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Earl Shorris, D.E.P.

3 June 2012

Earl Shorris — educator, social critic, novelist and probably Mexico’s only gringo Jewish matador (for a very short time in the late 1950s)  — passed away last Sunday at the age of 75.  His obituary, in today’s New York Times, deals mostly with Shorris’ many accomplishments as an advocate for, and educator of, the least among us .  Though the Clemente Course in the Humanities  Shorris developed after long study and work among socially marginal groups, a program though which…

… several thousand have tackled [...] rigorous readings and explications of Aristotle on logic, Plato on justice and Kant’s theory of morality. The program is free, and books, carfare and baby-sitting are provided. In every outpost, the target audience is the same: the poor and unemployed, low-wage workers, ex-convicts, addicts and the homeless.

Shorris was raised in El Paso, which may account for his life-long fascination with Mexico and the Mexicans. He left the University of Chicago without taking a degree to work in Juarez as a reporter and matador until he “settled down” as an all-round urban intellectual.

IN addition to his several works on poverty and education, he was a popularizer of Mexican history… Besides his 1968 novel The Boots of the Virgin — not surprisingly about a gringo Jewish bullfighter — Shorris wrote a novel about Pancho Villa (Under the Fifth Sun), as well as In The Yucatan.  A more scholarly side emerged when he co-edited In The Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, Pre-Columbian to the Present with the dean of Meso-American Studies, Miguel Miguel Leon-Portilla.

Shorris was also the author of The Life and Times of Mexico (W.W. Norton, 2004)  which is an excellent companion to the somewhat shorter (by about 300 pages)  Gods, Gachupines and Gringos.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 3 June 2012 2:53 pm

    Thanks so much for that! I’m currently digesting the links from the NYTimes. The causes of poverty are so complicated, and now more avenues of thought have been opened.

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