Friday, September 09, 2005

Buffalos And Poets

Manuel Ramos

Oscar Zeta Acosta

Letter to Playboy, October 15, 1973

Your November issue ... on Mr. Hunter S. Thompson as the creator of Gonzo Journalism, which you say he both created and named ... Well sir, I beg to take issue with you. ... [I]n point of fact and methodology of reporting crucial events under fire and drugs, which are of course essential to any good writing in this age of confusion - all this I say came from out of the mouth of our teacher who is known by the name of Owl. These matters I point out not as a threat of legalities or etcetera but simply to inform you and to invite serious discussion on this subject.

Yours very truly,
Oscar Zeta Acosta
Chicano Lawyer
P.S. The guacamole and XX he got from me.”

We mentioned Acosta last week. Following up on that mention, here is a list of books by and about the mysterious and still controversial “first Chicano attorney.”

Acosta published two novels : The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (Straight Arrow Books) and The Revolt of the Cockroach People (Straight Arrow Books). Brown Buffalo was published in 1972, the same year as Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima and Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Cockroach People appeared in 1973. Since then, Acosta's books have been reprinted by Vintage (1989). These are staggering works of imagination, reflections of the times, and rude and sometimes embarrassing insights about the author. Among students and other readers I have encountered only two reactions to these books - admiration or aversion.

Ilan Stavans went on a Brown Buffalo tear for a while. His academic and somewhat subjective scrutiny of a man he described as “the king of rascuachismo, el rey of low taste” produced two books: Bandido: Oscar “Zeta” Acosta and the Chicano Experience (HarperCollins, 1995), reprinted as Bandido: The Death and Resurrection of Oscar "Zeta" Acosta (Northwestern University Press, 2003), and Oscar “Zeta” Acosta: The Uncollected Works (Arte Público Press, 1996). Stavans also included a few pages on Acosta in Latino USA: A Cartoon History (Basic Books, 2000), a book on which he collaborated with Lalo Alcaraz. The Uncollected Works includes Perla Is A Pig, the only story published during Acosta’s lifetime (Con Safos, 1970), as well as three previously unpublished short stories.

In 2003, Floricanto Press published Love & Riot: Oscar Zeta Acosta and the Great Mexican American Revolt by Burton Moore. (We should provide more information here on La Bloga about Floricanto Press one day - it is publishing some interesting works). Moore knew Acosta and witnessed many of the events of the late 1960's and early 1970's and his short book (126 pages) is an homage to a “folk hero.” This is a good, quick read with a lot of background color, personal details and unique references. This was Moore’s last book before he died. Mil gracias to Jesse Tijerina for turning me on to this book and for the first edition of The Revolt of the Cockroach People.

Poets in Town - Updated Website
From the Tattered Cover website-

Sheryl Luna reads from Pity The Drowned Horses, winner of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, on Monday, September 12, 7:30 PM, at the LoDo Tattered Cover (Denver). This collection is about "place and family and home, and many of the poems in it are set in the desert southwest border town of El Paso, Texas." Scroll down this page on La Bloga for Daniel Olivas's review of Luna's collection.

Lucia Blinn also will read from her first collection of poems and stories, Lucia, Passing For Normal. Blinn's poems are described as "wry, truth-telling, hilarious and, occasionally, rueful, and her stories are a rich stew of characters and images that stir the reader's own reminiscences."

Por fin, I've updated my website a bit - some news, a couple of events. Find it here.


Anonymous said...

The Owl invented gonzo? I've read most of the Acosta lit. but don't remember this.

Anybody know who this is/was/is supposed to be?

Certain types of gringos have taken credit for Chicano inventions before--ranching comes to mind--so this isn't surprising.

Has there ever been a lit. conference devoted to Acosta?

msedano said...

Floricanto press is publishing a chicana chicano arte calendar. I wrote the intro and edited the artist bios for the thing. When I see a copy I'll share info on it. It's a beautiful collection.

cindylu said...

I remember reading some of his letters in a Chicano Lit class. I think we read this one too, and of course the Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo.

Xamoht said...
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