Two Questions for Rudolfo Anaya

It could not be otherwise. A monkey man? And no, I didn’t keep a journal. In other words, one can argue that your love of and life with Patricia have now been immortalized. Is there an afterlife?” That theme of wondering what comes next has appeared often in his writings, but there was an urgency and immediacy expressed in this novel that I had not seen in Rudy’s earlier books. It almost feels like a personal journal (though in the third person). Anaya spent two years trying to find a mainstream publisher for the book before going with Berkeley’s Quinto Sol, a publishing house dedicated to the Chicano Movement. The imagination thrives by using the elements of storytelling. Two generations of Latinx writers had been inspired by Anaya to become writers themselves because he proved that our stories matter and could be published and read and appreciated. Writing was a way to spill out the emotions I was experiencing. He is the editor of the anthology Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press), and co-editor of The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tía Chucha Press). My strong suit is writing fiction. Born in New Mexico to a family of ranch hands and farmers, Anaya grew up in rural New Mexico before moving to Albuquerque as an adolescent. I did not think of immortalizing the love my wife and I shared, or at least not until the final chapter. The chapters I wrote are themselves the journal of my journey through grief, love, and memory. Is that one reason you decided to write this book? For many of us who shared in some or all of his cultural touchstones—and who therefore embraced his literature—it felt as though a family member had passed. Dragging his lame leg…” Anaya’s protagonist complains about the decay of his body with honesty, tinged with both humor and fear: “Old people know bathrooms are dangerous places.”
The Old Man’s Love Story is an intense philosophical meditation on death, memory, and meaning, or as Anaya puts it, “Love, grief and memory. In the end he believes he will be with his wife, but I don’t sketch out the geography of his belief. But if the life they once shared lives on only in fading memories, what happens if those memories die?” In your case, this really isn’t an issue because many of those memories are now in this novella that readers can experience (in a sense) for generations to come. Walking around like a chimp on his knuckles. JULY 14, 2020

On June 28, Rudolfo Anaya died in his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As we write what we “really believed happened” we create a story around the experience, and since that past experience now lives in memory, we compose a story (fiction) as we write the memory. Let’s call it a story that grew out of personal experiences that I then wrote from a prose/fiction perspective, that is, my perspective as storyteller. Here is my short interview with the Father of Chicano literature, Rudolfo Anaya, as it appeared in print seven years ago. As a shaman, the old man has caught glimpses of a truer essence beyond the veil that separates different realities. In the preface, you state, in part: “The old man’s wife dies, but her spirit is still with him, and her essence lives in him. It is a book of mourning, based in part on the death of Anaya’s wife of 44 years: “An anguish deep in his soul sprouted and set loose suffocating tentacles. That short but powerful interview then appeared in the print edition of the LARB Quarterly Journal — but it never appeared online. We cannot capture the true experience we write as memoir. But do believe in love. I can say without a doubt that his trailblazing 1972 novel, Bless Me, Ultima, convinced me to start telling my own stories in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Is there an afterlife? “Life ends,” he writes, “like shining from shook foil.” 
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DANIEL OLIVAS: The Old Man’s Love Story grows out of your experiences with the 2010 passing of your beloved wife, Patricia. What he believes of the afterlife is an important theme in the book. If I write the passages in my mind, the old man’s story would grow and grow. Is that what you had become? I am still writing the story every day. Yes, I just called the great writer “Rudy.” And that is because I reached out to him seven years ago to propose a short, email interview for LARB regarding his new novel, The Old Man’s Love Story (University of Oklahoma Press). The Old Man’s Love Story is about love and, yes, death…the death of an old man’s beloved wife after decades of a life together. He had entered a time of grieving, not knowing if it had an end.” 
But it is also a realistic reflection on aging. I only have myself to tell the story. He had not cried since childhood, but now he cried. Let the reader believe what he or she will believe. Yes, some of the memories my wife and I shared are written into The Old Man’s Love Story, but a million other memories are not recorded, and they will never be recorded. The sad, symbolic world of three, the old man’s trinity.” In the midst of the suffering and self-abasement are moments of redemptive poetry. The book by now would be 20 or 30 times bigger. The book was an immediate success and continues to be widely read and assigned in college classes. Rudy.”
So I sent Rudy several questions and he responded in a couple of days. All we write is fiction, and that’s the beauty of writing memories to share with others. The loss he felt wracked his days and nights. Eleven books and one full-length play later, Rudy still inspires me to write.  Daniel Olivas interviewed Anaya about his latest novel, The Old Man’s Love Story. ¤
Daniel Olivas, a second-generation Angeleno, is the author of nine books including, most recently, The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories (University of Arizona Press), and Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press). When I suggested that perhaps it should be introduced with an editor’s note, Tom wrote back: “Why don’t you write one, Daniel?”
I agreed, and you have now read that introductory note. It’s by using the elements of fiction, basic storytelling, that stories come alive. RUDOLFO ANAYA: The publisher called it a novella, some book reviewers have called it a memoir — I guess it’s a mixed genre. We forget everything. The great maw of time swallows everything, and time is a simple concept, or a way of saying, we forget. —Daniel A. Of all the memories ever held by us humans on earth, only an infinitesimal amount survive. Why did you decide to call it fiction rather than a memoir? In response, on June 7, 2013, at 12:14 p.m., he responded with a short email: “Ese, email me questions & thanks. My search for the true nature of reality has led me to believe that memoirs are really fictions. With Rudy’s passing still reverberating through my psyche, I reached out to Tom Lutz on July 3 to see if the interview could be made available on the LARB website, and he agreed.   Death comes to us all; the old man has accepted this natural consequence. Did the manuscript grow out of journal writing? The man commonly referred to as the Father of Chicano literature had been suffering from ill health for a while. Olivas, July 4, 2020
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Two Questions for Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya’s 1972 novel Bless Me, Ultima is one of the foundational texts of Chicano literature. The journey continues. This is a truth the old man learns, and so do I as I tell the story. And in response to one of my questions, Rudy said: “Death comes to us all, the old man has accepted this natural consequence. I did think along the way I was writing to others who had gone through loss of a loved one. Anaya writes about surviving on social security, dealing with ageism, the way an old man can be hard on himself: “You had your chance, chango.