Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Lo que trae la marea. Stanford book choice. Mail Bag.

Xánath Caraza. Lo que trae la marea / What the tide brings. Translated by Sandra Kingery, Stephen Holland-Wempe, and Xánath Caraza. El Paso, Texas : Mouthfeel Press, 2013.
ISBN: 0984426884 9780984426881

Michael Sedano

I reshelved the paperback, The World’s Great Short Stories, satisfied that this 1960s era collection, from my English major years in a pre-homicidal Isla Vista, still had moxie. I love old gems like “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” “Big Blonde,” de Maupassant in translation. In fact, nostalgic pangs rose for Bocaccio, Chaucer, the whole shebang of Euro-United Statesian belles lettres, until I shook off looking back. Instead, I picked up a copy of Xánath Caraza’s bilingual collection Lo que trae la marea What the Tide Brings. Welcome to the future.

Lo que trae la marea What the Tide Brings makes important contribution to understanding America’s contemporary literary environment. Written in Spanish and translated by a team including the author, the collection of Spanish-then-English stories doesn’t carve out readership so much as it opens markets on both sides of the nation’s and continent’s language frontera.

The publisher’s location in Spanglish-speaking El Paso positions Mouthfeel Press to ride the swell of a rising tide of books that take in the two dominant American readerships in a single volume. Such are few, but with publishers challenged to find new markets, chicana writers like Caraza-- a Mexicana who lives in Missouri—offer rich possibilities. Simultaneous translation welcomes monolinguals of either idiom while enriching a bilingual’s literary choices.

The quality of Caraza’s 17 stories--34 in all, counting both languages--already has bloguera Caraza on numerous “best of” prize rosters. Xánath Caraza is the Monday La Bloga columnist, alternating with Daniel Olivas. Watch Xánath’s columns for updates on myriad nominations and honors coming to rest on Caraza’s mantle.

Lo que trae la marea What the Tide Brings features its Spanish-language version, followed by English. Language learners will appreciate an opportunity to flip from page to page to catch nuances in ways language works across meaning. Examples of these enrich the experience of each language’s expressive resources. The collection is rich in small triumphs of translation that add texture to one’s enjoyment.

A vivid example occurs in “After the Bridges.” A busy office slows down. Occupants notice the absence of noise. In English, silence intrudes on the natural order of the world of work:
“She knew that the end of the day was approaching because the pace was gradually slowing down. As the minutes went by, silence encroached upon them until almost no one,” 116

In Spanish, silence offers a return to normal:
“Supo que el final del día se estaba acercando porque poco a poco el ritmo se fue haciendo más lento. Por cada minuto que pasaba el silencio fue acrecentándose hasta que casí nadie,” 110

The difference between crecer and encroach elicits cultural approaches to workplaces. In Spanish,
silence enlarges naturally, evoking Boyle’s law that silence expands to fill the space where it belongs. In English, silence kicks down the door and takes over.

Among the highlights of the collection are Caraza’s masterful synaesthesia skills, exhibited in story after story. In “After the Bridges” the worker enjoys a cup of coffee accompanied by taste, smell, touch, color, vision, hearing:

“The next morning, as she took the first sip of coffee, she closed her eyes and inhaled the aroma of coffee with cardamom from her ceramic cup. With the first sip, she heard the sound of marimbas in the distance. With the second sip, the turquoise sky over the town square of La Antigua and its lush green trees materialized in her mind. Another sip of coffee and the candy vendors in the town square offered her white milk candy and shredded coconut sweets dyed pink.”117

In Lo que trae la marea / What the tide brings, Xánath Caraza puts together a fast-moving collection, varying the pace spacing one- and two-page pieces between more extended 5- or ten page stories. Each comes self-contained, no need to look for links from story to story. Each reads quickly, allowing the writer to sneak up on readers, leaving a reader leafing back a few paragraphs to confirm a detail, or to savor the synaesthesia of a moment, and especially to savor the magic that permeates nearly every story.

Among the most interesting of the puro magic stories is the sensual, “Café On Huanjue Xiang Street.” A woman wanders into a basement coffee den, the solitary customer. She drinks in the ambiente and passes out. When she comes to, the place is filled with stolid gente ignoring her. This key scene illustrates the skill Caraza weaves her magic pluma:

“She remained very attentive to the small blue flame that contrasted with the red, airy atmosphere of the place. She waited until the blue flame was extinguished while the coffee aroma penetrated her nose. She introduced the spoon into the black fluid, and as the sugar touched the coffee, a spirit emerged from the cup. The spirit wrapped around her in a smoky spiral. It traversed her, lightly touched her nipples and sex until she lost consciousness.” 128

Writers will take a lot of pleasure from the magic when a writer meets a mysterious stranger who hands her a book. Inside, the writer finds the finished story she has only drafted in her notebook. She reads it to find out how it comes out. Then there’s the teacher’s lament about the copier, how it transfers the teacher’s identity to the page and when the student answers the question the teacher feels each pen stroke on each of the hundred copies she ran through the copy machine. Caraza even gets in an hommage to Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” in her “Flower in the Mist.”

Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings is not to be missed. A woman’s point of view, in the two dominant American languages, this book is the future of United States literature. It’s not a secret, it’s demographics. Salvation for American publishing means make the books American, like Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings.

Stanford Book Club Choice: Give It To Me

Southern California Stanford Latina Latino Alumni Book Club meets regularly for company, food, and excellent discussions of a book by a Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writer.

The August 24, 2014 selection is Ana Castillo's Give It To Me.

The group meets at 1:00 p.m. in Monrovia, California. Click here for information.

Mail Bag
Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference Discount Ends

Early bird discount deadline 6/1: 

La Bloga friend Marcela Landrés reminds writers of the Fall conference on the East Coast. Marcela sends datos:

The 3rd Annual Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference will provide Latino writers with access to published Latino authors as well as agents and editors who have a proven track record of publishing Latino books. We invite you to join us this year as a sponsor, advertiser, and/or attendee.

WHEN: Saturday, September 27, 2014

WHERE: Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY

WHO: Esmeralda Santiago, author of the New York Times best-seller Conquistadora, will serve as keynote speaker. Panelists include: Meg Medina, author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass; Johanna Castillo, Vice President & Senior Editor, Atria/Simon & Schuster; and Jeff Ourvan, Literary Agent, Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. For more details regarding the conference program, visit http://lascomadres.com/latinolit/latino-writers-conference/ 

Mail Bag
Troncoso Updates Truth

La Bloga friend Sergio Troncoso wants gente to know about the recent edition of his novel. Here's Sergio's email:

Dear Friends:

I am delighted to let you know that a revised and updated edition of my novel, The Nature of Truth, is now available in paperback for the first time (Arte Publico Press, 2014). I hope you will consider reading it. I wrote the novel because I loved that mix of philosophy and literature in writers like Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Camus, and Kafka, and also because I wanted to expand the literary terrain of Latino writers. I made some important changes in the plot and tightened the language, which I think makes this edition a better experience for readers.

Helmut Sanchez, a research assistant at Yale, discovers that his boss, a renowned professor, hides a Nazi past. By chance Helmut discovers an old letter written decades ago, which absolves Germany and Austria of any guilt for the Holocaust. As he digs into the origins of who wrote the letter, Helmut discovers it could be his boss, Werner Hopfgartner. Helmut travels to Austria and Italy with his girlfriend, Ariane Sassolini, in his quest to find the truth about Hopfgartner's past. Meanwhile, Professor Regina Neumann is determined to make Hopfgartner pay for his many sexual liaisons with undergraduate and graduate students. What will Helmut do with the awful truth he discovers? Will Werner Hopfgartner ever face justice for his past or present transgressions? Ultimately, what is the nature of truth?

Here is an interview I did with Maria Hinojosa on National Public Radio's Latino USA:


Sergio Troncoso said...

Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it. I hope La Bloga readers will enter the contest to win free signed copies of The Nature of Truth in a Goodreads Giveaway; only three days left! Saludos, Sergio


Xánath Caraza said...

Viva la Literatura Chicana!