Friday, December 29, 2006

Highlights of 2006

MANUEL RAMOS

While hunkered down in my house because of yet another Colorado blizzard, I reviewed my participation here on La Bloga for this past year and decided to reproduce some of what I consider my highlights of 2006. These are excerpts from my posts -- the archives are a good place to get lost in once in a while. Try it.

January: The Mario Acevedo Interview
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received or that you want to give to other writers? Mario: One. Read as much as you can. And write. Don’t wait for inspiration. The muse works for you. Go club her on the head and make her help pay the rent. Two. Get involved with writing groups whose goals support yours. Three. Have faith. You won’t know when you will get published but if you quit, it will never happen.

January: The Lucha Corpi Interview
Q: Did it matter in the big scheme of things that you were acknowledged as a Chicana poet and novelist? Lucha: I think it mattered, maybe still matters, to others, who seem to have a hard time categorizing or labeling my work. In over 35 years I’ve been writing, I’ve been asked many questions about my cultural and linguistic identification and the content in my work. Am I a Mexican or a Chicana poet? Should I be considered either? Am I being opportunistic by using as background for my novels events in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement? Shouldn’t I stick to writing only poetry in Spanish because that’s what I do well? Did I know that writing mystery novels—“genre”—would prevent me from ever again receiving recognition as a “literary” writer?To be honest, I hear the questions but I don’t particularly care to explore the issues in them. I was, am and will continue to be a Chicana poet and fiction writer by choice, and beyond that and most importantly, because of the two cultures that have formed me, which are reflected in my work in one way or another.

March: "Lalo's Notebooks" written by Denver's new poet laureate, Chris Ransick.
This poem opens with these lines: She handed me the blue canvas bag, said These are from his family; it weighed as much as a life lived, a big soul full of roses and the other blooms, the unnamed ones, laid on the graves of broken workers and women who would feed their children more if there were more to eat. How could I open such a bag. I carried it down the street and my hands ached, not with pain but with love for the poet I’d never met and the words that were really flames of ancient fires, hot enough still to give light in this dark time.

March: Writing Short
The thing about a short story is that the obvious is true but that doesn’t make it easier. A short story has to get to the point quickly and effortlessly. The best advice I ever heard about writing a short story is "start late, leave early." Easier said than done. What writer doesn’t want to indulge the details? To eschew subtlety for in-depth development? To expose the back story and the epilog, to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy package of setting, conflict, climax, resolution? The best short stories, in my opinion, rebel against these tendencies and snapshot the human condition in one quick frame, not an entire reel. In this type of fiction, the role of the reader is essential - fill in the gaps, put the pieces together, jump to the writer’s conclusion. However you want to say it.

April/May: The May Day Specials
La Bloga participated in the May Day Immigrant Celebrations by posting a variety of articles, reviews, essays, fiction and opinion pieces. Click on the archives to read these tributes. In May we also learned that Tu Ciudad Magazine had selected La Bloga as Best Blog.

May: Review of The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories by Rudolfo Anaya
This slim volume represents a lifetime of quality writing and much appreciated storytelling. It is an essential compilation of Anaya’s cherished abilities to illustrate truthfully the intersection of human foibles and triumphs and to expose the mysteries of the natural and secret world often taken for granted by its human inhabitants. The short story form challenges any writer. Here are eighteen examples of how to meet that challenge.

June: This Mestizo Thing Has Me All Mixed Up
This poem included these lines: My fat bud, Buddha, serenely grins at my wife's sad but reverent Virgen flag flapping in the dry wind,while I try to understand the sad but existentially true stories of the Chilean novelist who had to wait for death to find readers.

July: Review of Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez
This book, excuse the pun, is a sleeper. It should resonate with readers on many levels. I appreciate Hernandez’s finely-tuned talent and I especially like the fact that he uses his art to probe and expose some of the complex dynamics swirling around those groups of kids all of us see in the malls, lethargic and seemingly without ambition or motivation, almost as though they were sleep-walking. Maybe they just woke up from a coma?

July: Review of Adiós Hemingway by Leonardo Padura Fuentes
Among many other themes, Adiós Hemingway examines the aging process and the sense of loss that two men, who never knew each other, share across the decades, linked by a decomposed body hidden under earth, myth, and legend. For example, Conde has his close friends and his set rituals, but he lacks romance and passion. His vitality has waned and he triggers sexual release with thoughts of the beautiful and sensuous Ava Gardner parading naked around the grounds of Finca Vigía, just as Hemingway was reduced to using a pair of Gardner's black knickers as a wrap for one of his handguns - a weird thrill that combined two of his obsessions.

October: Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño
The characters wander aimlessly, or pursue private, unlikely quests. They seldom succeed but it does not matter. The exiled Chileans meet one another in exotic and famous locations around the world, but the settings do not matter. These places -- Acapulco, Barcelona, Goméz Palacio -- are hazy and ephemeral, serving only to frame the anxiety and sense of loss that looms around the aging men and women who fought or ran away or never knew the struggles on their own continent. For the most part, they failed to participate. When all is said and done, the characters themselves do not seem to matter. Some are referred to only as B or M. The structure of the stories is first person narrative. No dialogue and very little of what we have come to call "plot." The narrator is detached, and often the end is simply a place where the narrator decides to stop. The end does not mean resolution. The effect is as though the reader must provide the voices and story line. The reader is required to participate.

November: La Bloga Día de los Muertos Amoxcalli-Descansos Contest
We celebrated Day of the Dead with a writing contest and were able to showcase several excellent pieces and writers. Looks like we will do this again.

November: Review of Brownsville by Oscar Casares
Place is nothing without people and Oscar Casares’s characters are complicated and layered and contradictory. Their stories are sometimes amusing, the people pitiful or admirable. These strong tales of human failure and victory pull the reader into the secrets and whispered gossip of Brownsville, enough so that a voyeuristic thrill rubs against the conscience.

December: Review of The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani
A powerful, frightening and challenging book. The kind of book that readers often talk about wanting to find -- a piece of writing that says something new, that disturbs the status quo and moves the reader to action, or at least uncomfortable thoughts -- but, once found, produces a deep and uneasy hesitation, a pause in the contemplation of the writing because of the troubling images and quirky use of words.

That's my short review of a year with La Bloga. Prospero Año Nuevo to one and all.

Later.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

you had a great year, hombre - you gave us lots of info, Mr. Ramos, appreciate all your work

Manuel Ramos said...

Thank you.

daniel olivas said...

yes, great posts from 2006. here's to 2007!