Friday, September 07, 2007

Boulder, Bozeman, Austin, Albuquerque

Manuel Ramos

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007) has picked up more buzz than my old transistor radio. Example -- The N.Y. Times review raved that the novel is "a wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets Star Trek meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. It is funny, street-smart and keenly observed, and it unfolds from a comic portrait of a second-generation Dominican geek into a harrowing meditation on public and private history and the burdens of familial history." And that's just the first two sentences of the review.

As noted by Daniel Olivas in his Bloga post last week, Time Magazine also loved the book and concluded that it was "astoundingly great."

Díaz is scheduled to read and sign at the Boulder Book Store on September 20 at 7:30 PM. Here's the publisher's take:

"This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

"Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuk -- the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

"Díaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Díaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time."

Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302, Tel: 303-447-2074

Another book on fire is Helena María Viramontes' Their Dogs Came With Them (Atria, 2007). The author has made several appearances recently as a result of the book's publication. Example -- The Montana State University News Service announced: "Well-known Chicana writer and activist Helena María Viramontes will be the first speaker in the Borderlands lecture series, sponsored by Montana State University's College of Letters and Science and the Bozeman Public Library. Her talk, titled Border Culture: The Streets of East L.A. will take place at 7:00 PM on September 27 at the Bozeman Public Library. All lectures are open to the public and will be followed by a reception with the speaker.

"Viramontes, whose most recent book is titled Their Dogs Came With Them [reviewed by La Bloga here], has written extensively on the experiences of Chicano and Chicana farm workers in the U.S. She grew up in East Los Angeles, one of eleven children born to parents who met when they were working as farm laborers, and spent many childhood summers picking fruit in northern California. A professor of English at Cornell University, she published her first novel-- Under the Feet of Jesus --in 1995 and has also written several collections of short stories. She won the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature in 1995."

Read more about this lecture series and the Viramontes event by jumping to this page. La Bloga's interview of Viramontes is at this link.

On September 13th, 4:00 PM, Lorna Dee Cervantes accepts the 2007 Balcones Poetry Prize for her volume of poetry Drive: The First Quartet (Wings Press, 2006), at Austin Community College, Rio Grande Campus Mainstage Theater. This is a free event and is open to the public. The Balcones Prize is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division.

Then, Cervantes goes down the road to San Antonio's Esperanza Peace & Justice Center for a reading/performance on the 14th, 7:00 PM. Then back to Austin to participate in the opening of the new Mexican American Cultural Center on September 15.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz reads and signs In Perfect Light (Rayo, 2005), on September 13 at 6:00 PM at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 17701 4th Street SW, Albuquerque, NM. Free in the Sálon Ortega.

Also at the NHCC, and part of the Big Read series (La Bloga, August 10, 2007), Healing with Herbs & Rituals: A Mexican Tradition by Eliseo “Cheo” Torres. September 12th 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM call 246-2261 x 148 to register. Here's some of the official announcement of this program:

"One of the great traditions of folk medicine and healing in the Southwest is Mexican Folk Healing, and the fact that this is a tradition that has largely been transmitted as oral history makes it all the more remarkable.

"The presentation will include a brief description of the “hot” popular herbs and other traditional herbs and their usage for illnesses such as hypertension, stress, arthritis, etc.

"A central element in Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me Ultima is the healing and protective work done by the curandera, Ultima.

"'There was a bitter taste in my mouth. I remembered the remedy Ultima had given me after my frightful flight from the river. I looked at my arms and I felt my face. I had received cuts from tree branches before and I knew that the next day the cuts were red with dry blood and that the welts were sore. But last night’s cuts were only thin pink lines on my flesh, and there was no pain. There was a strange power in Ultima’s medicine.'
- Bless Me Ultima, page 25."

And now, for something a little different, I present one man's view about this crazy world. This piece was written by a pal, and I thought I would lighten up the week by posting it (don't shoot the messenger.)

Ironic, Oxymoronic, Spumoni or Why Can't a Paradox Save My Life?
By De La Ventana

As I lie here on my deathbed waiting for the lights to go out and wondering what is at the end of the tunnel of light, I watch the sunset high in the mountains. I await that long lonely trek of solitude to that better place with millions of other souls.

I sat up in my reclining years to take stock of my life as a chicken rancher. I have often reflected in the dark as I lie awake half asleep in my bed.

As a young man I was promiscuous so that others might remain chaste. I joined the army, killed thousands in foreign lands so that we can continue our way of life. I have been enlightened by infomercials and touched by the blind.

I rushed through my life. "Haste" was my second middle name, "Pokey" was my first. I was on my high school year book staff but I dropped out my freshman year. My mother is Finnish. My father is from Mexico, here illegally. He couldn't swim. I only have one brother, he's a half-brother.

His name is Nelson. Nelson went to college and was in the Weather Underground. He now lives in a pent-house. Everyone in my family were world-class marathon runners. I took up the sport late in life. I was the first in my family to finish last. It was almost a penultimate achievement.

My love life? I was the man women loved to hate. In the army, I was a fighter not a lover. I loved to fight. In the army, they told me "hurry up and wait." I fit right in. I got a dishonorable discharge. I thought they were asking me to rejoin. I was disgraced.

Chickens are my only friends except for Nelson who was a conscientious objector, but he wasn't chicken.

I didn't date much because I couldn't dance so I listened to music. I would waltz over to the record shop to pick up big band music recorded live so that I could listen to it alone.

When I divide my life into its parts, the sum total isn't all negative. I'm positive I was a failure but I can't dwell on the negatives. Sure I got high with low-lifes. Sure when I got busted my crooked attorney straightened me up when he fixed the trial. Life isn't just black and white. That's what Sister Negra Blanca told me she read in the newspaper. You can't judge a book by its cover in the used book store. Don't judge! In prison, people come in all stripes unless they're issued blue scrubs. Your boss puts pants on one leg at a time just like you do or at least that's what she says. I once worked for Paul McCartney's second wife.

So now I watch daytime dramas. Why doesn't the fat lady ever sing on a soap opera? They don't want it to end.

Yo soy Chicano. I am a Mexican-American who loves two countries that don't love me. I am a mere mortal, but I could go on forever about that, so I just stop for now...and go.



Anonymous said...

What a newsy, juicy post. Thanks, Manuel.

Manuel Ramos said...

De nada, and thank you for stopping by.

Lisa Alvarado said...

He shoots, he much good stuff to read, and too little time!

And thanks, too for giving us a birdseye of happenings in el suroeste.

Lisa Alvarado