In the late-90s I freelanced for a ‘cafe magazine’ in NYC. The thing was owned by a trust fund guy who was so cheap you literally had to put cold steel to his throat to get him to cut you a $50 check (meanwhile he was buying a duplex on Avenue A). But I digress into class warfare. As with magazine offices everywhere, pretty much every inch of space was crammed with review CDs and books, most forgettable or despicable. One day, I picked up a small novel with a cool cover called ‘Calle 10’ by Danny Romero, and eventually read it. And then read it again. And over the past fourteen years, have read it at least nine times that I can remember.
Three or four years ago I finally got around to looking up the novel and discovered that it hasn’t gotten any of the credit it deserves. Not one of the early reviewers seems to comprehend how hysterically funny it is ( a friend and I were reading it to each other and crying with laughter). And that’s only the beginning. Its unsentimental portrayal of ‘low-life’ in Oakland is pitch perfect and undistorted by pieties or agendas. The opening scene on a bus is a small masterpiece, and there are Beckett-like absurdities throughout. In a better world, Calle 10 would be required reading. It makes me wonder, and not for the first time, about the life experience of those writing book reviews for major publications. Maybe they have trust funds too? I eventually tracked down Romero to find him teaching writing at a college in Sacramento, I believe. I like everything he writes but Calle 10 is up in the stars. It would be a great screenplay. If they could add an extra day to the week – and an extra zero to my bank balance – I would buy the rights and write it.