See Me After Class is a weekly column where a different professor reveals their variety favorites.
Dr. Bruce Willis is a professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature who received his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Virginia. He did not, in fact, star in “Diehard,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a secret life. Willis has a gift for making students feel comfortable speaking Spanish in his classroom and is unwavering in his enthusiasm and love for Latin American culture. You can sometimes find him emphatically speaking Portuguese to befuddled students or fixing the entire semester’s course offerings.
1. What’s your favorite book? What book would you say all undergrads need to read before they graduate?
It’s stiff competition, but my favorite book continues to be “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, the first modern novel, a tragicomic metafiction with a little something for everyone. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for all undergrads. What I would recommend is to read a book in a second language, or if that’s not possible, then a book in translation. Favorites from Latin America that I recommend include “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), “The Passion According to G.H.” by Clarice Lispector (Brazil), and Lisa Dillman’s recent translation of the US/Mexico border-crossing novel by Yuri Herrera, “Signs Preceding the End of the World.” I would emphasize as well, for all undergrads, the importance of reading non-Eurocentric books, written from the perspectives of the original peoples of the Americas, of Africa, of Asia. Along those lines – it’s not a book, but I would urge all undergrads (everybody, in fact) to pay a visit to the new First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, where they’ve done a thoroughly amazing job, on every level, of telling the narrative from Indigenous points of view.
2. What’s reading like for you? Is there a specific setting, mood, drink set-up?
My favorite place to read is the Faculty Reading Room at McFarlin. All four of the library’s reading rooms are terrific for grading and writing as well as reading. Coffee shops are great, too… and the couch at home, where as soon as I sit down I’ll quickly be joined by a cat or two.
3. Is there a movie/show that you always return to?
“Nacho Libre,” of course – the universally agreed-upon hands-down absolute best movie of all eternity! (It’s such a silly film, yet poignant, with an outstanding soundtrack and full of quirky little nods to Mexican humor. Also, the soundtrack takes me back to a wonderful family road trip, over winter break 2006-07, from Tulsa through Mexico to the Guatemala border and back. We must have listened to that CD some two dozen times while spellbound by the changes in the landscape.)
4. What was the last book/movie/show that you actually found funny?
I’m currently reading “A Mãe, A Filha, e o Espírito da Santa” [The Mother, the Daughter and the Spirit of the Santa] by contemporary Brazilian writer PJ Pereira. There’s a lot of humor in the novel, especially in Pereira’s descriptions of the characters, but Pereira also paints a stark contrast between rural and urban Brazil in the 1960s, all the while developing a long meditation, laced with laughter, on the intermingling of Brazil’s religions.
5. What’s your favorite Tulsa restaurant? Do you have any food/restaurant routines?
I worked as a waiter at a Brazilian restaurant when I was in my mid-twenties. It was an invaluable experience. Restaurants can be like mini-consulates that bring not just food but worldviews from faraway locations. Quite a few of my favorites in Tulsa haven’t lasted, but of the ones that are still around, I’ll give shout-outs to El Patrón for a good mix of traditional and innovative Mexican, Qué Gusto for Ecuadorian / South American, and Bohemia for great pizza and ambience.
6. Is there a media/pop culture/entertainment/music side to you that students wouldn’t expect?
I’m not sure, but perhaps they would not expect that I love to listen to adventure movie soundtracks. The Marvel films, and series like Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, Harry Potter – these are all outstanding orchestrations for getting work done on the computer or for driving around town. I also enjoy the mashups of these scores you can find on YouTube.
7. If you had to pick three songs for a Playlist of Your Life, what would they be?
One each from the United States, Mexico, and Brazil: “Today” by Randy Sparks, “Usted” by Armando Manzanero, and “A Saudade É Uma Estrada Longa” by Almir Sater.