Antoine Wilson Reads at BookPeople Tonight
Antoine Wilson could write his own ad copy: Tell me you aren't intrigued when he cites Candide and The Jerk as inspirations for his new novel Panorama City.
Panorama City (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24) stars 27-year-old Oppen Porter: large-hearted, curious, and unusually tall. Wilson presents the story as a series of audio cassettes Oppen is dictating for his unborn son Juan-Georges; he's narrating from a hospital bed, where he's convinced he is dying. The tapes amount to the bildungroman recounting of the 40 days he spends in Panoroma City.
Oppen is a bicycle rider, a nature lover, and often bullied. (As a young man, he comforted himself knowing if he was the victim, than someone else was being spared – a kind of simple but true and selfless logic that is the essence of Oppen.) At first he seems a little dim. In fact, he's that rare character who processes information in a unique, utterly unjaded way.
Here's how he describes the bus ride to the titular San Fernando valley community:
"The front windshield was enormous, the bus ate up the road, if I let my vision narrow it felt like riding a very fast bicycle, except without the wind. All I could think about were all the bugs and birds I couldn't see, all of the plants whizzing by in a blur. I missed my bicycle already, bicycle travel was the perfect speed, traveling at this speed was pointless, you missed everything. But then I figured that if I was going to be a man of the world, I should learn to appreciate other modes of transport, I should give the bus a fair shake, and so I opened my eyes and I opened my mind and I saw something I never would have noticed on a bicycle unless I was going very, very fast down a very long hill. Because of the speed of the bus and how I was exerting no effort, the telephone wires on the side of the road, sagging between poles, went up and down with the same rhythm as my heartbeat."
Oppen is a novel creation, and it's a pleasure to nestle in his brain and view the world anew.
Wilson will be at BookPeople this evening (Oct. 11) at 7pm for a reading and signing. He's the inaugural guest of the New Writers Tour, a reading series sponsored by the University of Texas' English Department's Creative Writing MFA program, which is directed by Oscar Cásares (Amigoland). The series isn't the only change afoot at the program: This semester it relaunched under the name the New Writers Project. There's a spiffy new website, too, which you can – and should! – eyeball here.