"I always feel oppressed, no matter what," says one of the narrators in Angelo Jaramillo's new book of short stories, The Darker: Tales of a City Different. "The narrators are almost all variations on the same personality," Jaramillo says outside Borders Books and ***image1***Music on Zafarano Drive, where he works. "I set out to divest my writing of characterization, to tell stories. I wanted to manifest the voice that talks to us inside." Jaramillo's narrators, variously drug-addled desperadoes, vandals, existentialists, gigolos, insomniacs, con men and sex-starved philosophers, all have two things in common: They are Hispanic and they are outsiders, tormented by loss, cultural upheaval, injustice and hypocrisy.
Jaramillo, a 1999 summa cum laude graduate from Highlands University with a double major in political science and English, talks about his reasons for writing The Darker. "I wanted to exorcise demons, so at first the book was not political. I chose the most extreme stories from my experiences. I did that because they stood out, but also to share walking the line between life and death. It's walking that line that makes life so fucking crazy."
Twisted coming-of-age tales cascade from Jaramillo's combined memory and imagination; each jagged narrative resonates with audacity, danger, self-annihilation, bitterness and rage. His narrators are unrelenting in uncensored, excoriating judgment of Anglos, Indians, women, Hispanics, cops, the wealthy and the city of Santa Fe itself. Drenched in sex, alcohol, cocaine, 'shrooms and guns, the nights are desolate and suicidal, in large measure empty of meaning or purpose. Profanity and obscenity mix effortlessly with Jaramillo's singing prose and chthonic visions.
"It's easy for readers to be misled by what they consider to be vulgar or obscene. It's just a love of language; the writers who inspire me saw beauty in obscenity-they utilized it as a tool, or weapon, to enhance their art," Jaramillo says. His inspirations include Henry Miller, André Breton, Samuel Beckett, Gabriel García Márquez, Charles Baudelaire, Fyodor Dostoyevsky ("I read Notes from Underground at least once a year"), Jack Kerouac and Charles Bukowski-a rogue's gallery of rebels, sensualists, shadow artists and shamans whose voices emerge in varied inflections through Jaramillo's prose.
As the son of Debbie Jaramillo, Santa Fe's first and only female mayor (also the subject of Jaramillo's forthcoming work of fiction, titled Alcaldesa: The Life and Tragedy of Debbie Jaramillo), Angelo Jaramillo led a multifaceted adolescence. "I was able to jump into and out of all of the different layers, circles and socioeconomic classes. I started at Santa Fe High and then transferred to Capital High-a ***image2***completely different world! I hung out at community meetings, City Council meetings, political rallies, eastside homes of wealthy transplants. I came to realize that wealth is simply used to create an illusion, to endlessly distract and entertain the wealthy." Not only was Jaramillo running in all of the overlapping circles that make up Santa Fe's culture, he also was coming of age during a time of intense transition for the city. "The gated community syndrome started up. It was a forced exodus for locals, for long-established Hispanic families. Straight-up imperialism."
When asked why he has stayed here, unlike so many of his Generation X peers, Jaramillo clarifies: "This is where my soul is, my roots; this is where I see beauty-and not just physical beauty. For me, it is love. I love this place. I had the opportunity to come into an early consciousness of this place. My resistance comes from love."
An hour into SFR's interview, Jaramillo's co-worker comes out of Borders asking what time he went on break. It's a not-so-subtle cue for Jaramillo to return to work. But the co-worker also says, "Hey, we sold the last copy of your book. I guess we need to order more." It's the kind of layered irony that keeps Jaramillo's narrators up all night.