Friday, January 25, 2013

Still Short - New Collection and a Review

One More Short Story Collection

My last post listed some outstanding recent or soon-to-be-published short story collections. Here's one more that I think La Bloga's readers will appreciate.

Manuel Gonzales


The Miniature Wife
Manuel Gonzales
Riverhead - January, 2013

[from the publisher]

In the tradition of George Saunders and Aimee Bender, an exuberantly imagined debut that chronicles an ordinary world marked by unusual phenomena.

The eighteen stories of Manuel Gonzales’s exhilarating first book render the fantastic commonplace and the ordinary extraordinary, in prose that thrums with energy and shimmers with beauty. In “The Artist’s Voice” we meet one of the world’s foremost composers, a man who speaks through his ears. A hijacked plane circles a city for twenty years in “Pilot, Copilot, Writer.” Sound can kill in “The Sounds of Early Morning.” And, in the title story, a man is at war with the wife he accidentally shrank. For these characters, the phenomenal isn’t necessarily special—but it’s often dangerous.

In slightly fantastical settings, Gonzales illustrates very real guilt over small and large marital missteps, the intense desire for the reinvention of self, and the powerful urges we feel to defend and provide for the people we love. With wit and insight, these stories subvert our expectations and challenge us to look at our surroundings with fresh eyes. Brilliantly conceived, strikingly original, and told with the narrative instinct of a born storyteller, The Miniature Wife is an unforgettable debut.

Manuel Gonzales is a graduate of the Columbia University graduate creative writing program. He has published fiction and nonfiction in Open City, Fence, One Story, Esquire, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, and The Believer. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two children.

"It's easy to compare Manuel Gonzales to George Saunders, but it would be just as easy to compare him to Borges or Márquez or Aimee Bender. In his debut collection, a hijacked plane circles Dallas for 20 years. There are unicorns, werewolves, fighting robots. He makes the extraordinary ordinary, and his playfulness is infectious. Gonzales is at his best in his flash pieces -- like 'Cash to a Killing' -- three-to-five pagers that explode like gunfire."  Esquire

And here's my short review of one of the short collections noted in my last post.

Mundo Cruel
Luis Negrón
Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
Seven Stories Press - February 26, 2013

The marketing for this book informs readers that Mundo Cruel is Negrón's debut collection of short stories; that it was published in Spanish back in 2010 (now in a third edition); that the author lives in Santurce, Puerto Rico; that he is easily compared to the celebrated Manuel Puig; and that he is the coeditor of Los otros cuerpos, an anthology of queer writing from Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora.

So, that's all fine and good, but how about the actual book? Let me say that the nine short stories in this slim volume provide a strong hint that Luis Negrón is the real deal in terms of an authentic voice, a rich talent, and an insightful eye.

Luis Negrón
Characterization is king in the court of short stories. Negrón's characters bounce off the page deep into the reader's mind, where they sizzle and pop, waiting to explode:  Naldi, the man who desperately pleads to his "friend" Sammy for money to take his dying dog to a taxidermist; José A. and Pachi, "the most fabulous and spectacular boys in the bar" whose world crashes the night homophobia is officially ended; the two women, mean-spirited and hypocritical, who gossip in their front yards about a neighbor's boy they suspect of being gay; the teenage boy beaten by his father who finds that his new face is a magnet to men. These characters live and breathe in a sensual, provocative, sometimes violent, often humorous world - our world, a fictional reality brought to life by the gifted hand of Luis Negrón.

There is sex in the stories, quite a bit, but these are not erotic stories, nor are they about sex. The stories also have laughter, irony, sadness, and beauty. The reader is privy to the longing of marginalized people. We share dark secrets whispered in the warm breeze of a Puerto Rican night. We watch in amazement, or horror, as the characters act out their unique daily lives. They are unaware that they are unique, and their passions, failures and triumphs are revealed only because the author took the time to explore their stories. And that's why we should read this book.


Suzanne Jill Levine's acclaimed translations, which include works by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Three Trapped Tigers) and Manuel Puig (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth), have helped introduce the world to some of the icons of contemporary Latin American literature. She is also editor of Penguin Classics' essays and poetry of Jorge Luis Borges and the author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction. She is the winner of PEN USA's Translation Award 2012 for her translation of Jose Donoso's The Lizard's Tale


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