American Lit

Reading about John Fante Square being inaugurated on 5th and Grand I remember the passionate racial fights between Bandini and his Mexican girlfriend. Soon after, Kerouac comes into mind smoking marijuana in the desert heat of a Mexican afternoon, the gratifying pleasure he felt after eating the refried beans made by his Mexican girl. These page-turned memories rising on the same heat-rippled smoke of mirage like driving on the 15 into The Cajon Pass. Back in the city, Hunter Thompson’s friend, Oscar Zeta Acosta’s, attorney-rants in Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo, the Juarez prison cell, the judge demanding for him to learn his father’s language: Spanish. How many other aspects of American literary culture have been ignored, or forgotten, even by Chicano Studies courses, let alone more traditional literature classes, I ask myself?

Submitted by M. Saldivar Galindo

3 thoughts on “American Lit

  1. Ironic isn’t it? Dismissed and forgotten by and large, yet maybe the most telling and introspective tale of all American and Hispano culture, is the true account by the Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nun~ez Cabeza de Vaca. The first literature written about what is now the Southwest USA and Northern Mexico. I prefer the Haniel Long translation from Spanish, “Interlinear to Cabeza de Vaca” the tale of a once warlike Spanish Conqueror who is abandoned and lost, captured and enslaved by the Native Americans, stripped down physically and mentally to nothing, then discovers he is capable of healing and and curing the sick and dying, and becomes a changed man.
    The forward by Henry Miller is especially powerful.
    “the worst, as the Interlinear rightly emphasizes, lay in parting little by little with the thoughts that clothe the soul of a European, and most of all the idea that a man attains a strenth through dirk and dagger …”
    How eloquent are the Spaniard’s simple words when, near the end of the Journey, he meets up with other members of the expedition who had been laying waste the land and leading the Indians into slavery.
    “In facing these marauders”, he writes, “I was compelled to face the Spanish gentleman I myself had been eight years before.”

  2. This is definitely one of the good posts that has been neglected. My hidden treasures of American Lit would include the following books/novels that give glimpses of old eastside l.a.: Anthony Quinn’s “Original Sin”, Joseph Wambaugh’s “The New Centurions”, Danny Santiago’s “Famous All Over Town” and Ron Arias’ “The Road to Tamuzanchale.” Dell Shannon’s Detective Luis Rodriguez series of police procedurals give detailed descriptions of old L.A..Floyd Salas’ “Tattoo the Wicked Cross” is a memorable, brutal look at life in a California Juvenille Hall. Those come immediately to mind.

  3. Definitely Arias’ Road to Tamazunchale is an overlooked work that really deserves more attention in both Chicana/o Studies/Lit and in general; Raúl Homero Villa provides a really interesting spatial analysis of the novel in Barrio-Logos.

    John Rechy’s work is important here too. City of Night, etc.

    but I think this post is getting at something a little different, a kind of sideways opening, the overlooked irruption of lo Mexicano into the smooth fabric of non-Chicana/o “American” writing, rather than just straight-up Chicana/o writing that’s been overlooked. or maybe it’s kind of mixing the two, since the reference to OZA etc. complicates it a little, either way, interesting to think about.

    anyway to extend to “literary” films: The Exiles (1961) is a must-see along these lines.

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