MS. REBECCA SHEIR
It's about 4,000 miles from Chile's capital, Santiago, to Cuba's capital, Havana. The latter is the birthplace of the man we'll meet next as we present "Bookend," our monthly conversation with local writers about D.C.'s literary scene. This month, Jonathan Wilson met with H.G. Carrillo. Carrillo's first novel, "Loosing My Spanish," focuses on the struggles of Chicago's Cuban-American community. and as we're about to hear, his second novel, which he's putting the finishing touches on now, promises to be very different.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Jonathan often asks writers to meet him someplace where they like to write or that they find inspiring. So Carrillo suggested meeting outside that National Gallery of Art.
MR. H.G. CARRILLO
I did a lot of training as a critic. I did a lot of training as a creative writer. And we're often talking about words in a specific sense, but actually what we're looking to do is to actually suspend an emotive state through time or move an emotive state through time. And so it's one of those things that takes me away from the word, it takes me away from the idea that words are my only vehicle and novels, you know, encompass worlds.
MR. H.G. CARRILLO
You know, they should encompass an entire world and a world has smells and sights and sounds and all of these other things. And if we get hung up on words, we're kind of stuck on this kind of prescriptive, diagnostic thing that actually -- and, you know, we have novels that are completely comprised of, you know, adverbs and adjectives and we're supposed to know how people feel.
MR. JONATHAN WILSON
So how long have you been teaching writing? I think that's an interesting -- not all writers are teachers. How does that fit into what you do?
Well, you know, it's one of those things that you want have a conversation or discussion with people. And before I taught, I actually worked for television and I wanted to have conversations with adults about books and about writing. And I thought, well, probably the easiest way would to be, you know, to go back to school and to train so that I could actually teach and talk to adults about books.
Books and writing and art is a conversation and so that if you can begin to tell people about how those conversations happen, about how that kind of discourse works, then it's a particular kind of training that I think actually helps. I don't know that it's necessarily specific to writing, but it's specific to talking about writing as an art form.
To be honest and fair about it, we're not a city that is recognized as an arts center compared to some other cities. You've been a lot of other places, Buenos Aires, places in the United States. What do you think about D.C. when you're thinking about it as a place to find inspiration?
I like it here, I really do. I like here. There's something so cosmopolitan yet provincial at the same time about D.C. that is ultimately lovely, you know, is ultimately lovely. And, I mean, I lived in Chicago for a very long time. I worked for television so I spent a lot of time in Manhattan and it's nice to have just enough that, you know, and to also have anonymity. I lived in Ithaca, New York for seven years and I had no anonymity. I mean, I couldn't walk out of my -- you know, I was told by my mentor, you know, this is not one of those places you leave your house weeping, everyone in the neighborhood knows about it. Here, you know there's just enough anonymity, but there's also enough familiarity that, you know, you feel comfortable.
So your first novel was "Loosing My Spanish," published in 2004. What are you working on now and how does it compare, if that's a fair word, maybe not, but how is it different?
It basically looks at the idea of Cubans in America, but the idea of the notion of terrorism and when we're in this post, you know, this kind of new idea of how we respond to terrorism and the idea that within a certain portion faction of the Cuban community, within a certain portion of government that if Castro were to die a natural death, then we've failed or we've lost in some sort of way. And that this is kind of changing and it's kind of, you know, looking at it -- and it sights itself on, of course, 9/11, but also a plane that was downed that left Havana going to -- well, it was suspected that Castro was on the plane and seven people organized to have the plane blown up.
Seventy-six people were killed in this plane disaster and three of the people were given sanction in the United States, two of them are still alive here. And I had an opportunity to interview them for the novel and to kind of have this idea of U.S. sanctioned terrorism that, you know, seems to be perfectly fine.
H.G. Carrillo, author of "Loosing My Spanish," the assistant professor of English at George Washington University and also the author of a forthcoming novel that we hope we will see soon. Thank you for making time for us.
Well, thank you for having me. It's been great to be here.
To hear H.G. Carrillo reading some of his work and to hear his thoughts on authors he thinks deserve more attention, visit our website, metroconnection.org. And if you have an idea for a writer we ought to feature on "Bookend," let us know. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send us a tweet, our handle is wamumetro.
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