Planning a lecture on Fight Club and its dystopian themes. Spending time watching this 2003 Palahniuk documentary/video thing called Postcards from the Future:
Reading an article about the Salinger documentary. The new poster has an interesting design.
Reading this LA Times article on Amazon purchasing Goodreads. Not sure how I feel about this.
Note to self: Writers make choices.
In preparation for A Clockwork Orange discussions in Lit 111, today we talked about the satirical aspects of postmodernism:
I first read the short fiction of Luis Alberto Urrea in graduate school. The discovery of a prolific Latino author whose work moves so adeptly from English to Spanish was important to my development as a writer. I enjoyed his collection of short stories Six Kinds of Sky and the keen worlds and characters drawn, his humor and surrealist edge. At the time I was struggling to capture Spanish speaking folks and the stories from the old neighborhood of my youth, struggling to make my work less obvious and overtly political. And the influence of his work stays fresh in my mind.
In reading Urrea’s most recent novels, The Hummingbird’s Daughter and its sequel Queen of America, I am pleased to find these lengthier works equally representing for me what writing should aspire to be.
Over the course of two novels, set in the 1880’s to the turn of the century, the incredibly dynamic character of Teresita the Saint of Cabora, the Mexican Joan of Arc, rises from abject poverty and abandonment to her place as spiritual leader. Described as a “saint with grit” by Stacey D’Erasmo of the New York Times Book Review, Teresita survives rape, returns from the dead and learns to practice ancient magic, and travels to the United States after the Mexican-Tomochic rebellion. In the sequel Teresita survives as a celebrity of sorts travelling and experiencing the United States—St. Louis, San Francisco and New York City—and she marries and divorces. She also survives a medical industry out to exploit her healing powers. All based on historical events and Urrea’s research.
The most influential aspect of the two books for me though is the form, the lyrical and dream-like passages. The masterful use of third person limited omniscient narration. How the dreamscape that is Urrea’s writing style creates so many varied characters and experiences in an incredibly wide and brilliant spectrum. From field hand, Indian healer, to Teresita’s Mexican landowner father, Don Tomás, to the bandits, cowboys and tycoons, the cast of characters represents the complicated nature of hierarchical class structures at play in pre-turn-of-the-century and pre-revolutionary Mexico. Masterfully, Urrea immerses us in Teresita’s myth across a multitude of voices. I admire the novels’ contrast of authorial voice and character in nearly every chapter, creating this Mexican and American border world from inside and out, and more importantly, in terms of social class, from quite literally the bottom up. (Urrea’s lively and playful performance in the downloadable audiobook versions only enhanced my experience of these distinct voices.)
Ultimately, I have to admit to taking advantage of Urrea’s skill—stealing stratagems of technique once again into my own struggling work. I’m thinking of the author and critic Jim Harrison’s words: “One finds and understands his own voice finally through the voice of others.”
I tell my Midwest community college students that the key to nonfiction is in the facts and that creative nonfiction—as well as fiction—is in the telling. And the power from Urrea’s work perhaps is that he devoted twenty-years of research and study of Mexican political, cultural and religious history as well as struggled with the form. And in many other historical novels or footnoted historical books, the political thought becomes so blatant and relentless that readers stop hearing it. Yet in Urrea’s two novel saga, the insight into Mexican, American Indian and American history, I believe, along with the shifting voices create an inextricable link between human experience, political conflict and historical socioeconomic conflict. Another lesson for writer in the merging of form and content to craft a meaning greater than the sum of its parts.
Spending time this afternoon watching Rudolfo Anaya interview on the new adaptation of his book and also his thoughts on Latino representation in US politics and films.
Spending time today rereading Fat City by Leonard Gardner. Hope I can find the detail and the nuance in my Huerfanos/Semi-orphaned novel project:
“Yeah, I was in a bar yesterday, this guy’s calling everybody a son-of-a-bitch. So I go out and wait for him. He come out and I ask did that include me. Says yeah. So I got him. I mean I just come to town. Some welcome. I don’t know, trouble just seems to come looking for me.”
Spent time this afternoon with Gerald Nicosia‘s Huffington Post article about his experiences working with the film makers of the On the Road film adaptation. I’m interested in his opinion because I enjoyed his book Memory Babe so much. Here he writes candidly about setting up a Beat boot camp for the actors and also becoming a bit starstruck. And I have to agree the Jose Rivera script had quite a bit missing in terms of Kerouac’s mad spirituality. I was sad not to see the Old Walking Saint character and the “Go moan for man” scenes or any stream of consciousness style scenes with voice-over narration. I have to say now that I’ve seen the film I’m more excited to see the Searching for On the Road documentary shot alongside Salles’ film. Also I wonder if Ann Charters has seen the film.
Tonight I’m rereading Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four for my Lit 111 course: “To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone-to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink-greetings!”
New Salinger documentary coming soon. Read this Daily Beast article years back, love the photograph, and it appears same film makers have an American Masters episode in the works. I’ve seen the A&E episode and watched some YouTube videos interviewing military academy folks on Salinger’s schooling but this looks interesting.
Woke to this article in the Chicago Tribune. And I remember a year or two ago reading an article comparing the state of record stores in the U.S. to book stores of the near future. You buy an album online and a record store dies. Now the same fate for chain stores. First Borders and now perhaps Barnes and Noble. Not sure how I feel about Barnes and Noble which feels more like a gift shop and coffee shop lately than a bookstore. I personally don’t own an e reader and my publisher has very strong opinions about how e readers kill book sales. I wonder: In the near future will we all have e readers and surf the internet for books instead of libraries or locally owned bookstores?
Spending time this Sunday afternoon listening to Philip K. Dick segment on To the Best of Our Knowledge. I was most struck by interview with Ann R. Dick, wife #5, and also David Gill interview on film adaptations of Dick’s work.
Love this quote: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” — Philip K. Dick