Correa, Raul 1961–
CORREA, Raul 1961–
PERSONAL: Born 1961. Education: Columbia University, B.A., M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer and educator. Taught writing to prisoners on Rikers Island, NY, and to high school students in a program at Columbia University; guest artist, Yaddo. Military service: U.S. Army, 1980–83; sergeant in 82nd Airborne Division.
I Don't Know but I've Been Told (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Raul Correa joined the U.S. Army at the age of eighteen and became a peacetime paratrooper. Correa's novel I Don't Know but I've Been Told is about a group of paratroopers stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The unnamed protagonist and his buddies have become soldiers in order to escape poverty and prison in a time when young men were allowed to avoid both by putting on a uniform. The story begins fifteen years later with the protagonist recalling his service during the 1980s as he recovers from a breakdown and time spent at the federal penitentiary in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. All that keeps him going now as he wanders the streets of New York are a copy of Huckleberry Finn, a love letter from a pretty prostitute named Paola who he met in Panama, and his memories.
The Recon Dogs, as they were known, blow their paychecks on mescaline and marijuana, and sell plasma and stolen goods to fund their binges, including "art" they steal from motel rooms. They rely on drugs to help them jump as they undergo training in Panama and then back at Fort Bragg, where they become involved with Mr. Big, an operative who buys ordnance they steal from the base.
Reviewing Correa's novel, Ihsan Taylor wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "the glimpses of the languorous side of military life are frank and funny. Some of the dialogue has just the right pitch, balancing innocence and savvy." Booklist contributor Carrie Bissey felt that "the reward is in the pitch-perfect dialogue and in the picture Correa paints of military life." USA Today contributor J. Ford Huffman cited some "classic moments, such as the time Everysoldier gets back at a salesman by putting a bomb in a usedcar lot." Robert J. Hughes wrote in the Wall Street Journal that although I Don't Know but I've Been Told is based on Correa's own life, he "has given the book the full dimensions of an imaginative work, made vivid by the talents of a real writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Carrie Bissey, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. 1089.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. 121.
New York Times Book Review, Ihsan Taylor, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. 71.
USA Today, May 16, 2002, J. Ford Huffman, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. D4.
Village Voice, May 7, 2002, Taylor Antrim, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. 78.
Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2002, Robert J. Hughes, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. W8.
Washington Post Book World, June 16, 2002, Bill Kent, review of I Don't Know but I've Been Told, p. 15.