Sophomoric Philosophy, a Novel by Victor David Giron
Sophomoric Philosophy by Victor David Giron, is the coming-of-age story of Alejandro (“Alex”) Lopez, a 30-something first generation Mexican-American who is struggling with his direction in life. Alex is an accountant working for a large corporation and is torn between his desire to lead an artistic life and the reality of his mundane, ordinary existence in contemporary Chicago. Add to your Goodreads: Sophomoric Philosophy
Blurbs / Praise
“Victor knows small towns, and definitely knows drugs and chicks. He also knows what we listened to, watched and read in the eighties and nineties, adding a layer of time and place that is both uniquely Chicagoland and full of pop culture awareness. All of this is done with wit and nuance, but what allows Victor and this novel to transcend, and expand, on the genre is the exploration of the immigrant experience, specifically being first generation Americans navigating American culture, and frankly the sense that this is where literature is heading...” – Ben Tanzer, author of Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, 99 Problems, Cool, Not Removed, and You Can Make Him Like You.
“Even Accountants Need Philosophy: This Gen X Mexican American college grad tackles the prickly world of easy assimilation in Chicago. He, bookish, shy, athletically ok, but caught between the old world of the family and the nerve wracking skirt chasing he is obsessed with, He's on a quest for meaning, what ever the fuck that might be. This book is perfect for soul searchers and girls that want them to man up. Decent foray into the world of ‘I don’t know if I can take this job anymore but can’t give up the money either.’ Does he get anything he wants? Or does he want it because it’s there?” - Paul Hasegawa Overacker (Paul HO), Co-Owner/Director/Producer of Filmlike Films, Producer/Director of GalleryBeat Media
"It seems easy to abandon one's dreams for security. "Sophomoric Philosophy" is a novel of the life of one Alejandro Lopez, an artist who abandoned his art to become an accountant. As midlife approaches, he reflects on his choices that led him down this route, and the possibility of pursing the dreams and choices he left behind. "Sophomoric Philosophy" is a thoughtful read that will resonate strongly with many readers, highly recommended." - Midwest Book Review
"I loved it. It's so full of honesty, self deprecation, and humor that I couldn't put it down. Victor threads strong themes throughout the entire book which include balancing passions with his career and maintaining his Latin American heritage. The serious themes are often separated by humor as we look into the main character, Alex, struggles (and triumphs) with sex, drugs, alcohol, fear of commitment, infidelity and defining his own interests. These situations were written so realistically that I couldn't help but compare my own awkward younger years and laugh at the similarity." - Jim Brown, an accountant living in Chicago
“Loved this book! It tells the story of a man (Alex) struggling with the machine of his modern adult life as he fondly looks back at the excitement, future unknowns, and adolescent ideals of youth. This novel grabbed my attention from the first few chapters, and was a great read as it transitioned smoothly from past to present and back again on a number of relatable topics. Highly recommended, especially to those in their 30's looking to explore what the hell happened in their own lives over the past 15 years.” – Ayman El-Dinary, Electrical Engineer from Atlanta, Georgia
SP is also for sale at:
Wolfbait & B-Girls - Chicago and many more great independent bookstores.
The music of Sophomoric Philosophy is discussed by the author as part of Largehearted Boy's Book Note Series - Sophomoric Philosophy Book Note
See the following trailers directed and edited by Garett Holden. Read the first chapter below.
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First chapter of Sophomoric Philosophy:
Writers and Fighters
I consider myself a Chicagoan now, having lived in the city since I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in accounting. I came here often when I went to Maine West High School out in Des Plaines, which is a short drive west on the Kennedy or a short Blue Line ride toward O’Hare airport, the next-to-last stop in fact. My friends and I would take the Blue Line downtown and then transfer to the Red or Brown Line up to Belmont and Clark, our favorite part of the city when we were 16 and 17, mainly because of The Alley—a store that sold concert shirts, posters, spiked bracelets and stuff like that—and Gramophone Records, the electronic music store that took my virginity, so to speak.
A few years ago I moved to an area of the city called Wicker Park because I at times aspire to be some sort of artist and wanted to be surrounded by more artistic types. I didn’t realize that the artists had pretty much left because people like me and companies like Starbucks made it too fucking expensive to live here. So now, I live just a few blocks north of the Damen Blue Line stop in this nice, refurbished, overpriced loft with all the “right finishes,” surrounded by retail chain stores and countless other yuppies—the people I was trying to escape from and swore to never become like.
I wake up as late as possible before going to a job I can’t stand although I tell everyone I meet, especially girls, that I love it, because girls want to hear that you love what you do for a living, are doing something you’re “passionate about.” I’m not the type that gets up extra early to do push-ups or sit-ups, make coffee or lunch for the day, walk his dog or read the newspapers. No, I leave just enough time to drag myself into the washroom, take a shower, maybe shave, put on my black socks, v-neck undershirt, boxers, slacks, dry-cleaned button-down dress shirt, black slip-on shoes, and black belt—untuck the shirt, grab my MP3 Player, keys, wallet, corporate ID, and make my way down Damen Avenue listening to something loud. Hoping not to break that bad of a sweat, I get my coffee at Half and Half, right at the corner of Milwaukee, Damen and North Avenue, am served by the art student kids who live in the area, am called “sir” by them, wish I was them on many occasions but not on others after thinking of how little money they must make. I climb the El stairs, wait there at the top, (trying to calm my sweat), and stare off at the pretty girls on the platform in their pretty work suits, skirts and pumps, and pretend like I’m not staring. If I’m lucky, I’ll leave the office around 6 p.m., make it home around 7 p.m., and go to the Bally’s down by the Webster Street movie theater and run a bit. If not, I just sit home and watch something like Chris Matthews or Keith Oberman blabber on MSNBC. Or, if I’m extra motivated, I’ll read a book and fall asleep doing so.
When I have extra energy, I’ll go to one of the many great venues here in Chicago to see live music—places like the Empty Bottle on Western and Augusta, the Metro down the street from Wrigley Field, the beautiful Vic Theater up on Sheffield and Belmont, where they show movies and sell beer when there’s not a band playing, or even just down the street from me to the Double Door—a small club right there across from the Blue Line. I used to have a few friends who would go with me, but they’ve long since moved, and now I usually go by myself.
I’ve had a few opportunities to move away from Chicago. I thought about moving to places like New York, San Francisco, Madrid or Mexico. I worked in San Francisco for a summer, thought it was a beautiful city, but after a few weeks of walking around it, I felt that I found everything there was to discover and, although it was nice, I was bored of it already. And New York, however vast it is—diverse, busy, exciting—I never could move there, it’s just a bit too dirty, too busy, and the people, yes, they come off as a bit too cold, especially to a shy Midwesterner like me. I’ve thought about moving to Mexico where my parents were born. I’ve been there many times, as a child growing up and recently as an adult, to visit the countless number of relatives we have. I’ve been to the small city in the mountains that my mother is from, and to other beautiful cities like Guadalajara, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Puebla, Puerto Vallarta, and Cuernavaca. I’ve even thought about marrying a nice-looking Mexican woman and bringing her back here to live with me, like so many of my cousins have. But I concluded that she probably wouldn’t find my peculiar tastes in music and other stuff all that interesting, realize that I can’t dance worth a shit, especially for a Latino, and eventually find me dull. I decided to avoid what would probably have been a disaster.
The music scene in Chicago has kept me here, and I don’t even go to that many shows anymore, only a few a year probably. I like to know that the venues I’ve loved are close by and if and when I want to go, I can, and that all sorts of people, young and old, are going to them every weekend, every night, having fun, getting high, getting laid, “expanding their horizons,” meeting new friends, falling in and out of love, shit like that.
I went to see Sonic Youth at the Metro once, by myself, and I got there early to get a spot upstairs against the balcony rail in the center. Although I grabbed a great spot, I didn’t know how I was going to get drinks because as soon as I left my spot it would be gone. Luckily the man standing next to me, his name was Ron, was also by himself. He was in his 40s, a father of two girls. He was glad to be able to get to the show, as Sonic Youth was one of his favorite bands. He was going to bring one of his daughters, but she and her mother had something else to do. He told me how they used to play The Flaming Lips or They Might Be Giants for their daughters when they were babies. We ended up taking turns going to get drinks, while one guy fought off the crowd and held the spots. Sonic Youth played great that night. Kim Gordon did her circular dance in high heels, and the band was loud. I want to be like Ron if I’m ever a father.
The day after September 11, I went to see PJ Harvey play at the Riviera. Again, I was by myself, up in the front, and she came out alone with a guitar and spoke to the audience saying that the band had talked about whether or not they should play in light of the circumstances, whether it was in some way not respectful to the victims. But she said that they decided there was really no viable option other than to play because they were nothing more than musicians. For them not to play would be insulting to those who died or were injured. So, she strummed a slow song from their new album at the time, Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea, about someone who had fallen in love and was observing New York City from the top of a building on some early morning. When the song finished, the rest of the band members slowly joined her on stage, and suddenly they ripped full force into one of her powerful, hard, thumping songs called “Meet Ze Monsta,” playing while silhouetted in blood red. The rest of the show pretty much kicked ass like that.
I know that most any city has its great music venues, and I’ve been to some, but for some reason, maybe a selfish one, I like to think they’re not like here in Chicago. Chicago is comforting to me. I like its streets, the low buildings, all of its neighborhoods. It has lots of trees, wood decks with chairs, tables and barbeques. During the summer, my cute newlywed neighbors can often be found eating out on their little deck in the evenings, sharing a bottle of wine; you’d never know you were in the middle of a metropolitan area.
Alex Kotlowitz captured Chicago in a fantastic way through his book Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago. He describes Chicago through his descriptions of individuals from different areas of the city—from Ed Sadlowski, a Unionist in Chicago’s Southside, Millie and Brenda, two African American ladies he has lunch with regularly on the West Side, to Robert Guinan, an artist who painted scenes from Chicago’s underbelly: one-legged prostitutes, a mother and boy sleeping on an El train, and a decrepit Polish bartender smoking cigarettes at a local Wicker Park pub.
Nelson Algren wrote: “It used to be a writer’s town, and it’s always been a fighter’s town” when describing Chicago in his poem called Chicago: City on the Make. I think he wrote that in the 1950s. He lived in Wicker Park, on a street called Evergreen, close to the actual park called Wicker Park. I’ve read that in the 1990s the city tried to change Evergreen to Algren Avenue in his honor, but supposedly the residents complained because they had to change their addresses, so the city changed it back. I’d never heard of Algren until recently; he’s one of those authors that was never really recognized in his home town but was recognized elsewhere, by like the French. He’s known for writing novels like Walk on the Wild Side, a book about New Orleans in the 1930s and the pimps and prostitutes who lived there, and also Man with the Golden Arm, set in Chicago, about a card dealer, drugs, and more pimps and prostitutes. I guess Frank Sinatra played the character in the movie by the same name, but Algren didn’t like it.
It was amazing, or at least I thought so, when I read these authors and realized that they were describing Chicago not through recounting its famous history or events, but through the stories of not-so-famous inhabitants, and even fictional ones, who embody the attitude and spirit that now make Chicago what people perceive it to be.
If I had any talent, I would make a movie of Chicago. I would team up with Alex Kotlowitz and make a movie about its people, maybe the people he describes, and the regular people I’ve come to know or see here in this city. I’d like to team up with Nelson Algren, but unfortunately he’s no longer alive, and he would probably think I was a poser.
Unlike the sissy way Woody Allen started Manhattan, my movie would start with a still shot of Chicago’s skyline during the early morning, shot from the lake, with Navy Pier, the Hancock Building, the Sears Tower, looming in the distance. After a few silent seconds, a song would start to play in the background, a rock and roll song, maybe a Smashing Pumpkins song, like “Cherub Rock” from their Siamese Dream album. You would hear the drum roll start, the bass, and when the song kicked into full gear with rolling guitars and Jimmy Chamberlin banging on the cymbals, the viewer would be treated to scene after scene of Chicago—shots of the skyline from the vantage point of a car coming up the Dan Ryan, from a plane flying into Chicago over the lake at night, a shot from a camera whizzing down the “Magnificent Mile” full of shoppers, beggars, musicians, and tourists. And then a shot of someone like me, or better, a cute girl with pumps or boots, gotta love those boots, walking down Damen Avenue on her way to the train, looking all cool and city-like with her ear plugs plugged in. And then to a scene of a young Latino couple having sex in their stuffy apartment in a building across the street from Humboldt Park, to a shot of young Middle Eastern and European immigrants playing soccer on Montrose beach, to another group on the adjacent beach there smoking a joint and drinking Old Style. Then to a shot of a black family having a birthday party in one of the last standing Cabrini Green housing projects, followed by a group of yuppie 30-somethings having a kitsch dinner party at someone’s condo in the city.
I would layer on shots of our sports teams—the Bears running through the orange and blue Bear head at the corner of Soldier Field, the Cubs running onto the field in Wrigley on a sunny weekday afternoon, saluting the drunk bleacher bums sitting just above the Ivy, the White Sox finally winning the World Series again, and a shot of good old Michael Jordon hitting his last game winning shot against the Utah Jazz.
I would follow that with shots of hipster music lovers waiting anxiously in line at the Metro to go see the latest hipster band, a shot of the Flaming Lips playing a New Year’s Eve show at the Metro, and shots of Lollapalooza along the lake.
The last scene would be of a backyard party in Des Plaines, the American salad bowl of a suburb, where a 17-year-old Mexican-American boy is drunk and about to recite his “Green Shit Machine” poem to his cheering Maine West classmates, members of Generation X, who are also sons and daughters of the Greek, Polish, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Asian, Italian, Irish, Indian, German, Russian, Jewish and whatever-else, immigrants that make Chicago what it is.
Read another excerpt here.
And another here.