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Manuel Munoz reading + "Psycho" screening
Manuel Munoz’ undergrad students tend to talk about narratives as they relate to movies, which is probably a comment on the literary times. The students see a film like “Memento” or “Pulp Fiction,” how it fools with idea of time, and they think it’s some kind of grand story-telling tool, not realizing perhaps, that writers do that too.
Only, without all the visual shortcuts.
“Books have been doing that forever,” say Munoz, an author and associate professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona.
He’s not making a judgment on the relative merits of film vs. books. He loves film. In fact, his latest work “What You See in the Dark,” is a noir thriller set in 1959 Bakersfield that was inspired, at least in part, by a Hitchcock class he took in college. Munoz will be reading from the book 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Tower Theater, as part of a Fresno Filmworks screening of “Psycho.”
To be straight, “Psycho” isn’t even his favorite Hitchcock film — that would be “Rear Window,” with “Vertigo” as a close second. But as a Dinuba native, Munoz was always fascinated by how the film seems to be set in the Valley, even if it never says it out right. There was no major filming done in the Valley, but a few exterior shots were taken along the 99 near Bakersfield and if you have the DVD and have watched the special features, a production manager more than hints that the film is set in Tulare.It’s against that backdrop Munoz envisioned the characters in the book.
This is Munoz’ first go round with a novel. He released two short story collections — “Zigzagger” in 2003 and “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue” in 2007 — to critical acclaim, but he could feel from the beginning that this story would take time to explain. Even to himself. “Writers can tell when their ideas are big enough to be told in a novel,” he says.
Still, making the leap to long-form storytelling wasn’t easy. It wasn’t really his speed and was a frustrating process, he says. There is a lot that can go wrong over 200 pages and when they do, you’ve got to rework everything from the start. In the end, the manuscript went through five drafts, took five years to complete. It also put him on a book tour that will last seven weeks.
Being able to do a reading in conjunction with the film is a treat, he says. It’s not often you get to see a classic on the big screen. It’s something he savors. As a student in Cornell, he spent a lot of time seeing films at the Brattle, an art-house theater in Harvard Square. Of course, he’s never seen a film at the Tower Theatre.“I love it when they get to show an old film. It’s a beautiful thing,” he says.
The screening and reading is presented by Fresno Filmworks and the Fig Garden Bookstore. The book will be available at the event.