~Thoughts Without Cigarettes, Oscar Hijuelos
Operating on the principle that it is better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission (is it really?), I quoted from my copy of this book, although I'm not really supposed to, because it's an advance uncorrected proof. So, the above passage may be altered in the final version of the book, or may not even be included. I hope it is included, just as it is.While I haven't read any of Oscar Hijuelos' eight novels (furthermore, I should admit that I never even heard of him before being approached about this tour), Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir sounded interesting to me because the work of this internationally bestselling author is highly acclaimed, and because I also grew up in NYC. Born in 1951 in Morningside Heights, Manhattan to Cuban immigrant parents, Oscar Hijuelos is the first Hispanic (or Latino) to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in 1990, for his second novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. In 1992, it was adapted for the film The Mambo Kings, and as a Broadway musical in 2005. In 2000, he received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature. Credentials like that are hard to ignore.
One of the first things that I noticed and appreciated about the book is that it is full of parenthetical remarks. I like to read them, and I like to employ them, too, in my own writing. They add another level to writing, a subtle undercurrent of thought or feeling, and/or they make you feel as if the author is confiding in you. (I wonder if young aspiring writers learn about or use parentheses much today? Hopefully, yes.)
Oscar Hijuelos is a natural. (Do we say that about writers?) The writing in this memoir seems effortless, organic (is that the right word?), although I know of course it must have been anything but during the actual process. ("Effortlessness" is deceptive--actors who make acting look easy are actually very talented and skillful, and the same is most likely true for writers.) Based on the naturalness of the prose in this book, I am certain that Oscar Hijuelos is a gifted novelist, able to bring people and places to life, as he demonstrates in his memoir with his family and various friends (starting with a friend who began smoking cigarettes at the age of seven or eight). While reading the book, I could understand what he experienced/experiences as a writer--a lot of work that's accompanied by intense joy. I consider myself fortunate to have read this memoir, which is full of anecdotes about the author's life growing up in NYC, as well as thoughts about writing and his career as a writer. I think anyone with an interest in this author or writing would truly enjoy reading this memoir.
Exciting news! Penguin is generously offering a giveaway for a copy of Thoughts Without Cigarettes (U.S./Canada only).
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Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, June 20. One winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday, June 21. Good luck!
Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me this book. For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's Thoughts Without Cigarettes book blog tour.