Dr. Rizza, assistant professor of creative writing at ENMU, has written the award-winning novel Cartilage and Skin. Additionally, Dr. Rizza has also published articles on Don DeLillo, Adrienne Rich, Hamlin Garland, and others.
Dr. Rizza started the lecture discussing DeLillo’s novel. The main character, Jack, teaches Hitler studies, while his wife Babette is on a new drug and is having an affair with another man named Mink.
In the novel, Jack focuses on his own masculinity, the ideologies of gender roles and his relationship with his wife. Dr. Rizza also discussed different theories and histories within the text: including decentered subjectivity, Marxist theory, cognitive mapping and post-structural identities.
Swoozey Doyle, an undergraduate who attended Dr. Rizza’s lecture, said, “It's obvious in Jack’s fascination with Mink and his determination to find the dealer of his wife's drug that he desperately wants a handle on those in his life while he has nearly no grasp on his own.” said Ms. Doyle.
A common theme surrounding DeLillo’s novel is the fear of death. According to Ms. Doyle, “He is continuously finding himself intertwined within situations that are life or death: his wife's dangerously enhanced pills, the close life or death encounter with Mink, and even the full circle connection back to his career as he takes Mink to an atheist German hospital run by nuns.”
Dr. Rizza is currently working on a new novel called Heirs to the Dead Author, which is vastly different from Cartilage and Skin. Dr. Rizza said, “Cartilage and Skin is a dark, urban novel that experiments with the thriller genre. We don't know if the narrator is guilty and lying to the reader, or lying to himself about his innocence, or telling the truth and he just happens to be very unlucky.”
Like any writer, inspiration can spark from anything. “The Paris Review has this great section called ‘The Art of Fiction’ in which authors discuss their work and their approach to craft. In the 1956 issue, Faulkner gives us a line that since become very famous: ‘A writer needs three things: experience, observation and imagination—any two of which, at times any one of which—can supply the lack of the others.’ I like this line. More particularly, though, Cartilage and Skin was inspired by a nightmare; Heirs to the Dead Author was inspired by a novella by Henry James, "The Aspern Papers," in which a ‘publishing scoundrel’ tries to manipulate two women to get at the papers of a great, deceased poet, Jeffrey Aspern. Also, Harper Lee, who seems to have been taken advantage of by publishing scoundrels” said Dr. Rizza.
The professor knew he wanted to be a writer when he was 11 in 1983. The first book he read that was not assigned by a teacher was Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery, and thus King became his teacher.
A glimpse into Dr. Rizza’s new novel, Heirs to the Dead Author, was riveting, insightful and intriguing.
The next lectures in the Language and Literature Department will be on March 10 with Dr. David Sweeten and on April 14 with Dr. Linda Sumption.