Last night after grading and preparing for classroom workshops I had time to finish Luis Alberto Urrea’s short story collection Six Kinds of Sky. I was unfamiliar with Urrea’s work but I’ve been reading through my list of Latino authors and I have to say there was much to admire. I enjoyed “Mr Mendoza’s Paint Brush” perhaps most out of the collection. Urrea gives a mix of straight story telling and farce and perhaps a bit of the surreal mixing in the story. This seemed to be a constant throughout the stories. I also enjoyed “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses”–a story about a white guy mourning the loss of his wife. A nice mix of the tragic and the beautiful. I was also intrigued by the final non-fiction essay of the book “Amazing Grace: Story and Writer.” I liked the insight into Urrea’s craft and thought process.
Here’s an interview of Ted Morrissey by Adam Nicholson that I shot and edited for the Lincoln Land Review.
Ted Morrissey, author of the novel Men of Winter and the forthcoming novella and story collection Weeping with an Ancient God, talks with Lincoln Land Instructor Adam Nicholson about his books, his writing process, and other literary projects he has underway. Morrissey’s short fiction has appeared in journals such as Glimmer Train, The Chariton Review, PANK, and the Tulane Review. Holding a Ph.D. in English studies from Illinois State University, Morrissey teaches writing and literature courses in various settings, including University of Illinois at Springfield and Benedictine University at Springfield. The interview took place at Sherman Public Library, where Morrissey has worked as a part-time librarian for eleven years. His website is tedmorrissey.com.
Time to start collecting links for my Latino Lit course coming Spring 2013:
More for high school teachers but Facebook and Twitter have become necessities for professional writers.
Had some time this weekend to return to Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls. There are several aspects to the film that I admire. I like watching films about young writers and this film was based on Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, a young writer living through interesting times such as the Cuban Revolution. What I also enjoyed was the episodic structure to the film, moving from Arenas’ experience as a young peasant boy, to his openly gay adult life and to his time as a political prisoner inside a Cuban prison.
This trailer hides the fact that Arenas sexuality as a young man is explored fully in the film, maybe more so than the man as a young writer. I’ve read excerpts from his novel Singing From the Well mentioned in the film and I hope to read the novel he wrote during his two years incarcerated. I also hope to read his autobiography with the same title. The scenes with Johnny Depp stand out with him in a dual role as a Cuban official and also as a cross dressing inmate who smuggles Arenas’ manuscript out of prison. Javier Bardem’s acting also stands out as I’ve read he studied with Arenas’ surviving partner to perfect mannerisms.
I also admired how the film was unapologetically filled with Arenas’ poetry and prose read in Spanish. My favorite scene was when his mentor and editor referred to his type writer as the most important possession he could ever own.
Had some time to watch The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada this weekend. I’ve been meaning to watch more Latino themed films for the blog. I admired Guillermo Arriaga’s screenplay which I read won best of at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. I enjoyed the fractured sense of time and how we see the same event from several points of view and out of sequence. The same fractured sense of time he brought to the 21 Grams screenplay and also Babel. A couple of other films I’ve watched and admired.
More so than the other films written by Arriaga I admired the representation of Mexico and the Mexican people. The film presented Melquiades as well as other Mexican workers as hard-working and human. Also presented them as complex. A representation unfortunately difficult to find in film. I also admired the character of Norton the Border Patrol Agent and how he was forced to experience something similar to an immigrant’s travels across the border. As in Babel we see characters forced to experience something outside of their social class or outside of their particular bias. We’re immersed in characters as their consciousness expands. I also admired Tommy Lee Jones’ direction even though he’s not known for direction. I’d like to write more on this film and more on Arriaga’s other scripts as I have the time.
Last week–despite mountains of grading and student conferences–I spent time with Troncoso’s sweeping novel From This Wicked Patch of Dust and found so much to admire. I admired the form as well as the content. Told in a third person limited omniscient narration the story drops into the thoughts, feelings and questions of each member of a Mexican American family–the children and parents–working and struggling in Ysleta, Texas. The narration hovers above the family and drops from section to section into certain family members thoughts and feelings. I also admired how the story fragments and separates by jumping years in between chapters. Something I work on in my own writing. One week later and the story stays with me. Overall the narrative gave me such a realistic and positive representation of an American family and quite simply it spoke to me. And I’m happy to say I sent Troncoso a quick message on Goodreads stating that and he was prompt in responding a kindly thank you.
This week I’m spending time with Luis Alberto Urrea’s Six Kinds of Sky and hope to have some thoughts soon.