CU DENVER ENGLISH TEACHER EXPLORES COUNTERCULTURE
Jack Gialanella is a current CU Denver English teacher who is writing a unique novel in the style of an Acid- Western. The genre is mostly seen in movies; most notably the Jim Jaramusch movie Dead Man starring Johnny Depp. The idea is to have odd, psychedelic elements set to a Western backdrop. The books and movies in this genre are generally dark, and somewhat uncomfortable.
Gialanella’s story follows the life of a young boy and his friend, a Native American, in the Old West. The boy is orphaned as a young child and suffers amnesia around the age of eight, forgetting his entire past.
The novel continues through the two men’s lives becoming a kind of existentialist portrayal of who these individuals are. “Ostensibly, the story is about a boy and a man,” Gialanella said. “This boy grows up, so it is eventually about a man and a man. These two care about each other like family and they try to cope with the hand that the progress of the 1840-60s deals them.”
Gialanella’s book, on the surface, could appear to be just a story of two men, but underneath there is a much greater idea at work. “I want it to reflect certain counterculture ideas of distrust of authority, skepticism as to whether this is the best of all possible worlds, malcontent with capitalism and notions of progress,” Gialanella said. “I want to portray confused politics, religion, and industry-controlled ‘lifeworld’ in an ominous and ubiquitous way.”
Gialanella is on his second semester teaching English Composition at College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His background varies heavily from being in professional fighting leagues to graduating with a degree in philosophy.
Gialanella’s second passion, behind English and Philosophy, is martial arts. He has worked as a bodyguard and gained a multitude of belts in different varieties of fighting styles. Gialanella wants to put most of this behind him, however, and focus mainly on writing.
Gialanella is highly influenced by the writings of Nietzsche, whose ideas on religion and mythologies are cornerstones of his writing. “The idea of destiny, as conceived in myth, can make us fully human,” Gialanella said. “If humans believe we have a destiny, we can have the courage and pride that is liberated from the mere struggle of day-to-day survival.”
One of the most interesting aspects about contemporary culture is the combining of seemingly clashing elements. Taking old concepts, and combining them with the new ideas is a popular way to express yourself in modern times. Gialanella’s idea for his novel exemplifies this cultural throwback, with an attempt to bring something new to the table with it.
Gialanella’s yet-untitled Acid-Western novel is sure to be an interesting read, full of creativity and imagination once it is finished.
Above: Jack Gialanella currently teaches English Composition at CU Denver.
photo: Alex Tomme • CU Denver Sentry