What is introduced as a writing guide becomes something very different in its execution.
As a novelist, creative writing teacher, and founder and director of an experimental theater, Pineda (Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World, 2015, etc.) has a variety of perspectives on the process through which a creative impulse becomes a published work. Her introduction to this book suggests that it is “designed to offer a pathway…you the writers are invited to follow.” Yet the connections among the three different sections that follow are personal, elusive, and tenuous, offering only the vaguest relation to the three stages of writing (emptying, gathering, making something) she introduces. The first section offers her “process memoir of the years 2002-2007,” when she was often traveling in Europe, reuniting with old friends, becoming increasingly enraged by America’s military engagement under George W. Bush and what she viewed as his administration’s criminal neglect of post-Katrina New Orleans. “Tucked away in my backpack, the passport I carry reads the United States,” she writes, “but it’s the passport of a country I no longer recognize.” In the second section, Pineda delves into oral histories of Katrina survivors. “I have listened now to enough folks to recognize that this event is a story that must be told,” she writes. “And told in the voices of the folks whose lives have been forever changed by it.” Those voices could fill a book, and they have filled many—but not this one. The last section is an unusual play dominated by monologues about Japanese villagers whose village has disappeared. “The play presents the reasons for their displacement,” writes Pineda after explaining how the work was initially a novel, before “it decide[d] it want[ed] to become…a work for theater.” Though it has some connection to the author’s own displacement in the first part and to the oral histories of displacement from New Orleans in the second, it mainly confirms that the ways of this particular writer are mysterious indeed.
An odd, disjointed memoir/guidebook about writing.