Monday, February 22, 2010

W. W. Norton releases landmark anthology of Latino "sudden" fiction

Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America (W. W. Norton; $15.95; 336 pp.; paperback original)

Edited by Robert Shapard, James Thomas, and Ray Gonzalez; Introduction by Luisa Valenzuela

From the publisher:

This collection was conceived by Robert Shapard and James Thomas, editors of the successful Flash and Sudden Fiction series. For this new anthology Shapard and Thomas decided to focus on Latino literature: “For years we loved Latin American short-short stories. We found them by accident in books and journals where we were seeking American stories for our Sudden Fiction and Flash Fiction anthologies. . . . Naturally, we wanted to bring some of this writing to our readers as soon as we could.” Conscious of the challenge of narrowing down a selection that would span not only the United States but also all of Spanish-speaking Latin America, Shapard and Thomas sought the advice of Ray Gonzalez, an expert in the field of U.S Latino and Latin American literature, who would become their coeditor. “He said it had never been done,” Shapard and Thomas remember, but “he was enthusiastic, so we were encouraged to try.”

The trio then had to come to some decisions—how short was “short” for this anthology? They ultimately decided not to worry about all the subgenres within short-short fiction and settled on a 1,500 word limit. Then they combed through bookstores, libraries, blogs, and zines, debated over the selections, and finalized choices. They decided to make a compilation that would give readers an amazing sense of the styles shared by U.S. Latino and Latin American literary community. Gonzalez says of the final product, “this is a historic gathering of writers, because the U.S. Latinos are writers who have never forgotten their ancestral roots. By placing them alongside Latin Americans, we are showing how the short-short form transcends borders.”

* With over 60 stories, this landmark anthology features work of stories by literary stars such as Junot Díaz, Helena María Viramontes, Luis Alberto Urrea, Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, and Roberto Bolaño

* Contributions by masters such as Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, and Jorge Luis Borges

* Works by writers on the rise such as Andrea Saenz, Daniel Alarcón, Lisa Alvarez, and Alicita Rodríguez

* To view the table of contents, visit here


Robert Shapard kindly agreed to answer a few questions for La Bloga about the making of Sudden Fiction Latino:

DANIEL OLIVAS: Why did you decide to focus on sudden fiction by Latino writers?

ROBERT SHAPARD: Our reading took us there. We’re always looking for good stories. Over the years we read translations from around the world and found that we especially liked the Latin American writers, who were open to very short fiction—suddens, flashes, micros—unlike the Koreans, for example, who like long, long stories. In those same years we read American writers, too. We became aware of many outstanding Latino writers. But we didn’t connect them. After all we’re talking so many different peoples, cultures, family histories—and in Spanish-speaking Latin America 18 or 19 countries. We’re not geographers. We’re just happy to think in terms of stories, wherever they’re from. Then recently W.W. Norton came to us, independently and unexpectedly, and asked if we wanted to do a new international volume. We’d done one years before that was a mix of American writers and writers from everywhere else in the world. This time we thought, of course, isn’t it obvious? For the international side, we’ll focus on Latin America, and for the American side, Latino writers. We didn’t know exactly how such a gathering would come out. But we did know one thing: it would have a lot of really good stories.

DO: Do you think Latino writers approach the form differently from other writers?

RS: Based on what I’ve read, I don’t think so. That is, there’s so much range and variety and complexity, as there is for all American writers. I guess it’s a question for each individual writer. But Luisa Valenzuela has an interesting observation in her introduction. She says, “Proper Latino writers” have a “distinct approach to fiction, made of nostalgia,” and “most Latin American writers in this book seem to dream less than the Latinos.” But, she says, “One way or the other, a common narrative line seems to surface in the reading of these very dissimilar short shorts—like the curves of a giant anaconda emerging from deep waters.” Of course she has much more to say than these excerpts.

DO: How did you find the stories that ended up in the collection?

RS: This is the easiest question to answer. We found them by reading countless magazines, e-zines, anthologies, and single-author collections, spanning 10 years or so. We also read unpublished manuscripts, especially translations from a call we sent out, and in a few cases wrote authors asking if they had work we could consider.

DO: You and your co-editor, James Thomas, turned to Ray Gonzalez for advice because of his extensive knowledge of Latino literature. How did that collaboration work?

RS: Ray was a full partner in everything we did. We would never have even started such a project without him. In our research he sent us to good places and saved us from blind alleys. We all did individual research and sent copies of our favorite stories to each other and argued their merits in frequent conversations by phone and email from our different parts of the country for more than a year. We all worked on the arrangement of the stories, the introductory pages, even contributor notes.

DO: Thank you for spending time with La Bloga.

[NOTE FROM OLIVAS: I will moderate a Sudden Fiction Latino panel at the upcoming AWP Conference in Denver on April 8, 3:00 p.m. with several of the anthology's contributors: Lisa Alvarez, Stephen D. Gutierrez, Pedro Ponce, Alicita Rodríguez, Edmundo Paz Soldán. For a complete schedule of panels, visit here.]

◙ The Hammer Museum and the UCLA Ethnic Studies Centers are proud to present:


Tuesday, February 23, 7:00 p.m.
The Hammer Museum (View Map)
10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Free Admission

"Art and Public Space in Los Angeles" is a discussion about public art, community identity, art and activism, and new models for socially-engaged art practice that is co-sponsored by the UCLA ethnic studies centers. The event will be moderated by Chon Noriega, director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. Panelists include Edgar Arceneaux, founder and director of Watts House Project; Judy Baca, artist and founder of SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center); artist Sandra de la Loza, CSRC visiting scholar and founder of Arts and Action; and Christine Y. Kim, associate curator at LACMA and co-founder of the public art organization Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND). For information visit the Hammer website.

◙ IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO ENJOY SOME EXCITING NEW LITERATURE WHILE SUPPORTING HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES: You can still order Issue #1 of The Homeboy Review, published by the good people at Homeboy Industries. Click here to find out how. Stay tuned for Issue #2 coming soon.

◙ MICHAEL NAVA FOR JUDGE: As we reported recently on La Bloga, attorney and award-winning novelist, Michael Nava, is running for a seat on the San Francisco Superior Court. If you care about who sits in judgment on important cases that can affect all of us, please check out this request from Nava posted recently on Letras Latinas.

◙ I am delighted to share the news that several more reviews have come out regarding my new collection, Anywhere But L.A. (Bilingual Press):

"Anywhere But L.A. completes a satisfying California trilogy that observes, interacts and imagines the many dimensions of the American Southwest through an honest and genuine lens."

--Rigoberto González, My Latino Voice (read full review here)

"The stories in Anywhere But L.A. are unique and accessible, revealing of richly nuanced worlds. At the same time, the characters are effectively universal, their trysts with loneliness and the confessional quality of their narratives instantly recognizable. Short story collections have to offer enough variety that the whole book warrants reading, and enough cohesion to be called a collection. Anywhere But L.A. accomplishes this dual goal admirably and remarkably."

--Vinoad Senguttuvan, The Rumpus (read the full review here)

“[His] effortless writing style and ability to capture a character in broad, descriptive strokes engage readers as they switch from story to story in his new book. No two stories are the same stylistically or rhetorically, and this diversity of presentation keeps the reader on his or her toes.”

--Thelma Reyna, American Latina/o Writers Today (read full review here)

◙ That’s all for this Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

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