I had been working on a novel but writer's block kicked in hard, some would call it a lack of ambition, and anyhow I was getting antsy for my upcoming trip through the Heart of Aztlán, southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, so I found myself at my local independent book store, just browsing as I told the eager-to-be-helpful saleslady.
In the New Hardback Fiction shelves I spied a few books that have some relevance to La Bloga, some have even been reviewed on this site: Isabel Allende's Zorro; Rudolfo Anaya's Serafina's Stories and Jemez Spring; Luis J. Rodriguez's Music of the Mill; Benjamin Alire Sáenz's In Perfect Light; and Luis Urrea's Hummingbird's Daughter. Some of these titles had only one copy remaining - new orders already submitted, I assumed. A good showing but not enough, I thought in my usual "the glass is half-full, but still half-empty" style. Over on the New Paperback Fiction shelves I was pleased to discover ¡Caramba! by Nina Marie Martínez - that book deserves a chance at picking up a much bigger audience. In the New Non-Fiction Paperback section, Urrea's The Devil's Highway stood alone - no other Chicano writers on these shelves.
I meandered over to the Periodicals section and eventually bought the current issue of World Literature Today, Bob Dylan on the cover - the classic photograph used on his Greatest Hits, Volume 1 album - and there was my man, Rudolfo Anaya, on page 88 in an Author Profile. The profile asserted that "Bless Me, Ultima can be specifically credited, along with Tomás Rivera's And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1971), with initiating the Chicano Renaissance in literature in the 1970s. These two novels broke new ground in their expression of Mexican American culture. Bless Me, Ultima is the novel most credited with establishing a vision of the Chicano world and defining the Mexican American experience in the twentieth century." The piece went on with a capsule review of Jemez Spring. WLT has an online interview with Anaya on this page.
I leafed through the rest of the mag and, surprise, surprise, an essay from Denise Chávez entitled, La Vecindad/The Neighborhood (page 39). One thing I enjoyed about this essay was Chávez's tribute to the almost mythic, all-night, rock-and-roll radio station that blared out of Oklahoma City: KOMA. I grew up on that stuff. In the middle of the night, in the very small town of Florence, Colorado, KOMA introduced at least one coming-of-age mocoso to the magic of teenage music and all that it could mean: slow dancing in the corner of the gym, making out in a back seat, The Stroll and The Twist, and a rhythm to go along with the crazy tempo of the times.
I learned that Chávez is working on The King and Queen of Comezón, a novel set on the U.S. - Mexican border.
So much for my trip to the book store. A few other news items: Norma Elia Cantú has finished her latest book, Champú, or Hair Matters, a collection of short stories combined into one narrative, much like her first novel, Canícula. No word on a publication date. Also new, from the Music department, Freddie Fender and Flaco Jimenez team up again on a new album, Dos Amigos. Have to pick that up. The CD I mentioned previously on La Bloga, Rolas de Aztlán: Songs of the Chicano Movement, es de aquella - a great collection of music from Yo Soy Chicano (Los Alvarados) to No Nos Moverán (La Rondalla Amerindia de Aztlán) to a previously unreleased track from Los Lobos, El Tilingo Lingo, to the ultimate Chicano Park Samba by Chunky Sánchez and Los Alacranes Mojados, and so on for 19 tracks. Very cool.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that October 1 is opening night for El Sol Que Tu Eres, the much-anticipated new play from Anthony Garcia and Daniel Valdez. Garcia is the writer and director of the play and also one of the founders and current head of Denver's Su Teatro theater company. Valdez wrote the music for the play. He, of course, has his roots in El Teatro Campesino and is all over the aforementioned Rolas de Aztlán CD (several selections from El Teatro Campesino as well as his América de los indios.) You can find out more about the venue, tickets, and the play at El Centro Su Teatro's website. There also is a good story in the current Westword. According to the Westword story, the title of the play comes from a duet that Valdez did with Linda Ronstadt on the 1987 album, Canciones de Mi Padre. The play reworks Marcel Camus's 1959 film Black Orpheus, which was an adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Garcia notes that even though the plot follows the story line of the ancient myth, it is a "very contemporary story. ... It's the story of the role of art and the ability to transcend all the restrictions of the mortal world. ... It's asking, 'Can progress, love and compassion triumph in a world with the encroachment of fascism? Can these ideas last?'" Híjole.