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Powell's Books Presents Garrett Hongo in Conversation With Luis Alberto Urrea
Garrett Hongo’s passion for audio dates back to the Empire 398 turntable his father paired with a Dynakit tube amplifier in their modest tract home in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. But his adult quest begins in the CD-changer era, as he seeks out speakers and amps both powerful and refined enough to honor the top notes of the greatest opera sopranos. In recounting this search, he describes a journey of identity where meaning, fulfillment, and even liberation were often most available to him through music and its astonishingly varied delivery systems. In The Perfect Sound: A Memoir in Stereo (Pantheon), Hongo writes about the sound of surf being his first music as a kid in Hawaiʻi, about doo-wop and soul reaching out to him while growing up among Black and Asian classmates in LA, about Rilke and Joni Mitchell as the twin poets of his adolescence, and about feeling the pulse of John Coltrane’s jazz and the rhythmic chords of Billy Joel’s piano from his car radio while driving the freeways as a young man trying to become a poet. Journeying further, he visits devoted collectors of decades-old audio gear as well as designers of the latest tube equipment, listens to sublime arias performed at La Scala, hears a ghostly lute at the grave of English Romantic poet John Keats in Rome, drinks in wisdom from blues musicians and a diversity of poetic elders while turning his ear toward the memory-rich strains of the music that has shaped him: Hawaiian steel guitar and canefield songs; Bach and the Band; Mingus, Puccini, and Duke Ellington. And in the decades-long process of perfecting his stereo setup, Hongo also discovers his own now-celebrated poetic voice. Hongo will be joined in conversation by Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels and The Hummingbird's Daughter.

Feb 28, 2022 05:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Garrett Hongo
Garrett Hongo was born in Volcano, Hawaiʻi, and grew up on the North Shore of Oʻahu and in Los Angeles. His most recent books are The Mirror Diary: Selected Essays and Coral Road: Poems. A regular contributor to SoundStage! Ultra, he lives in Eugene, Oregon and is Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon.
Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea, a Guggenheim Fellow and Pulitzer Prize finalist, is the author of 18 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.” The Devil’s Highway, Urrea’s non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. His latest novel, The House of Broken Angels, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award for his story collection, The Water Museum, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Urrea’s novel Into the Beautiful North is a Big Read selection of the National Endowment of the Arts. He is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.