The debut novel by H.G. Carrillo, Loosing My Espanish (Pantheon), is a rarity: a more than 300-page, meditative, virtually plotless narrative that’s engaging throughout. High school teacher Oscar Delossantos is about to be dismissed, for murky reasons, after 22 years at a Chicago Jesuit boys’ school. He uses his final days there to lecture his students–“exilados, Babcocks, Tylers, too poor to get the fuck out”–on the history of Latin America, from Columbus’s incursions to the politics of his native Cuba. But the lecture also comprises Oscar’s meditations on his own life, from his family’s arrival in Chicago to the onset of his mother’s Alzheimer’s. “Why remain las victimas de la historia when it’s yours to write, yours to control?” he tells his young charges, a sentiment that could well serve as the book’s epigraph. Fluency in Spanglish would certainly help with comprehension (my high school Spanish came back in drifts), but it isn’t required. The long, poetic passages have a hypnotic effect that renders literal understanding beside the point. Carrillo, now teaching English at Cornell, received his bachelor’s from DePaul and returns for this reading. a Thu 11/4, 6 PM, DePaul University, Schmitt Academic Center, room 161, 2320 N. Kenmore, 773-325-4087.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marion Ettlinger.