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Author brings dark tone to ABR reading (video)

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 21, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 21, 2013 at 8:22 p.m.

Manuel L. Martinez signs a copy of his book "Drift" during the American Book Review reading series at the University of Houston-Victoria on Thursday. Martinez read from his novel earlier.

ABR 2013 schedule:

Jess Walter - March 21

Walter is a journalist and novelist who specializes in true crime subjects, such as serial killings and the O.J. Simpson trial. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Spokane Spokesman-Review and Newsweek.

Cristina Garcia - April 11

Garcia is a distinguished journalist and fiction writer who has served as an important Cuban-American voice in American literature. She is a professor and chairwoman of creative writing at Texas State University.

Tim Z. Hernandez - April 25

Hernandez is a former painter who later shifted his career to writing and performance art. Hernandez's performances have been featured at the Getty Center, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dixon Place NYC experimental theater and many other venues.

The author brought a dark, powerful tone to a room of curious book-lovers with stories following the lives of migrants, soldiers and troubled youth.

Manuel Luis Martinez, a San Antonio native, was the American Book Review Spring Reading series speaker Thursday at the University of Houston-Victoria.

The author, now a Chicago resident, was joined by his mother and brother who traveled from San Antonio for the reading.

"I still consider this state as my home," Martinez said. "It's where most of the stuff that goes through my head comes from."

A lost weekend spent in Las Vegas was the setting for Martinez's story about returning soldiers coping with their post-traumatic stress at a strip club.

"So many of my students are returning veterans," said Martinez, a former assistant professor of American Literature and Chicano Studies at Ohio State University.

The soldier's story dripped with profanities, graphic imagery and raw, reckless emotion.

UHV publishing professor Kyle Schlesinger said he enjoyed Martinez's dark tone and ability to inject himself into a completely different person's perspective.

"I'm okay with dark," Schlesinger said. "I like that he tries to tell stories that aren't from his own experiences."

Loose, white pages shuffled through Martinez's hands as he read from his work-in-progress called, "Los Duros."

The stories depict the stark differences between the rich and poor living near the Californian community of Mecca, which according to the 2010 U.S. Census has a 98.7 percent Hispanic population.

The book is one of the few times Martinez's has deviated from writing about Texas.

"It's a place where there's a weird juxtaposition of incredible wealth and this kind of poverty that is mind-blowing," Martinez said. "When I got there, I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Eleanor Anderson, a frequent attendee at the ABR readings in Alcorn Auditorium, said the realities presented by the author were quite jarring.

"It's something I don't really want to think about," Anderson said. "His reading was enjoyable, but his books may be took dark for my taste."

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