine witch] is brought in to church it will be in a basket woven of cottonwood branches, and her body will be smeared with blood—’”

So it would be fair to say that I didn’t feel particularly blessed after reading the novel.

The experience left me feeling emotions very similar to those that brewed in my heart after visiting the Salem Witch Museum. To me, witchery is about embracing life’s mysteries and rejoicing in Nature. There were some nice things about my latest trip to Salem—most of them revolved around the fact that my Piano Man and I got to spend a lot of time together and do some exploring—but when it comes to witchy history, well… Salem was a bit of a disappointment…

Here is a snapshot of my visit to the Salem Witch Museum for the Artful Readers Club:
I’ll write a post about my trip some time later…
…after emotions settle enough to let objectivity rise to the top.
Until then, read on, my Wicked Luvs…

48 comments:

  1. Actually, I only read it when I read that a movie was being made.. The actress who plays Ultima has been in several films- that is what drew me to it.. My daughter said she read it in junior high ( I think)... and yes, you are right about it.. at times I was confused- tho the storyline I like...mainly because it showed the strong family tie of young and old...

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    1. The relationship between Ultima and the young protagonist is very sweet. The connection with nature, too. I wasn't crazy about the rest... I am still hoping that I will like the movie. I like Mirian Colón a lot. I'm looking forward to the movie, to see how she brings Ultima to life.

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    2. oh, u know she will do justice to that role... her acting touches me for sure.

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    3. The lady has a way...

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  2. I believe that the actual witch trials took place just outside of Salem. While Salem is supposed to be a lovely place to visit, I'm not sure that I would want to visit where the trials were held. Too much grief soaked in.

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    1. I had been here before, in the 90's while I was in school, but during those days (as you already know) you didn't go around telling your classmates that you were a Witch. Salem was a bit different then... Now, it looks like bad TV when it comes to witchery :-(

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  3. Doesn't sound like a very real witch depiction...

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  4. Looking forward to your thoughts on Salem!

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    1. I will probably go back before I leave MA. I'll try to look around with less witchy eyes... kind of sad, huh?

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  5. I am so jealous that you got to go to Salem. I've told you before, or maybe you've read my blog post about it? I'm related to one of the women hung during the hysteria. I want to go there to visit the museum and visit her marker. I also want to do a bit more genealogy research while there. Some day I'll go. Just not sure when.

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    1. It would be interesting to see how you feel after experiencing the Salem Witch Museum...

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    2. I've heard that there is some kind of book that was hers or apart of her families in the museum. She actually lived in Amesbury, Mass. So that would be my first stop whenever I take this trip.

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    3. Well, you better share! ;-)

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    4. Lol, you won't be able to shut me up.

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  6. Ha! that poor little Bishop figure huddled amongst the heathen women...he must have thought he'd died and gone to heaven.....oh wait...not ???? That is surely a most baffling paradox. Trust you to spot it :D XXX

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    1. I was shocked when I saw the case, then I saw others. I wouldn't be surprised to see pictures/statues of the Virgin Mary at a botanica, but a bishop in a Witch shop? Hm... yeah, it totally caught my eyes.

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  7. What is "purple prose"?

    Like above commentator, I'm also jealous you have been to Salem - it's on my Halloween bucket list!

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    1. The label "purple" is put in front of prose that is overly flowery, so much so that it is annoying to read.

      I think if I put aside my witchy glasses and think only of Halloween and partying, you and I would have a blast in Salem. We should just avoid the history, for it would kill the mood...

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  8. Darling girl...I had no idea that Bless Me Ultima had been a reading recommendation to you. I woulda raised my old crone hand and suggested that you would read it with a warning. Have you read any of the other works of Rudolfo Anaya? He may be an acclaimed author but....meh. And some of that meh is based on his "view" of the land and peoples. I had to finally give up reading "Tortuga"...it just drug on.
    Oma Linda

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    1. I should have said something. Those are a bunch of hours I will never get back!

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  9. it's always a pity when a book turns out to be a disappointment - and the same for your trip to Salem - although I like your photos

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    1. I guess I can focus on the fact that we visited a few bookshops and got wonderful secondhand novels and comics. Also, I got a great running hat ;-)

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  10. I have to say I have never heard of this book or a film of it: sorry about my ignorance. All I know about Salem is that many innocent people were caught up in a mass hysteria that needs to mark individuals as outcasts in order to establish a feeling of solidarity among an insecure community. This happens at times in places all over the world, doesn't it? It was a tragic chapter in history, I think; but society is all too keen to create what it regards as 'witches' and to persecute them. I hope that the next book you read will not contribute to this negative view of the outsider and will make you happier and help you feel more connected to nature. Julie Ann x

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    1. Bless Me, Ultima is not that famous. I wanted to read it because so many people told me that it was a believable portrait of Hispanic Witch... I don't think it is, but you know how these things go: different folks and all...

      I'm crossing my fingers for the next book!

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  11. HMMM!. Sounds like some of your friends are experiencing correlation difficulties (see my ARC) when they recommended the book. Sorry that you, like many of us in ARC, have trouble with the books we chose to read.

    I really enjoyed your art, though. I like it when people use their own photos in art, and this was no exception. It gave me a feel for Salem, because all I know about the town revolves around the witch trials.

    Here's to a better book next month.

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    1. I, too, love when people tell stories with pictures. I'm not the best photographer, but I have fun with a camera. When I get back to Salem, I will focus on everything (there are many lovely shops) I'm sure I'll feel better about my last trip.

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  12. Bad friends! Shoo... ;)
    Sorry you had a disappointing read!
    The photo-collage looks wonderful! I'm sure you had a great time. You sure do look happy! ♥

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    1. Some friends need to be slapped... just kidding ;-)

      Other than the witchy bits, the trip was great. My Piano Man and I love to walk around and people-watch and see new things. We enjoyed ourselves. Next time will be better...

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  13. I can't wait to read about your Salem post ;o)
    Those quotes from the book are terrible!@@@

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    1. I'm going to visit some of the shops in the nearby towns. I was doing some research and I saw some lovely stones *cough, cough*

      You are right about the quote, some things are just "terrible" and nasty.

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  14. What can you say about bad books except wishing we could get the lost time back. I hope your trip was enjoyable and not too commercialized~ although based on that bronze from "Bewitched" I'm thinking it was probably the later.
    ♥Sharon

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    1. Commercialized and then some... Salem looks like a mall.

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  15. Salem is a town that's waaaay too commercial! You lose the significance of the place. Sorry you didn't enjoy your book (sounds familiar...) but your photo collage is a wonderful reflection of your visit.

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    1. It is. It wasn't like this fifteen years ago. I know that's a silly thing to say, why should anyone expect time to stand still, right? I was just hoping...

      When I go back, I will try to enjoy the place from a more literary and pop culture perspective. It doesn't work all that well when it comes to history, at least not for me ;-(

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  16. Very interesting photo collage. I have read about Salem so to see your photos is a treat. Shame they have spoiled the place with over commercialisation but then they do that with everywhere eventually. Friends book recommendations are often interesting to say the least!

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    1. You know, I don't think I would mind the commercialism as much if the stuff for sale was more... real, but like you suggested, this is the way things work. But it still blows *sigh*

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    2. Oh, and don't get me started on friend's book recommendations lol

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  17. Salem has long been on my list of places I would love to visit (but probably wont get the chance to as my OH wont get on a plane!) so will be intrigued to see you post when you do it (will you give me a nudge or say on the ARC FB page?)

    It's always a disappointment when we don't enjoy a book, especially if it's recommended to us. I do love your photos though.

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    1. Maybe you'll just go on a really long road trip, which might mean visiting the awesome places in between ;-)

      I'll definitely let you know when I write my after Salem post.

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  18. Oh honey, I have read this entire post but am still stuck on the last few lines and my jaw is on my keyboard...did you say you and your Piano Man, as in THE sweet and sexy Piano Man??? I have been gone far too long and am so thrilled for both of you. I hope happiness has embraced the two of you in passion and tenderness. Mina

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    1. I did say, me and my Piano Man, as the super-handsome guy I got engaged to on June 29th. I'm glad you had a nice surprise!

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  19. Sorry you were disappointed with the book and left feeling so negative about it. Interesting collage page and Congratulations.
    Jen x

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    1. I'm sorry, too. Those who have seen the movie said that it's better, so I'm excited about that.

      Salem is a very interesting place. Yesterday, I spent about five hours walking around the square. There were zombies, musicians, fortune tellers, Puritans, ghosts and ghost hunters (many times together), great photography, lovely shops, expensive shops, people eating at graveyards... interesting indeed.

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  20. Such a shame you didn't enjoy the book after so many recommendations. it is always a double edge sword to let people know what you like, often people generalize and send you everything in the world that vaguely resembles your interests...or not even close in some cases lol

    Lovely collage of photo memories.

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  21. Ugh I hate when I get people that are like oh you will love this cause it has faeries in it, or it's about magic or it's blah blah blah. Most of the time I'm extremely disappointed about the portrayal of said object.

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    1. After reading this post, I'm pretty sure you know I totally get it...

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