Q: You are a writer and a painter. Do you prefer one medium over the other or do the two feed of each other within you?
A: I like to think of painting as taking a snapshot, and writing as directing a full length motion picture. Other than that, it's hard to draw parallels. I'm a great admirer of other painters, and a bit of an art history buff. Since my work hasn't been exhibited, I don't take my own work too seriously, and do it purely for enjoyment.
I started writing only a few years ago. I never thought I had the literary background to write fiction, but over time, I transitioned from journaling to an attempt at a memoir (a very bad one I might add). Eventually, I wrote nine drafts of AS HAPPY AS LING, polishing to the point that I could not recognize it as my own writing. Perhaps what painting has taught me is that it's all right to get off to a bad start, but to keep working in layers and layers.
A: In my search for meaning as a young man, I read books on Eastern Philosophy. Chinese landscape paintings seemed to visually reinforce the concepts of transcendence, acceptance, non-judgment and dettachment with mountains and blankets of fog. China in my mind became a very beautiful and mysterious place.
Last summer, I went to the World Expo in Shanghai. It was on a huge scale, each pavillion I entered a worthwhile experience. The China pavillion was a technological marvel. It's hard to say what I enjoyed the most in China. I loved all the cities that I visited, but especially the Great Wall.
Q: What differences did you see between them and us? Where there any similarities?
A: What I remember the most about China is how friendly the people were. There was an innocence about them that I perceived, especially in the young people. There didn't seem to be any Western edge or toughness, or what we would refer to in our urban parlance, street cred. There are a lot of people driving luxuary cars now, and they do love their gadgets, just like us. Young people love to text.
Q: How did you get the idea for the book? And why the story within the story?
A: Without giving too much away, the storyteller is a profoundly heartbroken and tells the story in such a way as to achieve some form of justice. I wrote the story, asking many questions, creating characters that might help in resolving issues such as the brevity of life, our inability to fully appreciate the beauty of life, the longing to fill emptiness, and the power of perception. I came up with the idea for the book when I came to a point in my life that I began to realize that I knew very little, and that love was much more important than any of my opinions. The male ego makes this breakthrough almost impossible.
Q: Who are your favorite authors? Latino authors?
A: Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Chaim Potok, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nabokov -as you can see, I like the second generation American experience. As for Spanish/Hispanic authors, Junot Diaz, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I'm a huge fan of the poet, Pablo Neruda.
Q: What is next for you? A new book? A new art show?
A: I'm starting a new book. Again, I will ask questions, and hopefully my characters will assist in helping me find answers. And yes, a lot more love.♥
BOOK REVIEW: AS HAPPY AS LING
I have to read this novel again! It’s surreal and passionate and disturbing and irresistible. I don't think I've discovered all its secrets yet. It’s like Dante’s INFERNO and Garcia Marquez’ 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE combined. I whole heartedly recommend it.
SUMMARY: AS HAPPY AS LING is about war, compassion, abuse, truth, faith, depression and most of all, about love -- Love of family, of lovers, of friends, of God… love of self. It’s the story of Adrianna and Octavio, whose marriage is torn asunder by war. He is deployed yet again and she enters into an abusive second marriage. When Adrianna is hospitalized after a severe beating, her teenage children are sent to spend the summer with their artistic uncle Diego in Miami. It’s a summer of discovery and redemption for all.
I'd like to end this review with the author's book benediction: May you be as happy as Ling, rolling in the cool morning sand, shouting to the one you love, ‘te amo!’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carlos Aleman is a Cuban-American, born in New York City. He is a painter and a writer, and lives in Florida. AS HAPPY AS LING is his first novel. Visit his website at http://www.carlosaleman.com/.
ART CREDIT: Painting by Carlos Aleman.