- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Oscar Hijuelos has enchanted readers with vibrant characters who hunger for success, love, and self-acceptance. In his first work of nonfiction, Hijuelos writes from the heart about the ...
Oscar Hijuelos has enchanted readers with vibrant characters who hunger for success, love, and self-acceptance. In his first work of nonfiction, Hijuelos writes from the heart about the people and places that inspired his international bestselling novels.
Born in Manhattan's Morningside Heights to Cuban immigrants in 1951, Hijuelos introduces readers to the colorful circumstances of his upbringing. The son of a Cuban hotel worker and exuberant poetry- writing mother, his story, played out against the backdrop of an often prejudiced working-class neighborhood, takes on an even richer dimension when his relationship to his family and culture changes forever. During a sojourn in pre-Castro Cuba with his mother, he catches a disease that sends him into a Dickensian home for terminally ill children. The yearlong stay estranges him from the very language and people he had so loved.
With a cast of characters whose stories are both funny and tragic, Thoughts Without Cigarettes follows Hijuelos's subsequent quest for his true identity into adulthood, through college and beyond-a mystery whose resolution he eventually discovers hidden away in the trappings of his fiction, and which finds its most glorious expression in his best-known book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Illuminating the most dazzling scenes from his novels, Thoughts Without Cigarettes reveals the true stories and indelible memories that shaped a literary genius.
Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Hijuelos (Beautiful Maria of My Soul, 2010, etc.) revisits the people and experiences whose confluence created his most celebrated work, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989).
The author's life did not begin propitiously. The son of Cuban immigrants, he developed a debilitating case of nephritis after a boyhood visit to Cuba. After a year in a convalescent hospital, he was finally able to return home, where his mother, a complex figure whom Hijuelos spent decades trying to understand, protected him ferociously. But the author celebrates his father, notably in the book's dazzling final paragraph. Hijuelos recalls an odd ambivalence about the Spanish language. Able to comprehend it completely, he refrained from speaking it throughout his boyhood, feeling costive whenever he tried. An indifferent student in childhood, he driftedaimlessly through Harlem's schools, finding himself in and out of a variety of scrapes—fighting, smoking, drinking, some dealing. He took up the guitar, found he had talent, and credits this discovery as the first of several that preserved him. After high school, he bounced around, then began some off-and-on undergraduate programs, beginning at Bronx Community College, eventually ending up at CCNY, where he got into a writing seminar with Donald Barthelme, who became a longtime friend. From then on, good fortune hovered nearby, and he met numerous literary luminaries. He eventually crossed paths with just about everyone from the era—Vonnegut, Mailer, Gardner, Irving. His adolescent memories percolate with sex—with his encounters, his fantasies and even with some graphic recollections involving, in one case, whipped cream, in another, a bride who entertains a wedding guest most generously. The tale ends withthe publication of Mambo Kings, its wild reception and its amazing aftermath—and with a stirring condemnation of a literary world that ignores Latino writers.
Uneven—but with peerless evocations of people and of a struggle to find a voice.
A Prelude of Sorts xiii
Part 1 The Way Some Things Worked Out
Chapter 1 When I Was Still Cuban 3
Chapter 2 A Few Notes on My Past 53
Chapter 3 Some Moments of Freedom 99
Chapter 4 Childhood Ends 127
Part 2 What Happened Afterward
Chapter 5 Getting By 177
Chapter 6 My Two Selves 193
Chapter 7 My Life on Madison Avenue 235
Chapter 8 Out House in the Last World 267
Chapter 9 Roma 289
Chapter 10 Another Book 323