In this post, Rodriguez, Fante and Bukowski; Jewish Latin America; Cultural Studies; Vine Deloria, Jr.; Interviews.
The Cholo, the Bricklayer and El Loco.
A nice piece about Luis J. Rodriguez has been making the rounds of various newspapers and online journals. The AP article has headlines such as Once a street-gang thug, Luis Rodriguez now settled into literary celebrity.
Here's a sample from the article: "Always a voracious reader, Rodriguez devoured the works of cult literary heroes such as John Fante and Charles Bukowski, whom he cites as major influences. As they had decades before, he set out to illuminate Los Angeles' gritty, working-class neighbourhoods in short stories such as the ones he later published in 2002's Republic of East L.A. Rodriguez's 10 books run a literary gamut from poetry to short story collections to two children's books, a memoir and a novel."
Rodriguez's success is well-deserved. He definitely is rearranging the furniture in the small room in the boarding house of American Literature that has been reserved for Chicana/o writers. (Too much, huh?) And maintaining his Chicanismo while he's doing it. For more about Rodriguez, you can look up my review of Music of the Mill, posted September 2 here on La Bloga.
How about those influences? Fante's Wait Until Spring, Bandini or Bukowski's The Most Beautiful Woman in Town should be on any writer's list of "must-read" books, for entirely different reasons, of course.
John Fante (a Colorado native) published working-class, Depression-era fiction that is clear and crisp as a frozen mountain spring, and just as harsh and unrelenting as an avalanche (I got a bad case of simile- itis.) In a review of Wait Until Spring, Bandini, I commented, "The narrative about the bricklayer, his wife and sons, stirred my own memories of growing up in a small Colorado town where the whims of the weather victimized my father's ability to earn money and my mother optimistically faced up to each set-back in order to preserve childhood for her children. ... [The eldest son] Arturo reminded me of so many young men from my youth that I read the book with a sense of watching my own upbringing. I had to acknowledge the similar experiences between the poor Italian kids of Fante's book and the poor Mexican kids of my hometown. Fante captured that essense of aggressive, vulnerable youth that, although reduced to a stereotype over the years, still remains legitimate for those living through such experiences."
What can I say about Bukowski? Only this - you gotta love a collection that includes stories with names such as Life in a Texas Whorehouse, Twelve Flying Monkeys Who Won't Copulate Properly and Politics is like Trying to Screw A Cat in the Ass. For more on Bukowksi, rent the 2003 flick, Bukowski: Born Into This.
Ilan Stavans announced the end of the Jewish Latin America series begun in 1997 and published by the University of New Mexico Press. As noted by Stavans, "The series has published 20 titles, from Moacyr Scliar's humorous Collected Stories to Mauricio Rosencof's prison memoir, The Letters That Never Came. There have been anthologies of Yiddish stories, folktales and autobiographical essays. One volume offered a rich compendium of Crypto-Jewish life; another scrutinized the legacy of martyr Luis de Carvajal the Younger, who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in 1596. There are contributions from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. ...The fact that a university press (and in the Southwest, for that matter) and not a New York house has orchestrated the feat seems astonishing to me. ... Time is the great calibrator: A decade after its inception, it is time to draw a curtain on the series. ... It makes me proud that several classics included in the series have been retranslated, a fact that emphasizes their durability. And other commercial and academic publishers have jumped on the wagon. ... [M]y original expectations have been more than satisfied. Readers now have access to turbulence that defines Jewish existence south of the Rio Grande."
Hot Off The Press:
The Chicana/o Cultural Studies Reader, edited by Angie Chabram-Dernersesian (Routledge, 2005). The editor is a Professor in the Chicana/o Studies Program at the Univesity of California, Davis. The selected articles cover the broad spectrum of Chicano culture: literature, movies, music, art, dance, theatre, TV. Among the essay writers are Norma Alarcón, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Jorge Mariscal. Another addition to the growing list of Chicano textbooks scrutinizing la cultura.
In the same scholarly vein, Brown Gumshoes: Detective Fiction and the Search for Chicana/o Identity by Ralph E. Rodriguez (University of Texas Press, 2005) hits the shelves this month. The publisher's website says this: "Popular fiction, with its capacity for diversion, can mask important cultural observations within a framework that is often overlooked in the academic world. Works thought to be merely 'escapist' can often be more seriously mined for revelations regarding the worlds they portray, especially those of the disenfranchised. As detective fiction has slowly earned critical respect, more authors from minority groups have chosen it as their medium. Chicana/o authors, previously reluctant to write in an underestimated genre that might further marginalize them, have only entered the world of detective fiction in the past two decades." The five authors profiled in Susan Baker Sotelo's Chicano Detective Fiction (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2005) are deconstructed in Brown Gumshoes.
Vine Deloria, Jr. died on November 13 in Golden, Colorado. The N.Y. Times said, "Mr. Deloria, who was trained as both a seminarian and a lawyer, steadfastly worked to demythologize how white Americans thought of American Indians. The myths, he often said - whether as romantic symbols of life in harmony with nature or as political bludgeons in fostering guilt - were both shallow. The truth, he said, was a mix, and only in understanding that mix, he argued, could either side ever fully heal." Maybe a good way to honor his memory is to read or re-read one of his books: Custer Died For Your Sins; God Is Red; We Talk,You Listen; Red Earth, White Lies; many more. QEPD.
I want to do interviews of Chicana/o authors here on La Bloga - get a little into the heads of the people who create the books we love to talk about. I've lined up a couple, one who has a long and distinguished publishing history and another who is eagerly anticipating the publication of his first book next year. I'm thinking that the interviews have to be short and it might be interesting if the same five or six questions are asked of each author. If you like the idea, any suggestions for the core questions? What do you really want to know?