The Magic of Blood is a peculiar juju. Early on through the book, it wasn't grabbing me, so I went to a Taco Bell and tried reading it there. I'm a veggie, so the menu didn't offer greater cultural understanding, but something in Dagoberto's stories did kick in. I don't think it was my experiment in method reading. The Carver-vibe really is there, a sharp focus on what makes families and relationships tick, it just took me awhile to get used to how Gilb does it. Part of me wants to say that he's so reflective and stylized that it makes him less captivating than Carver. That could also be a statement way too grounded in my own perceptions and my own lack of familiarity with the world within which the stories take place.
[...] If you'd given me the best six, I would have told you he was a champion of letters the same way others did. Voice of the people? A generation? Well, we all want to help a new writer sell some books, or at least I hope someone will help me when I'm good enough, but the bravado's too much, just like the early stories. Finally, would I publish it? Nope. Then again, brutal honesty tells me that I wouldn't publish Corry (unless he could tie the ends up way more) or Gaitskill (unless she was willing to go way creepier) either. [...]
[...] To go back to The Magic of Blood as a concept, it appears that the stories are simultaneously becoming writing and less preachy. This also comes from a broadening of scope. Part Three is nothing if not a further display of the various flaws and complexities already revealed. Senora” doesn't drift until the last scene. I figure that the shorter the story, the less the ending needs to repeat what's just happened. “They moved on and told this story” (p. [...]
[...] This is one of those situations where weaker stories with similar themes have diluted a stronger one. “Down In The West Texas Town” brings back in the real strengths. It has succinct, short scenes that give a protagonist and linearity. I know I'm enforcing my wants on the text, but I also think it's something Dagoberto does well when he attempts it. The details: cars, construction, skin color, are familiar, but it has crisper pacing. It's as if the stories are placed in a chronological or developmental order. [...]
[...] Maybe the frequent topic of drinking and drugging (which also comes up in the interview) show a wastoid who occasionally slips into lucidity and cranks out a real humdinger and someone was perversely smart enough to put them all at the end. My opinions as a reader and as a writer shift wildly as I go through the collection, and a different order would definitely change the sensations I'm picking up, but my “favorite” stories are in Part Three. It goes back on some of what I've said, but one of Gilb's strengths is that his early authorial persona (which is there, and clogs the Part One stories more than a little) isn't too obvious. [...]
[...] People did notice this well before 1993 when The Magic of Blood came out, but it was very hot, and I believe still is, to be representing a more diverse worldview than the one oft repeated. It's as if books and the ability to read were once hoarded by the rich. As if only the wealthy could have libraries. As if the only way to get wealthy and thereby get a library was to exploit others. Wait. I think all of these things are true. [...]
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