Lighting Up Santa Ana

by Reggie Peralta

Part of LibroMobile's Tiny Review series



Eric Cocoletzi’s debut release Light One Up and Pop One Open is a punchy collection of poetry and short stories. Drawing from his life and upbringing in Santa Ana, Cocoletzi weaves provocative fiction that alludes to local landmarks and captures the rhythm of city life. There’s a personal aspect to much of Cocoletzi’s writing, but he places enough distance between himself and his material for it to not be taken as autobiographical. This is perhaps all for the better as it doesn’t tether him to the conventions of confessional or memoir, going wherever his vivid imagination takes him and bringing readers along for the ride.


Divided into two sections, the book covers a considerable range of form and genre. From the relative realism of stories like El Frutero and Hindsight to dark fables like The Princess and the Stone and The Hand That Feeds You and Feeds You, Cocoletzi pulls from various literary styles in crafting his distinct authorial voice. The essence of that voice, whether it be telling stories or reciting poetry, lies primarily in Cocoletzi’s choice of language; he makes heavy use of Spanish and profanity throughout the book. At times, Cocoletzi can lay the obscenities on a little too thick for them to ring completely true, but they have real power when they do, like the lone, all-capitalized “HELL” at the end of the poem “I’ll Tell You How I Feel”. His Spanish, on the other hand, is deployed in a consistently convincing manner, with the conversational language he sprinkles into stories and poems likely to strike Santaneros as authentic to the town they and Cocoletzi grew up in.


With his appreciation for allegorical fantasy as well as his ability to find the poetry in profanity, Cocoletzi’s stories call to mind the work of Paulo Coehlo and Charles Bukowski. Though there are undoubtedly writers more disparate from each other than these two, there probably aren’t many, so it says something about Cocoletzi that he is able to tap into the spirit of both. More substantially, Cocoletzi shares Coehlo and Bukowski’s overriding interest in finding or, failing that, creating meaning in one’s life. Whether it be his independent-minded frutero, his covetous princess, or the insecure narrator of “who the hell am I?”, Cocoletzi’s characters—to varying degrees of success—largely seek to live life on their own terms. It’s the same quest that Santiago and young Henry Chinaski undertake in Coehlo’s The Alchemist and Bukowski’s Ham on Rye respectively.


A medley of everyday language, real and imagined worlds, and existential pondering, Light One Up and Pop One Open is an exciting literary debut from one of Santa Ana’s very own.

 

A Santa Ana native, Reggie Peralta's writing has been featured on HonorSociety.org, The Frida Cinema, and The Grindhouse Cinema Database.


You can find a copy of Light One Up and Pop One Open on the author's website.