There was Joan Didion—the Didion of those glorious California essays of the sixties.
Because she was from Sacramento and writing about the Central Valley when I first read her, it was she who taught me to imagine my own Sacramento as a literary landscape. There were voices in Saroyan, particularly the wondering boy in Fresno and the hungry writer’s voice in San Francisco, I have never forgotten.
For reasons of my own, I did not, for many years, imagine sex in my writing.
I should mention two other influences crucial for my appreciation of the personal essay. I began with and I never let go of him—through the years of the Negro Civil Rights movement on our small black-and-white TV, then the many decades after.
When I told this to a neighbor, he supposed there must have been some sort of power surge in our part of the city.
Richard Rodriguez Bilingual Education Essay
Maybe because as a writer and journalist I live in a prosaic society, I long ago learned a certain discretion regarding mystery, one not enforced against poets like Auden.I long regarded the desert ecology with a curiosity I gave to no other landscape. I love the semantic paradox proposed by the noun we give to the desert—a place we define by what is no longer there.In a dentist’s waiting room, as a boy, I stopped attending to the shrieking drill behind the pebbled glass window when I beheld photographs of the North African desert in . Once there were seas, once great tribes crossed these plains, great flocks of animals, once angels were as common as herons.If Jesus ever appeared to me, as He appeared to Reynolds Price, I would not mention it here. I remember feeling something like a warm rush of water over my body.All I will tell you is that one summer dawn, in a dark pre-op room at St. I did not levitate but I came close to the joyful lightness of being that the astronaut freed of gravity enjoys.The hideousness of anti-black racism could not undermine the clean line of his prose. I learned from George Orwell that narrative was compatible with the essay, that it was possible to write what I call the “biography of an idea”—and trace the way an idea makes its way through a life.Beginning with my first book and in all the books after, I employed the fictional devices of the short-story writer in writing my essays.But it also opens the soul to a longing for the solitary God who yearns for us.I do not mean to imply a deterministic interpretation of religion, but I cannot write of the Abrahamic religions without writing of the desert. Do you have any advice for younger writers hoping for a career? You are asking me to live in an era other than the one that formed me.And yes, I write of “postlapsarian” California, where I live. In writing about dying newspapers, I end up noticing the decline of the American cemetery, as more and more Americans are being cremated and their ashes are cast to the wind. But I will tell you this: An editor in New York told me the other day that, even as the reading audience for serious prose has diminished, the unsolicited manuscripts she receives are better than ever.And look at those boys and girls of modernity, along with their crazed parents and grandparents, walking up Fillmore Street, consulting their digital toys of “communication,” oblivious to my staring. Even while I think we are leaving the splendid Victorian age of serious popular literature—novels and poetry—we may be entering the Elizabethan Age, when few in London read, but there was an intensity of thought and beauty to the prose, and the poetry, and, of course, the plays.