The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Rodriguez’

Regarding Mystery: An Interview with Richard Rodriguez

September 9, 2014 | by

WEB_FINAL_RR_8872

Photo: Timothy Archibald

In San Francisco earlier this spring, I’d hoped to meet the essayist Richard Rodriguez, the author of The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father, Brown: The Last Discovery of America, and, most recently, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography, which has just been published in paperback. Though he’s largely associated with his early stances against affirmative action and bilingual education, not to mention his regular appearances on the PBS NewsHour, Rodriguez, who turned seventy in July, has had a wide-ranging career, and I wanted to discuss the shift of his work from cultural identity to religion. But our schedules were tricky to coordinate, and then I lost my wallet. “Pray to St. Anthony!” Rodriguez immediately wrote. (The wallet was recovered by one of the famous bellmen at Sir Francis Drake Hotel. “St. Anthony dressed as a beefeater,” as Rodriguez put it.) Instead, we corresponded for several weeks.

I was excited and surprised by Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography. I had seen you referred to as a Mexican-American writer, a Californian writer, and a gay writer, but never, until recently, as a religious writer. Have you always considered yourself a religious writer? 

Of course, I haven’t, until lately, considered myself a “writer”—in the grand sense. For most of my writing life, I have stood truly, if uneasily, on American bookstore shelves as a sociological sample—shelved “Latino” between a gangbanger’s book of poetry and the biography of a Colombian drug lord. Only in recent years, as it has become clear to me that so few people I know read books, have I been struck by the fact that I am a writer.

My sense of being religious is older. From boyhood, particularly my lower-middle-class childhood in Sacramento, I was transported by religion into the realm of mystery. Consider this: The Irish nun excused me from arithmetic class so that I could serve as an altar boy at a funeral mass. Along with the priest and the other altar boy, I would welcome Death at the doors of the church. We escorted Death up the main aisle. I later went with the cortege to the cemetery. There was a fresh pile of soil piled high at the edge of the grave site, discreetly, if unsuccessfully, covered by an AstroTurf rug that was as unconvincing a denial of the hardness of time as a cheap toupee. I wondered at the mourners’ faces—the melting grief, the hard stoicism. Thirty minutes from the grave, I was back within the soft green walls of Sacred Heart Parish School. It was almost lunchtime. I resumed my impersonation of an American kid. Read More »

7 COMMENTS

What We’re Loving: Giant Dollhouses, Literary Art, Sade

June 29, 2012 | by

Literature is trending in the New York art world right now. One show in Chelsea takes its cue from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, and another borrows its title and raison d’être from Henry Miller’s “Stand Still Like a Hummingbird.” In the latter show, at David Zwirner, a work by Mason Williams from 1967 consists of a life-size silkscreen print of a Greyhound bus that can either be hung on the wall as a mural or folded and placed in a box. It seems, to me, to be analogous to much of literature—a picture of the larger world that is neatly held within an object whose diminutive size belies the limitless scope within it. The work weights more than ten pounds, which means it’s still heavier than a six-pack of Proust or a hardcover Larousse Gastronomique. —Nicole Rudick

This week, I revisited Richard Rodriguez’s memoir, Brown: The Last Discovery of America, and found that it’s as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 2002. Rodriguez explores the problem of being read primarily through his racial and sexual identity. He argues that the belief that only your demographic doppelgänger can address or portray you is counter to the function of literature, which allows moments of recognition between two very particular—and therefore different—lives. “Auden has a line,” he writes. “Ports have names they call the sea. Just so, literature will describe life familiarly, regionally, in terms it is accustomed to use […],” but ultimately, has “only one subject: What it feels like to be alive.” Rodriguez’s politics, when you agree with them and especially when you don’t, are stimulating and certainly worth the patient reading they demand. —Alyssa Loh

There are a few things I love so dearly that finding out someone doesn’t like them can make it instantly very difficult for me to relate to that person. “By Your Side” by Sade is one of them. The song has magical soothing powers. It’s a bit like being inside during a summer storm, wrapped in a blanket and watching rain graze the windowpane. (You probably shouldn’t tell me if you don’t like it.) —Anna Hadfield

Even though Thessaly recommended Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies last week, I have to pile on! I've rarely been so wholly consumed by a reading experience. Shapton’s vivid description of a moment during a swim practice brought me back to my own high school pool on one of hundreds of winter nights: the soupy chorine-thick smell, the familiar feeling of sweating while in water, and the refreshing wave of winter cold hitting me as I made a flip turn at the far end of the pool. I dog-eared the passage; by the end I had folded down more page corners than were left unturned. In evocatively describing things like sliding around in sheets after shaving your entire body or the ability to know one’s status by the type of goggles, Swimming Studies brings the solitary activity of swimming into everyday life.  It isn’t a sports book; in Swimming Studies the author has created a place for athlete and artist to coexist. —Emily Cole-Kelly

Several friends who know me well sent me this photo gallery, and they were right on the money: I’m enraptured by Canadian artist Heather Benning’s conversion of an abandoned farmhouse into a giant, open-sided dollhouse. —Sadie Stein

[tweetbutton]

[facebook_ilike]

3 COMMENTS