The Movies Of My Life

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2005-10-12
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Thirty-something seismologist Beltran Soler knows about earthquakes, but he doesn't quite grasp the notion that life, like the tectonic plate movement he studies, is in constant motion. One day he begins to remember the fifty most important movies of his life, ones he saw as a child and teenager growing up in California and Chile. As his mind ranges from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Beltran reconnects with his past. Through his cinematic journey he ultimately comes to terms with his eccentric family's search for what makes the world physically shift around them -- and for the other, not so easy to measure, cultural shifts that throw us all off balance in different ways.


The Movies of My Life
A Novel

Chapter One

How did I come to draw up a list of the movies of my life? Why did it occur to me? Why haven't I done anything other than mentally tabulate list after list since touching down at LAX and the thing I never thought would happen to me happened? How did I come to revisit this endless city in the backseat of an old green Malibu with a white-haired Salvadoran as my driver? What made my head spin in the brightly lit aisles of a store called DVD Planet full of solitary and obsessive freaks? Why have I returned to think -- to live, to feel, to enjoy, to suffer -- about facts and people and films chalked up to the oblivion (superceded, eliminated, erased) of my unconsciousness? Why am I remembering now, after so much time? Why, after years of not going to the movies, of seeing absolutely nothing, have I returned to the days when I used to devour them?

In other words, ¿qué fucking pasa?

What happens is terrible.

Well, not so terrible, but it is for me. I broke my commitment to the university, I've set aside my itinerary, I haven't arrived at the place where they're waiting for me.

I'm in Los Angeles, "Elei," the city of angels, in the San Fernando Valley, on Van Nuys, ver the horizontal fault of the Elysian Park System. What am I doing here?

Why am I still here? Why, instead of being in Tokyo, as was the plan, as we stipulated, am I now shut up in a room at the Holiday Inn with a panoramic view of the 405 freeway, writing like a madman?

It's already been four days like this, on the edge, to the max, sometimes in slow motion, other times in double fast forward. The 6:43 A.M.s, the dawn about to break, the hot Santa Ana winds rippling the surface of the pool below. The ice I went searching for down the hall is now melted. The carpet is covered in Twinkie crumbs and pumpkin seeds.

Have you ever gone into your kitchen, bored, tired, drowsy, like a zombie, with a dry, scratchy throat and verly ripe breath, dying to open a big, 2.5-liter bottle of ice-cold, refreshing Coke and drink it straight from the bottle, but just as you go to open it, without warning it occurs to you that someone (maybe yourself) has shaken it up, but now it's too late (it's always too late), and you unscrew the plastic cap, and BOOM, pafff, swoooooosh ... all the sweet, dark liquid, complete with foam and bubbles, explodes in your face like a fire hydrant in a crash, and you can't do a thing about it except to stand there and take it all in until the eruption subsides?

Well, that's more or less the state I'm in.

Honestly, though, it's worse. But it's not all bad.

Let's say that I'm the bottle of Coke and the person who shook me up is a w man who I'll probably never see again. It was she who looked me straight in the eye, she who made me laugh, talk, doubt, connect. It was she who opened up my mind and let loose the thick, viscous, gooey stuff that memories are made of.

January 14, 2001
6:43 A.M.
Santiago de Chile


"Hi, Beltrán. It's Manuela, your sister."

"Ah ... what time is it?"

"Early. Sorry to wake you up. I've been waiting for hours to call."

"The alarm clock was already going off;I'm just a sound sleeper, is all."

"Were you dreaming?"

"I think so."

"How are you?"


"What are you up to these days?"

"Nothing much. I'm leaving on a trip to- night."

"A change of scenery is always good. Vaca- tion?"

"No, no. I'm off to Tokyo. Tsakuba University."

"You've been there before, right? I read that somewhere."

"Years ago, yes."

"At least you'll be somewhere familiar. That's good."

"Yeah, but my Japanese is pretty bad these days."

"Will you be there long?"

"A semester."

"I envy your ability to just pack up and go places."

"One of the few advantages of being alone in life."

"The flight must take forever, I'd guess."

"Yeah, but they gave me a whole afternoon to relax in Los Angeles."



"You could go out to Encino. Or Inglewood. I still remember Ash Street."

"I don't think so, Manuela. You remember the pictures, not the place. They're two different things. We were just kids."

"Anyway, you could go . . ."

"I'm just going to lie down in the hotel room the travel agency got me. It's part of the package;I don't have to pay for a thing. I'm not going out anywhere. Why would I?"

"You've never gone back? You, who travels so much?"

"To California?"

"Yes, where we used to live."

"No. Well, I've been up north. Twice to San Jose and once to Palo Alto. I've had lay vers in L.A., but I never went out in the city."

"Weird, huh?"

"I don't know. . . . Maybe."

"Sometimes I enjoy going back."

"We were different people, Manuela. Kids. All that happened so long ago. It's not so hard to have good childhood memories. Those are the ones that stick with us."

"I guess."

"Perhaps. What do I know."

"I couldn't resist the temptation to visit."

"It would seem strange to me to go back to a place where I no longer knew the language."

"Remember how we always used to talk in English?"

"And they hated us for it. It was really a bad idea. One of many."

"We ought to go back to speaking English."

"First we'd have to start speaking again."


"Anyway, I won't have the time. Just enough to catch a quick nap, shower, get something to eat, and get back on the plane."

"Too bad."

"Yeah, well, that's the way it is."


"Happy New Year, Beltrán. Now that the new century's begun."

The Movies of My Life
A Novel
. Copyright © by Alberto Fuguet. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from The Movies of My Life: A Novel by Alberto Fuguet
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