January 21, 2015
The imaginary Yoknapatawpha County thanks Faulkner for immortalizing her singular contours, born of imperial, sexual, and business conquests. A few years later, and a few miles southwest, the Mexican-American author ROLANDO HINOJOSA (born 1929) began doing the same thing for Klail City, Texas. From Estampas del Valle (The Valley, 1973), a contemporary classic that memorializes a place and a people in a way that I can only compare to James Joyce’s writing, to We Happy Few (2006), the multi-volume Klail City Death Trip series has woven a literary tapestry of stories about the entrepreneurs, cops, writers, fiends, fools, and scoundrels from both sides of the US-Mexico border who populate the (non-imaginary) Lower Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa’s range is singular; he has an almost hallucinogenic literary aptitude when it comes to describing life in the scorched borderlands “so far from God, so close to the United States,” as Porfirio Diaz put it. His superimposed vignettes are reminiscent of Michael Lesy’s 1973 photograph collection Wisconsin Death Trip, a cult classic that emphasizes the harsh aspects of rural life. Hinojosa says that what he did was simply to “introduce the reader to the place and its people”; but in fact what he’s done is capture in prose the living rhythm of a part of the country heretofore (and most often) ignored, a part of the country itself currently rewriting the history and destiny of Tío Sam’s DNA.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).