Ezra E. Fitz : 2LP Conversations

The Morning Side of The Hill

EZRA FITZ PHOTO

What drew you to write a novel with Latino protagonists?

My primary goal with this novel was to pay my respects to William Faulkner’s classic The Wild Palms. But Faulkner is hugely important not only to American literature, but also to literature throughout the Americas in general, both North and South. Jorge Luis Borges chose The Wild Palms as the one Faulkner novel he wanted to translate into Spanish, bypassing more famous works like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom!. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Gabriel García Márquez famously referred to Faulkner as his master. To me, retelling Faulkner’s tale with Latino characters seems like a natural stage of literary evolution, one that mirrors the evolving literary relationship between our twin continents.

How much did you have to contend with the voice in your head that was warning you about the dangers of adopting modes of speech/street idioms from the Latino and African American community without sounding exploitative?

There is always the danger of coming off as exploitative, but for me, the warning from the voices in my head was, “Be accurate, be honest. Your job is to tell the truth. Don’t be judgmental, be understanding.” In The Wild Palms, a Cajun character’s speech is described as “Gobble-gobble, whang, caw-caw-to-to.” There are also Polish miners whose voices sound like “blind erratic birds” communicating with “frenzied and incomprehensible human speech.” But in my novel, I didn’t want to merely describe different forms of dialogue, I wanted to use them, to work with them. The academics can debate the merits of so-called Spanglish and Ebonics. This story takes place on street corners, and I wanted those street corners to sound as accurate and honest as possible.

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