Friday, April 15, 2016

New Books From Two Masters of the Written Word

There is excitement in knowing that writers I have admired and respected are still doing it, and doing it in grand style. One of the great things about La Bloga is learning about upcoming books so that I can pass on the news to our readers, and, of course, enjoy great books myself. Never more so than this week, as two of the best have books ready to hit the shelves.

Rudolfo Anaya and Alfredo Véa are writers who, each in their own way and with their individual genius, create amazing lyrical fiction about human truths that speaks to all of us. From Bless Me, Ultima to Gods Go Begging, and all the other books in-between and beyond, these men produce American Literature loved by readers and relied on for guidance by writers. And it's not enough to say we are all inspired because they continue to write.

The Sorrows of Young Alfonso is Anaya's ode to remembrance, loss, sorrow, hope, one's place in the universe. Birth to death, myth to history, cause and effect -- this book has it all and more. The book continues Anaya's exploration of the meaning of life, in particular, his life, that has always been embedded in  his writing but that became primary with the excellent The Old Man's Love Story and Poems From the Río Grande. This book deserves a space on your bookshelf. More importantly, your heart and mind will thank you for the experience.

Alfredo Véa has published again -- seventeen years since his last book.  The author of three books that rightfully can be called masterpieces (La Maravilla, The Silver Cloud Café, and Gods Go Begging), Véa's latest promises to be equally amazing, imaginative, and challenging -- a literary feast for all the senses. I eagerly await my copy.

And how about the University of Oklahoma Press? What's going on there? Nothing but good.

Manuel Ramos


 The Sorrows of Young Alfonso
Rudolfo Anaya
University of Oklahoma Press -  April, 2016

[from the publisher]
“The world is full of sorrow,” Agapita whispered to Alfonso. ​  

Did she stamp those words into his destiny?

The story of Alfonso, a Nuevo Mexicano, begins with his birth, when the curandera Agapita delivers these haunting words into his infant ear. What then unfolds is an elegiac song to the llanos of New Mexico where Alfonso comes of age. As this exquisite novel charts Alfonso’s life journey from childhood through his education and evolution as a writer, renowned Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya invites readers to reflect on the truths and mysteries of the human condition.

In describing these events, the “old man” writing the letters interweaves Alfonso’s experiences with fragments of his own life and of the New Mexican llano that both men have called home. The trajectory of Alfonso’s life in turn mirrors the history of New Mexico and the turbulent beginnings of the Chicano Movement in which the young protagonist plays a trailblazing role.

As story builds upon story, the commonality of traits among the narrator, his subject, and perhaps Anaya himself appears more than coincidental. Permeated by Anaya’s trademark religious and mythological imagery, The Sorrows of Young Alfonso is a luminous meditation on memory, reality, and the human experience. 

Rudolfo Anaya

The Sorrows of Young Alfonso demonstrates why Anaya is widely considered to be one of the senior Chicano writers in America. Does Alfonso’s life seem to mirror the history of New Mexico, the state in which the story takes place? At the same time it shows us the beginnings of the Chicano Movement of which young Alfonso is a key part. So many layers, so many angles. It’s a stunning book, worthy of this master of American literature.  January Magazine


The Mexican Flyboy
Alfredo Véa
University of Oklahoma Press - June, 2016

[from the publisher]
What if we could travel back in time to save our heroes from painful deaths? What if we could rewrite history to protect and reward the innocent victims of injustice? In Alfredo Véa’s daring new novel, one man does just that, taking readers on a series of remarkable journeys.

Abandoned as a child, brooding and haunted as an adult, Simon Vegas, “the Mexican Flyboy,” toils for years to repair a time machine that fell into his hands in Vietnam. With the help of his friend, eccentric Hephaestus Segundo, Simon uses the device to fly through time. Wherever acts of human cruelty take place, in the past or in the present, the machine lets him lift the suffering away and deliver them to a utopian afterlife. Blending magical realism, science fiction, history, and comic-book fantasy, The Mexican Flyboy swoops readers from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the vineyards of Northern California, from Ethel Rosenberg’s execution to Joan of Arc’s pyre, in a tale of justice, trauma, regret, and redemption.

Alfredo Véa
The dead pass through the narrative in a parade at once heartbreaking and hopeful, among them Vincent van Gogh and Malcolm X, Ernest Hemingway and Amadou Diallo. But the living—Simon’s pregnant wife, Elena, his old friend Ezekiel Stein, prisoner Lenny Hudson—all throw doubt onto Simon’s story. Is Simon truly a “magus,” transporting martyrs to a shared community in paradise? Or is he just a man broken by loss, guilt, and the trauma of war, hopelessly lost in an illusion of his own making?

Crossing genres and blending comedy with tragedy, Alfredo Véa imagines a world where we can rewrite our pasts and heal the wounds inflicted by history. Inviting comparisons to the work of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges, Junot Díaz and Michael Chabon, this powerful book is like nothing else you have ever read.

The vividly fanciful and intensely passionate story grapples memorably with the long history of human violence and the need to escape or redeem it. Véa (Gods Go Begging), a defense attorney as well as a novelist, argues vigorously in favor of hope, and his powerful feeling makes this history lesson come to life. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Roberto Cantú, Michael Sedano, Alfredo Véa, Pablo Baler


Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles.  His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, is a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book AwardMy Bad: A Mile High Noir is scheduled for publication by Arte Público Press in September, 2016.

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