The Bearded Truth | Oh Captain, My Captain

November 2nd, 2009

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I’m back. And married. Sorry for the lapse in genius. But, let’s be honest, that started a long time ago. I keep writing anyway. Which is the point of today’s post — writing.

November means a few things; namely that I get to sleep in an extra hour on Sundays before football starts (I’m abolishing daylight savings time when I become President). November also means that there are less than 60 days to nail down a New Year’s Resolution. I haven’t decided exactly what it is that I’ll be committing to for 12 months (read: 30 days), but I know that there are a couple things high on the list.

First, my wife Kim and I are contemplating participating in a 100 Mile Diet. With the Phoenix Public Market’s Urban Grocery and Wine Bar now a fully stocked five-day-a-week store, finding local produce and meat is easier than finding excuses not to contribute to a stronger Phoenix and more sustainable earth. If going local is high on your list of things to do in 2010, check out the Local First Arizona Fall Festival on Saturday, November 7.

Second on the list, and one that I could use some help with, is writing. Last week, I went to go see the movie New York, I Love You. It was a collection of short films with love stories and New York at the center of each plot — sort of an homage to Paris, Je T’aime. And, it got me thinking of movies, TV shows, novels and stage plays that treat their locale as a character itself. There’s CSI: New York and CSI: Miami. NCIS puts Los Angeles on display while NBC’s Trauma highlights San Francisco in a way that hasn’t been done since Mary-Kate and Ashley were in diapers. In a similar fashion, Jonathon Larson’s Rent brought New York’s East Village to life the same way Carrie Bradshaw talks about being in a relationship with Manhattan when she’s without a man (but, I don’t watch Sex in the City… promise).

And, don’t get me started on literature. Any good novel relies heavily on its location for fodder (and, for that matter, bad ones do, too — see: any Dan Brown book). Point is, a good place makes for a good story; and intuitively, I’m trusting that the reverse is true. Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg not only wrote drug-induced sentence fragments about self-realization, but each also wrote about the city he lived in — the city he loved.

We have an outstanding portfolio of visual and performing artists in the Phoenix area, but I think it’s time for a writing renaissance in the Valley. Or maybe it’s already happening. One thing for sure: I can promise no genius from my end, but my hope is that if we convince enough people to write about the city they live in (the city they love?), we can add one more piece to this evolving puzzle that is bringing Phoenix to the 21st century.

What do you say? You in?

  • http://downtowntphoenixjournal.com Tyler Hurst

    You know it’s NaNoWriMo, NaBloPoMo and NaPodPoMo, right?

  • Steve

    Hasn’t Jon Talton made a fiction-writing career of this?

  • http://www.yuriartibise.com Yuri Artibise

    Phoenix actually has quite a strong literary tradition. Biut like most good things in the Valley, it is far flung and hard to find.

    To start with, a classic Valley read is Glendon Swarthout’s “The Cadillac Cowboys”

    For ‘fun’ fiction, Be sure to check out Jon Talton’s David Mapstone novels, which are set in Phoenix and draw on out history and landscape for inspiration. As well the recently published “Phoenix Noir,” is a collection of short stories set in the city by authors with connections to Phoneix. Also Mabel Leo has written a few books on local legend Jack Durant, and John Myers Myers’ wrote “I Jack Swilling” based on the life of the founder of Phoenix.

    Also Erma Bombeck’s columns from the 60′s give a interesting perspective of life in surburban Phoenix during the cities first big boom. Laurie Notaro’s column for the New Times in the 1990s (and series of books based on them, including Dairy of a Fat Bride) echo the voices of many of the ‘Gen X’ crowd who lived here in the 1990′s)

    For more serious works, start with Stella Pope Duarte’s “Let their Spirit Dance.” Also check out Alberto Vea’s La Maravilla. As well Alberto Rios has written some great poetry about life in the Valley and AZ more generally, and Guillermo Reyes has written numerous plays, including “Places to Touch Him.”

    In terms of film, How Stella Got her Groove back is set (and filmed) in Phoenix, and does a great job of portraying daily middle class life in the city..

    Here’s a link to a list of some critical reviews on writings about Phoenix. http://www.public.asu.edu/~atdwf/phoenix/writingphx.html

    Nevertheless, there is always room for more and a need for the next generation to develop their own literary voices about living in the urban desert.

    So count me in (as a co-conspirator, not necessarily as a literary writer :-) )

    Yuri

  • Steve

    “In terms of film, How Stella Got her Groove back is set (and filmed) in Phoenix, and does a great job of portraying daily middle class life in the city..”

    Don’t you mean “Waiting to Exhale”? Never saw either, but do know that “Waiting..” was shot in Phoenix. Forrest Whittaker was the director..

    • http://www.yuriartibise.com Yuri Artibise

      Thanks Steve, I did indeed mean Waiting to Exhale. I got my Terry McMillan works mixed up.

  • http://www.phoenixdowntownjournal.com Sam Richard

    @Yuri

    Thanks for the reading list – I wasn’t aware of all the great stuff already happening. I think I wanted to believe it intuitively, but didn’t even know where to begin. Thanks!