Cover image for The effects of Knut Hamsun on a Fresno boy : recollections and short essays
The effects of Knut Hamsun on a Fresno boy : recollections and short essays
Soto, Gary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Persea Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
xi, 205 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Karen and Michael Braziller book."
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.O72 Z465 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



These small essays are not unlike Dutch paintings of the sixteenth century. They are clear and precisely rendered, and are either thematically domestic scenes or pedestrian in their observations of the ordinary. There is a delirious joy in Soto's writings, and heartbreak. This collection features his much-lauded essays "The Jacket" and "Like Mexicans," along with new essays such as "Childhood Worries, or Why I Became a Writer," "Getting It Done," and the title essay in which Soto fashions himself to be Fresno's own Knut Hamsun, the Norwegian writer of the 1920s who lived on nothing more than his five senses.Poet and critic Christopher Buckley said of his poetry, "[Soto has] mastered his form, has found his voice, and has the life experiences to provide meaningful content." He could have been speaking of his prose as well. Soto is at home with the essay; he is able to paint moments that would otherwise seem dull and not worthy of comment. He picks up hitchhikers, sorts through the mystery of finding a wife, and pulls together his wits to solve the hunger of stray dogs. He is tender and outrageous; he is reflective on worldly matters and cagey with his family and friends. In all, his dazzling effects of language will keep the reader continually surprised.These portraits are set in his hometown, Fresno, and in his current residence, the San Francisco Bay area. They therefore mark his time and place, but honor the instincts of the master Knut Hamsun, who walked around his town, a spectacle of wonder.This volume includes forty-eight pieces: all of the personal narratives formerly collected in Small Faces, the best of Lesser Evils--both volumes long out-of-print--as well as five new essays.

Author Notes

Gary Soto was born April 12, 1952, and raised in Fresno California. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended Fresno City College, graduating in 1974 with an English degree. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including The Nation, Plouqhshares, The Iowa Review, Ontario Review and Poetry, which has honored him with the Bess Hokin Prize and the Levinson Award and by featuring him in Poets in Person. He is one of the youngest poets to appear in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Soto has received the Discovery-The Nation Prize, the U.S. Award of the International Poetry Forum, The California Library Association's John and Patricia Beatty Award twice, a Recogniton of Merit from the Claremont Graduate School for Baseball in April, the Silver Medal from The Commonwealth Club of California, and the Tomás Rivera Prize, in addition to fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts twice, and the California Arts Council.

For ITVS, he produced the film The Pool Party, which received the 1993 Andrew Carnegie Medal. Soto wrote the libretto for an opera titled Nerd-landia for the The Los Angeles Opera. In 1999 he received the Literature Award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Author-Illustrator Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, and the PEN Center West Book Award for Petty Crimes. He serves as Young People's Ambassador for the California Rural Legal Assistance and the United Farm Workers of America.

Soto is the author of ten poetry collections for adults, with New and Selected Poems a 1995 finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Award. His recollections Living Up the Street received a Before Columbus Foundation 1985 American Book Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Soto is a gifted Chicano writer whose books for children, young adults, and adults have sold more than one-million copies. These 48 short essays and memoir pieces are set in his hometown of Fresno, California, and in the San Francisco Bay area. Most have been published before in either Small Faces (1983) or Lesser Evils (1988), both now out of print; in addition, there are five new pieces, two of them about being a writer. Soto sees his task as "to start Chicanos reading," and the best pieces are snapshots of ordinary life--wry , gentle, intimate, many about family and his role as son, dad, and husband. Never condescending about his childhood self, he writes in "The Jacket" about the pain he still feels at being ridiculed in the schoolyard. In "To Be a Man," he sees his stepfather "dazed by hard labor" and dreams of himself "in a committee meeting among Ph.D.s." The poet is always here, not portentous, but in the cadences of how we talk. --Hazel Rochman

Library Journal Review

Readers who appreciate the short essay form will love this modestly priced collection, which brings back into print Small Faces and the best of Lesser Evils (both published in the mid-1980s by Arte P#blico) and adds five new essays. Soto writes prose and poetry for both adults and young people and counts a National Book Award among his many honors. Here he proves himself a master of the essay form as well. The essays capture small moments of Soto's Latino youth in Fresno, his marriage to a Japanese woman, the birth and growth of his daughter, his relationships with other family members and with friends, and his growing sense of himself as a writer in the tradition of Norwegian Nobelist Knut Hamsun. His language surprises and turns like poetry but without straining for effect. After he meets his wife-to-be's parents the first time, he "felt happy, pleased by it all. Her people were like Mexicans, only different." Recommended for public and academic libraries.AMary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 The Girl on the Can of Peasp. 3
The Jacketp. 6
The Artsp. 10
Left Hand, Right Handp. 13
Animals All Aroundp. 16
Oranges and the Christmas Dogp. 20
2 Like Mexicansp. 29
First Lovep. 34
Secretsp. 37
Moneyp. 41
Finding a Wifep. 44
Colorsp. 48
Going Backp. 50
Junep. 53
Bluep. 56
Waitingp. 59
White Blossomsp. 63
This Man (1)p. 67
My Nephewp. 70
On Our Ownp. 73
Petsp. 77
Taking Noticep. 80
Evening Walkp. 84
3 Dining in Fresnop. 89
The Concertp. 93
Canary, Cat, and Dogp. 96
The Young Poet Under a Treep. 99
The Man on the Floorp. 101
To Be a Manp. 104
This Is Who We Arep. 106
Expecting Friendsp. 111
Pulling a Cartp. 115
Ziggyp. 118
4 This Man (2)p. 123
Piedrap. 126
Firep. 129
Moving Aroundp. 132
Listening Upp. 135
One Thing After Anotherp. 138
The Talking Headsp. 143
Mosesp. 146
Guess Workp. 149
Night Sittingp. 152
Saying Thingsp. 155
5 The Childhood Worries, or Why I Became a Writerp. 161
The Effects of Knut Hamsun on a Fresno Boyp. 175
Getting It Donep. 185
Who Is Your Reader?p. 196
Acknowledgmentsp. 207