From a Newtown Literary contributor: Francisco Delgado
Writer Francisco Delgado's work was featured in issue #18 of Newtown Literary. For our blog, he writes below about the music that influenced his piece. Francisco is an Assistant Professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY), where he teaches first-year writing and courses on multi-ethnic American literature. His chapbook of flash fiction/prose poems, Adolescence, Secondhand was published by Honeysuckle Press in 2018. He lives in Forest Hills with his wife and their son. You can follow him (or just send him your own playlists) on Twitter at @DelgadoQuinata.
To write “When The World Was Somewhere Else,” I drew on my experience as a high school senior visited by a military recruiter. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted out of the world, but I knew that being in the military was not part of it. And honestly, most of what I knew about the world was what was shown to me on television and in movies and what I heard about in music—my life source back then, like it is for so many of us. So it only makes sense that music factors into this story, specifically David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans,” which the narrator plays in what he calls an “act of defiance.”
Consider this a blank CD, like how we used to swap music. A few songs that got me back in the headspace (and heartspace) of a seventeen-year-old desperate for all that the world had to offer.
“Barbarella” by Scott Weiland
The song is about Weiland’s heroin addiction, but to me at seventeen, it was about my own alienation and longing. In the second verse, Weiland sings, “Don’t know just who I am, don’t know about the lamb/I’m the meat of the feast.” The “meat of the feast” and the “lamb” and the “I” are all the same, are Weiland. Here, he takes his vulnerability, a supposed weakness, and makes it his strength. A lot of my characters are quiet, socially awkward, and probably perceived to be the "lamb" in their own ways. What I always strive to do is show their strength. Their heart.
“Idioteque” by Radiohead
Songs like this, about panic and chaos, seemed to be telling on the world in some way, exposing the parts of it that teachers and parents wanted to hide. The song’s thumping beat hits you so square in the chest that your heart syncs to it. The lyrics, for the most part, seem like dialogue from a fever dream. In a rare moment of clarity, Thom Yorke croons, “I have seen too much/I haven’t seen enough.” The madness of adolescence, especially as they often appear in my fiction, is in this response. Being so certain of yourself, despite outward appearances, but not much else.
“Go Let It Out” by Oasis
At the heart of the story is a kid wanting to get out of his hometown. It is only by leaving, he thinks, that he can truly become who he’s meant to be. He thinks of college without thinking about how to pay for it. And an ROTC program, the option presented to him in the story, is not what he wants. In “Go Let It Out,” Liam Gallagher sings in that distinct voice of his, “Is it any wonder that princes and kings/Are clowns that caper in their sawdust rings/Ordinary people that are like you and me/We're the keepers of their destiny.” Is it possible to pursue your destiny if you’re busy upholding someone else’s? What would happen if we dared to realize our potential?