Tuesday, October 18, 2005

CPT and Novels Needed Now, More Than Ever

Michael Sedano

There's a cruel jest that has a small wring of truth in it, the "CPT" stereotype, "Chicano / Colored People Time," that holds we cannot start events at an appointed hour, but linger and delay.

What fun I've had the past couple months, proving the invalidity of CPT.

In association with a group of veteran Chicana Chicano artists--as well as a few newcomers to the chicanarte scene--I've helped put together a 2006 calendar featuring Chicana Chicano art. I started as a naysayer, that we should take a year and dar luz for 2007. The editor and artists would have none of it. "Let's go now!" they said, so we carpéd the diem and here comes the calendar! A la brava or not, it's been a great experience.

The publisher, Floricanto Press of Mt. View, Califas, recently added the piece to its catalog, not CPT, but just in time for the holidays. I wrote the introduction, edited most of the artist biographies, as well as drafting P.R. materials and tending to some of the administrivia attendant in bringing the piece to market. Being a Southern California endeavor, there will be November / December signing events in Eagle Rock, Pasadena, and Los Angeles' Placita--Olvera Street. The artists will do the autographs; the writer is merely window dressing, as it were. I hope the intro's message will be heeded: buy Chicano art.

Meanwhile, CPT (Chicago Publisher's LATimes) has an interesting lit op-ed piece, Literature, more than ever that raises a number of useful topics about fiction, nonfiction, relationships of writer to reader, readers to events outside one's immediate world. Times staff writer David L. Ulin begins provocatively, "There's a moment in the life of every writer when he or she questions the relevance of literature." Ulin relates the writer's block Jane Smiley suffers in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the U.S. Smiley tells Ulin, from her home in lovely Carmel, "'I expected to get back to work. And then, the stuff that came afterward — anthrax, Afghanistan, Iraq — just compounded the feeling of intrusion. It was impossible to get away.'"

Ulin ends the piece with another Smiley remark, "'We don't connect with literature in the intellect,' Smiley says. 'We connect to it where we attach to dogs or boyfriends — at the deeper level of the self. The desire we have for long narrative forms is intrinsic; it's a natural human thing. A lot of people worry about the future of the novel, but I don't. It's a part of who we are.'"

I found one paragraph troubling for its futility. Ulin writes, "In her (Jane Smiley's) view, there's a political component here, since the more empathy we develop, the more likely we are to understand opposing attitudes. 'If you have leaders who don't read novels,' Smiley says sharply, 'look what big trouble you get into. They can't imagine other points of view.'

Futility, I say, because the sentiment is wasted on gente who do not read.

Ulin's article may have provoked me because I'm in the middle of reading Salvador Plasencia's The People of Paper, wondering where in the world this writer gets his ideas--parental divorce? a broken romance? fighting through writer's block? a history of enuresis? Now, if you're wondering where that last sentence comes from, you'll have to sink your eyes into Plasencia's novel, and make the conecta for yourself. Like a dog?

Read! Raza. Hasta mañana, which is good enough for some of us.



daniel olivas said...

the calendar looks amazing. a perfect holiday gift. will it be available at most bookstores? amazon?

Manuel Ramos said...

Very thoughtful post. Thanks. I'll get me a calendar, maybe several (by mail I assume, unless you all are going nation-wide, or at least Aztlan-wide retail?) The op-ed piece seems to be saying that reading and writing are good things - no argument there - and that writers can be affected by what's going on in the real world. Really? The important thing is the writer's response, but that's the important thing for anybody. How do we respond, do we respond at all? Plascencia's book: I'm reading it, too. The author stirred up some previous discussion here on La Bloga, one day we should have a conversation about the book. Right now I'm in the "mixed" frame of mind about it - and I'm at my 50 page limit for deciding whether I continue. Finally: Dean Martin? Mañana personified.

Aaminah said...

All I can say is GRACIAS!!!!!!!!! I found your blog via SunniSister (www.sunnisisters.com/sunnisister/) and was so happy to find a blog chock full of info on Latino/Latina authors (even if yours is strictly Chicano/Chicana).

The calendar looks beautiful and I look forward to getting one.