Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What You See in the Dark, by Manuel Muñoz

I don't understand why this novel just sunk and got no attention. I loved it. And I only found it because I went searching for something I could teach next year, ideally by a Chicano author. On someone's list, I ran across this title, and while I'm not going to teach it (not right now, anyway--though I think it would be so fun to teach! with the film tie-in... but yeah), I'm going to buy a copy for my classroom library, and I'm just so glad I read it. And glad it got written--glad someone wrote and published it. It's a strange little outside-the-box novel, several narrative threads tied together, set in Bakersfield, California in the late 1950s. One story is that of Janet Leigh, out with Alfred Hitchcock shooting scenes for Psycho. Another story is that of Arlene Watson, waitress at a local café, mother of Dan Watson, local heartthrob. Dan is dating Teresa, a local Chicana girl. Everything ties together and it's creepy enough that I'm reluctant to say more. But read it--a quick, fun, interesting read.

In his awesome bio on his website, Muñoz says he grew up in California's Central Valley, in a family that worked in the fields, and he was a bookworm who treasured library books; "I now see why I was so fascinated by two books in particular when I was young: L. Frank Baum's terrifically illustrated The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in grade school and, in high school, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. Both opened with departures."

I'm going to figure out a way to teach Muñoz's books somewhere down the line. In the meantime, I'm going to read the three he's written so far, and wait eagerly for the next novel.


ccp said...

Thanks for sharing! I just placed holds on his two books. xo, celia

Elissa said...

Right? Why didn't we ever hear of him? Guessing you hadn't heard of him either?