Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paula Champa

Paula Champa writes on design and the arts. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of literary journals and in the anthology The Way We Work. Her recently published first novel is The Afterlife of Emerson Tang.

Recently I asked her about what she was reading. Champa's reply:
When I’m working on a piece of writing, nearly everything I read is related to the current project. Now that I’ve finished a long work and am free to roam, I’m excited to turn to a waiting stack of both classic and contemporary fiction, from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot to Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden. First, though, I pushed everything aside to read musician Neil Young’s fascinating memoir, Waging Heavy Peace. The book was recommended to me by one of my sisters after she kept finding coincidental connections between some of the passion-projects Young is involved in —his ongoing work to develop an eco-friendly vehicle, the Linc-Volt, as well as an exhaustive effort to archive his artistic output in music and film — with the passions of the main character in my new novel (who is archiving a collection of modernist photography and is secretly involved in the development of a new, clean forms of transportation). I’m a child of the ‘60s and 70s and a fan of Young’s music, so I expected to be interested in what he had to say about his life as an artist. I did not expect to find so many other interesting observations about spirituality, creative perseverance, hopes and regrets. By the end, my copy of the book was fringed with dozens of slips of paper marking passages that resonated with the themes I’d been thinking and writing about myself. Some are devoted to Young’s conviction that advocating for clean transportation is desperately important. As a collector of classic cars, he also appreciates the personal histories that cars can represent: “Every car tells a story. They are all packed with good memories…. Cars all have stories to tell.” Other slips mark Young’s meditations on handling painful setbacks and grief, particularly the death of close friends. Young is known for his distinctive singing voice, and his writing voice is equally unique and honest. You come away with a sense of having sat with him for hours as he circles back on incidents and turning points, building a sense of his own journey with a charming disregard for chronological fidelity. His tale of a life fully and freely lived is tinged with affecting notes of bittersweet poetry, especially when he concludes: “So yes, there has been a lot of loss. It is important to remember the times when life is in full bloom. Those are the moments that give us the faith to move through the darkness when it falls.”
Visit Paula Champa's website.

--Marshal Zeringue