Friday, May 16, 2008

More Firsts


Daniel Olivas began this week on La Bloga with a great column that featured the first lines of several novels. Daniel's post conveyed respect and admiration for all of the writers he included in his post; it was a very nice way of acknowledging writers and their writing. In fact, I thought it was such a good idea that I am going to steal it for today's post.

Below are first lines from a few novels I have enjoyed and still have on my shelves. I won't name the writer or the book but I invite you to send in the missing information. And when you do, say something about the book - maybe why it stuck in your head. It shouldn't take long for the answers to show up in La Bloga's comments -- the writers and books are familiar to many of you. And, remember, I am partial to what is called "classic" Chicano/a Lit.

1. That year was lost to him. At times he tried to remember and, just about when he thought everything was clearing up some, he would be at a loss for words. It almost always began with a dream in which he would suddenly awaken and then realize that he was really asleep. Then he wouldn't know whether what he was thinking had happened or not.

2. La Loca was only three years old when she died. Her mother Sofi woke at twelve midnight to the howling and neighing of the five dogs, six cats, and four horses, whose custom it was to go freely in and out of the house. Sofi got up and tiptoed out of her room. The animals were kicking and crying and running back and forth with their ears back and fur standing on end, but Sofi couldn't make out what their agitation was about.

3. High in the mountains in northwest Mexico, an Indian named Espirito followed a doe and a fawn in search of water. The spring in the box canyon where Espirito and his tribe lived had dried up.

4. What I have from 1956 is one instant at the Holiday/ Theater, where a small dimension of a film, as in/ A dream, became the feature of the whole. It/ Comes toward the end ... the café scene, which/ Reels off a slow spread of light, a stark desire

5. Luisa and I found the child lying on his side in a fetal position. He was about four years old, with curly, soft brown hair falling over his forehead, and partly covering his brows and long lashes. Small, round and still showing those tiny dimples that baby fat forms around the joints, his left hand rested on his head. He was wearing a Mickey Mouse watch on his wrist, marking 3:39 in the afternoon. Four minutes ahead of mine. His right arm partly covered his face, pulling his T-shirt up over the roundness of an over-sized liver. A soft, sleeping, brown cherub, so like my Tania, probably napping back home at that very moment.

6. Hey! World!!!* ... by way of self/me presento ...
"hoping not to conjure up visions of ogres & monsters in your mind, i'm a 37 yr. old, 3rice convicted, narcotics (offended!) offender. Sounds like some kind of nasty, no? i'm also a human being. ..."

7. I awoke from a restless sleep. For a moment I couldn't remember where I was, then I heard Filomón and Clepo talking up front and I felt the sway of the old ambulance. I tried to turn my body, but it was impossible. Upon waking it was always the same; I tried to move but the paralysis held me firmly in its grip.

8. Fausto lifted his left arm and examined the purple splotches. Liver. Liver caused them. He tugged at the largest one, near the wrist. His fingertips raised the pouch of skin as if it were a small, wrinkled tent. He tugged harder, expecting the tissue to tear. The skin drew tight at the elbow. Slowly it began to rip, peeling from the muscle. No blood. The operation would be clean, like slipping off nylon hose. He always had trouble removing chicken skins, but this, he could see, would be easier.

9. Straightening the ruffles on the curtains, she could not forget it. Stirring the soup in the kitchen while Josefina bit her lips and waited for her to leave, she could not forget it. Sewing the torn lace back onto the hem of one of her daughter's petticoats, she could almost forget it, but Estela cringed every time she remembered the hurt, closed look on Zacarías' face as she tried to talk to him.

10. It was a morning late in June. The flat, salty llano spread as far as the eye could see ahead and to the right. To the left it was bordered by the chaparral, which encroached upon the flats in an irregular, wavering line. Along the edge of the chaparral wound the road, and down the road four Texas Rangers were riding. Their horses' hooves stirred the flour-fine dust, and it rose and covered their beards, penetrated down their shirt collars despite the blue bandannas around their necks, lay in a thin film on their rifle-stocks and the big handles of their revolvers. One was a middle-aged man with a John Brown beard; two were sour-looking hardcases in their thirties; the fourth was a boy in his teens, with more dust than beard upon his face. At first sight one might have taken them for cutthroats. And one might have not been wrong.

Okay, who wrote the words above, and in what books?


Time: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Location: Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue
Rudy Garcia, a bilingual teacher in Denver and the author of LAX Confidential, and Manuel Ramos, author of several crime-fiction novels and the Director of Advocacy for Colorado Legal Services, will read from and sign the new collection Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature ($20.00 Bilingual Review Press). Edited by Daniel A. Olivas, this anthology brings to life Latino denizens of Los Angeles and the city's surrounding communities.

Request a signed copy:



Rebel Girl said...

Okay - I'll start:

4) Tino Villanueva - Scene from the Movie Giant

(I just taught it!)


Manuel Ramos said...

Rebel Girl is the first to name a first. Congratulations. I taught this book a time or two myself; students always liked it, especially when they compared the book to the actual scene. Thanks for playing.

msedano said...

SWAG. #2, is it Castillo's So Far From God? I remember the dead girl flying to the rafters in that one. #3, might it be Rain of Gold, Villaseñor? #5 reminds me of the murdered infant in Corpi's Eulogy for a Brown Angel, though I think the police riot at Laguna Park was the opener, and the character was running sola.

Those are my best guesses, I guess.


Manuel Ramos said...

Michael, your best guesses are also the right guesses,including Eulogy For A Brown Angel. Good job. If I were grading this quiz, I'd have to give extra credit for #8 and #10. Anyone?

Rebel Girl said...

I'm back - and going for those extra credit points.

#8 - The Road to Tamazunchale - Ron Arias.

(And yes, my students love the Villanueva poem - and we watch sections of the film too.)

Manuel Ramos said...

Correcto - very good. Rebel Girl at the head of the class.

JAC said...

1 is _ . . .y no se lo tragó la tierra_ and 10 is _George Washington Gómez_, no?

Manuel Ramos said...

John - you are right. #1 is the classic by Tomás Rivera, and #10 is the novel written in the 1930s by Américo Paredes. Very good.