Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

CRC Analysis on WELCOME TO SAINT ANGEL by William Luvaas . . .



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Welcome To Saint Angel excerpts in this font

William Luvaas quotes from Email Interview with CRC Blog on June 18, 2018 in this font


CRC Blog on William Luvaas’s
Welcome To Saint Angel
Home:  A Well of Everlasting Chances”
      Anaphora Literary Press published William Luvaas’s environmental fiction novel Welcome To Saint Angel on March 15, 2018, with book design by Anna Faktorovich, PhD. and copy editing by Clare MacQueen.
       Luvaas has published three other fiction novels:  The Seductions of Natalie Bach by Little Brown; Going Under by Putnam; and Beneath The Coyote Hills by Spuyten Duyvil.  He’s also published two short story collections:  A Working Man’s Apocrypha by University Oklahoma Press and Ashes Rain Down: a story cycle by Spuyten Duyvil.  

Anaphora Literary Press describes Welcome to Saint Angel as “a dead-serious comedy about development gone mad and townsfolk’s – sometimes lethal – battle to protect their precious rural community from bulldozers and climate change deniers.  Part environmental fiction, part social satire, it speaks to exurban sprawl and the heedless development of fragile natural areas – and to the value of community, another endangered species.” (Left-Box of Welcome to Saint Angel copies attributed and copyright granted by William Luvaas)
The idea for Welcome Saint Angel came to William Luvaas when he was living in Riverside County, California, 80 miles east of Los Angeles: 
It’s high desert country, chaparral and rugged mountains.  Summer days are extremely hot, but it cools off in the evenings.  This was at the height of the housing boom before the ‘07-08 crash.  
They were building huge housing tracts everywhere: ugly identical houses crowded together cheek by jowl out there in the wide open spaces, no landscaping, no soul.  It was painful to watch our peace and space being violated, the owls and coyotes chased off, olive and palm trees cut down. 
I have always lamented our lack of respect for the natural environment, which is the home we can’t do without.   What a foolish direction to be moving in: building houses a hundred miles from where people work and golf courses in the desert.  Madness.  We fought one of these developments in our own rural neighborhood.  And stopped it.  The whole neighborhood rose up, like people do in my novel.”
Wealthy and greedy developer and owner of Saint Angel Land Company Ches Noonen is buying everything he possibly can from Saint Angel so he can turn the small tight-knit community into a money making suburbia including houses, malls, swimming pools, and golf courses, which require a huge amount of water supply in a desert of 50,000 inhabitants that are already struggling to maintain a survival rate of water during the desert’s hottest drought. (Right:  An image of San Jacinto in Riverside, Los Angeles, California in what William Luvaas views as his Saint Angel.  This image has been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only.)


(The above two images have been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only.) 

Naturalist and preservationist and resident Al Sharp refuses to sell his lands right and water rights despite the pressure from Ches Noonan and his cronies.  Soon Al’s friends join him in the fight:  Soboba Indian married couple Sage and Wynona Littlefeather, Sam Jenson, Jesus freak Rob Thompson, Mexican-American computer hacker Tinkerspoon, and Vietnam Vet Little Lester.   
       Al Sharpe, the co-narrator of Welcome to Saint Angel, has had a life of losses – one of which is the loss of his wife first to her lover and then to her death in an airplane crash.  The one thing that saves Al Sharpe is their daughter Finley whom Al Sharpe christened after his favorite novel Finnley Wren by Philip Wylie.
Al and Finley live a simple existence to some others but to them it is a rich existence– Finley has her own 800 square foot tree house built on a 30-foot-black massive oak at the mouth of the canyon – the entrance to Al’s own farmhouse-turned-cottage, partially handmade by Al himself and made up of the desert’s own canyon walls.  (Right:  Al Sharp with his pet pig Wallers in his cave home after an argument with lover Mona.  This image has been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only)

Finley and I slept in a tent those first three months, while I salvaged what I could from the house and redid the roof and interior of an adobe cottage with two-foot-thick-walls built by some early mestizo squatter far back off the road.  I christened the place “Second Chance Acres.”
“Second chance for what, Daddy?”
“For doing it right this time. To be self -employed and avoid relationships where I’m considered comic relief, to love you as much as two people combined.”
Page 25.

The one thing that Al has at Second Chance Acres that is more valuable than gold and money is water – in the form of his own well – one of the few wells that are not in the control of the greedy developers.  Al describes his well as having its living source from below his own ground, deep in the ocean, which has been drinking snowmelt from the mountains for millions of years. (Above Left: diagram attributed to schillerinstitute.org.  Fair Use)

Fossil water.  It tastes like time, our water.  Mine, one of the few remaining wells in the valley that doesn’t belong to the major ranchers and land magnates (which is to say Ches Noonan and Cal Hale and associates) or wells on the rez.
Page 10

Al’s abode is in the beautiful high desert in a valley of Southern California known as Santa de Rosa de Los Angeles, also known as Saint Angel.  Al’s physical, emotional, and spiritual ties to this land and his home is part of his identity.  (Right:  This image has been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only)
It only seems fitting that Luvaas gives Saint Angel its voice as co-narrator along with Al Sharpe in the novel Welcome to Saint Angel: It occurred to me that since the town of Santa Rose de Los Angeles is one of the most important characters in the book, and the most endangered in a way, it should have a voice.  Moreover, I wanted to be able to look into the lives of characters beyond Al Sharpe, who narrates much of the story in first person, to tell the reader things about them that Al couldn’t know.  So Saint Angel is the omniscient, all-seeing perspective.”  (Above Top Left:  William Luvaas during the time he was writing Welcome To Saint Angel.  The two images on the left have been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog Entry only)  

Saint Angel is not my formal name as you will find it on the map, but I prefer it.  In 1864, J. Mayberry Haynes stood up on the mountain with his party of Indian scouts and San Francisco entrepreneurs and declared, “What you see below us, boys, is the Valley of Angels.”  He christened me Santa Rosa de Los Angeles.  Indians in the rancho days, watching their horses sicken and die after drinking from my black soughs, named me “La Cienega del Diablo.”  Devil’s Swamp.  Sam Jenson calls me Saint Ain’t.  By whatever name, I am a high desert town – and the valley wherein it lies- of 12,000 souls (at story’s outset), nearly 50,000 at mid-point), diminished to 8,000 at the end.  All within the space of two hectic years.
Pages 17-18

Al and Finley have always been close but just as the fight between suburbanization and naturalization begins Al and Finley face their own battles when Finley turns 17, the age he promised her he would tell her all he knew about her mother.  But despite his words that she died in an airplane crash Finley is convinced he is lying, that her mother is still living so she goes on her own quest against her father’s wishes and warnings to find her own mother whom she believes she has met on Facebook. (Right: image attributed to and copyright granted by Christal Ann Rice Cooper)  

In the meantime Al is losing his self-control and falls into a dangerous affair with his enemy Ches Noonan’s manipulative wife Penny while maintaining an authentic relationship with lover Mona Sahlstrom, the loan officer at Saint Angel Federal Bank. (The image on the left has been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only) 
      
Al’s world darkens to include beatings, shootings, attempted murder, murder, the illegal loss of his land and water rights, his missing daughter, the loss of his daughter’s college fund, and the loss of his community.  In the end there is redemption and salvation because Al realizes home is NOT just a place you inhabit from without yourself, but a place within yourself and with the people you love. (Right:  Clip from Welcome to Saint Angel book trailer attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  This image has been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only)

       I wake to Finley leaning over my bed.  “I missed you, Dad.  I missed Second Chance Acres.  They’ve like totally trashed it.”  Her voice convulses in a sob.
       “Where have you been?”  I ask my daughter.  “I’ve been worried sick about you.”
       “Doing something stupid, okay, brackishly stupid.  I’m over that now.”
       I take her hand.  “We haven’t spent all our chances yet.  Not by nearly.”
       Page 224.

     
In the end Welcome to Saint Angel is about home – something every human being, plant, creature, and landscape needs in order to abound.  “Yes, the book is definitely about home and how precious it is to us, how threatened we feel when someone infringes on it.  Maybe it’s partly our territorial instinct, because we are animals, after all.  All animals protect their nests.  (Left:  This image of William Luvaas and Mimi is given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas for this CRC Blog entry only.)  
     There is the old proverb: “Home is where you hang your hat.”  That’s part of it.  We all need a place to call our own, where we feel comfortable and where we belong.  A place for our kin and, yeah, our stuff.  Thus many homeless folks cart their meager belongings about in shopping carts. (Right Fair Use) They have mobile homes, because all of us need certain bare necessities to survive.  Beyond this, home is where we hang our hearts–where we belong or start out.  It feels like a birthright.  
     
As Robert Frost said , (Left)  “Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”  Something we can’t be denied.  Our safety zone, our welcome zone where we can be exactly who we are, as we sometimes can’t out in the world.  We enter the front door after a tense day and relax.  Home can be a simple shack or a mansion.  Or we may even refer to a town, state, or country as home.  “I call Oregon home.”  “Maryland is my home state.”  “I’m a New Yorker.”  It’s also a way of seeing things.  My work is always colored by where I live at the time I’m writing.  The atmosphere of the place bleeds over onto the page.  
     I suppose I look at home a little like my big akita Mimi (Right:  this image has been given copyright permission by William Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only)  does.  She always curls up in the old, unused fireplace in our living room because she loves the cool tile floor, and she feels safe there; it’s her place, even though only about ½ of her big body fits into it.  She is fiercely protective of her territory if someone trespasses on it uninvited, just as the characters in my novel are.”
      
It only seems fitting to end this 
piece with the last paragraph of the last page because it is this excerpt that Luvaas found the most emotional and compelling to write: (Left: this image has been given copyright permission by Lucinda Luvaas to be used for this CRC Blog entry only)
So we are back to normal again here in the Kingdom of The Excessed.  Waiting, Rob Thompson says, for the next onslaught. I disagree with him. Disaster is never inevitable. We go about life in our separate ways which tangle together in a single ravel, one strand inextricably linked with the others. We are never isolated, never fully alone. So I believe I speak for all of us when I say, If you ever pass Saint Angel way and think of visiting, you’d be more than welcome.

LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS PIECE:

A Working Man’s Apocrypha 

Lillian Able

Anaphora Literary Press Facebook

Anaphora Literary Press Web Page

Ashes Rain Down: a story cycle

Beneath The Coyote Hills

Sammy Corrado IV

Anna Faktorovich

Going Under

Little Brown

Lucinda Luvaas Facebook

Lucinda Luvaas Web Page

William Luvaas Facebook

William Luvaas Web Page

Clare MacQueen

Putnam Facebook

The Seductions of Natalie Bach

Spuyten Duyvil 

University Oklahoma Press

Welcome To Saint Angel

Leonard Kelly Young

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