DIVING FOR CARLOS, or, Heroes’ Welcome Blues
by William J. Jackson
CreateSpace/Sliding Floor Publications
reviewed by Michael Radon
"...You could say we’re gonna delve into these mounds of memory, see what Carlos helps me unearth."
Part beat poetry, spiritual journey, and character biography, William J. Jackson's Diving for Carlos follows the life of Hector Cruz as he recalls his past in order to make sense of his present. When the ghost of his dead brother, Carlos, runs out in front of his car as he's driving, Hector goes back to his old neighborhood in Illinois looking for answers. From the simple stories of running with his teenage gang, Hector's search for solace takes the reader on incredible tales that intertwine with American mythology and ancient human history as well as real-life events like the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War. As Hector comes back into touch with his roots, he learns just as much about himself as he does his deceased brother.
Hector's tale alternates between the present day, where he recollects memories of days long past, and retellings of those events as they happened. What starts out seemingly ordinary as a story about a young man looking for his place in the world takes turns toward the fantastic, weaving in elements of science fiction and Native American folklore. Jackson pays careful attention to the spirit of the time, as the pro-establishment members of the previous generation clashed with the evolving morals and perspective of the younger radicals. At times, the symbolism in the prose is so thick it's nearly uncomfortable, especially where the totalitarian, oppressive schemes of the character Scoto Conelrad are concerned. Anyone looking for a fresh and fantastic perspective on late twentieth-century America will find something of interest in Diving for Carlos.