The Effects of Knut Hamsun on a Fresno Boy: Recollections and Short Essays

Overview

Powerful personal narratives by the renowned author of Living Up the Street.
These small essays are not unlike Dutch paintings of the sixteenth century. They are clear and precisely rendered, and are either thematically domestic scenes or pedestrian in their observations of the ordinary. There is a delirious joy in Soto's writings, and heartbreak. This collection features his much-lauded essays "The Jacket" and "Like Mexicans," along with new essays such as "Childhood Worries, ...
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The Effects of Knut Hamsun on a Fresno Boy: Recollections and Short Essays

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Overview

Powerful personal narratives by the renowned author of Living Up the Street.
These small essays are not unlike Dutch paintings of the sixteenth century. They are clear and precisely rendered, and are either thematically domestic scenes or pedestrian in their observations of the ordinary. There is a delirious joy in Soto's writings, and heartbreak. This collection features his much-lauded essays "The Jacket" and "Like Mexicans," along with new essays such as "Childhood Worries, or Why I Became a Writer," "Getting It Done," and the title essay in which Soto fashions himself to be Fresno's own Knut Hamsun, the Norwegian writer of the 1920s who lived on nothing more than his five senses.
Poet and critic Christopher Buckley said of his poetry, "[Soto has] mastered his form, has found his voice, and has the life experiences to provide meaningful content." He could have been speaking of his prose as well. Soto is at home with the essay; he is able to paint moments that would otherwise seem dull and not worthy of comment. He picks up hitchhikers, sorts through the mystery of finding a wife, and pulls together his wits to solve the hunger of stray dogs. He is tender and outrageous; he is reflective on worldly matters and cagey with his family and friends. In all, his dazzling effects of language will keep the reader continually surprised.These portraits are set in his hometown, Fresno, and in his current residence, the San Francisco Bay area. They therefore mark his time and place, but honor the instincts of the master Knut Hamsun, who walked around his town, a spectacle of wonder.
This volume includes forty-eight pieces: all of the personal narratives formerly collected in Small Faces, the best of Lesser Evils—both volumes long out-of-print—as well as five new essays.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Pensive, yet light-hearted, Soto chronicles tales from his childhood and adulthood. Childhood moments in time that take place in a Mexican barrio rich with music, food and emotion are intricately explored. Soto describes such moments as trying to help a starving dog, or getting a cheap, ugly green jacket with humor and reflection. Essays from Soto's adulthood are just as fun, and beautifully explain the surface reality of life's fragments while Soto gives his own perspective of the underlying story. Genre: Autobiographical Essays. 2000, Persea Books, 224 pages, $12.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Lauren Groot; Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Library Journal
Readers who appreciate the short essay form will love this modestly priced collection, which brings back into print Small Faces and the best of Lesser Evils (both published in the mid-1980s by Arte P blico) and adds five new essays. Soto writes prose and poetry for both adults and young people and counts a National Book Award among his many honors. Here he proves himself a master of the essay form as well. The essays capture small moments of Soto's Latino youth in Fresno, his marriage to a Japanese woman, the birth and growth of his daughter, his relationships with other family members and with friends, and his growing sense of himself as a writer in the tradition of Norwegian Nobelist Knut Hamsun. His language surprises and turns like poetry but without straining for effect. After he meets his wife-to-be's parents the first time, he "felt happy, pleased by it all . Her people were like Mexicans, only different." Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Mary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Essayist and poet Soto provides a series of sketches and vignettes In The Effects Of Knut Hamsun On A Fresno Boy which includes the contents of two previous works in addition to five recent essays published in different journals. The result is a smorgasbord of images and reflections on social issues, growing up in California, and moments of Soto's Latino youth.
Kirkus Reviews
The noted poet, essayist, and fiction writer (Petty Crimes, 1998, etc.) here offers a series of quick sketches, each a thumbnail miniature of the hustle, bustle, dreams, confusion, and beauty of life. Soto's latest collection includes the contents of two previous volumes (Small Faces , 1986, and Lesser Evils, 1988), as well as five recent essays published in various journals. As he ponders the flotsam of events that constitute his life, daily experiences and casual interactions take on a luminous quality. Reader will feel immediate familiarity with the normal and ordinary events, people, and places Soto describes; he avoids banality by infusing these basic patterns with a gentle humor and a deep affection. Falling for the girl plastered on the label of a can of peas, receiving oranges as Christmas presents, eating and drinking with friends, traveling with hitchhikers, and other everyday moments emerge as opportunities to consider the vagaries of life while concurrently appreciating its gifts. There is an occasional misstep, as when Soto pedantically admonishes,"We lose the child of the heart by becoming adults who compromise their dreams for jobs," but such disappointments are more than adequately compensated for by the charm of passages describing the quiet beauty of kissing his daughter's stuffed dolphin's behind, imagining what it would be like to be chastened by a dog, or likening the blowhards at an academic meeting to pieces of talking meat. For the most part, Soto's tone and temperament are sharp, yet genial. The collection concludes with four essays on reading, writing, and readership. Sweet but not saccharine, these reminiscent pieces invite the reader on a journey to thestreetsof Fresno, where the mundane details of existence shine.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892552542
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Soto, author of books for children, young adults, and adults, lives in Berkeley, California. His best-selling fiction includes Baseball in April and Buried Onions.
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