Slightly late to posting: my review of Javier Marías latest novel, Thus Bad Begins went live awhile back at Literal Magazine. I have written about Marías before, having reviewed his penultimate novel, The Infatuations, for The Millions.
Here’s how my review starts, picking up on a line I had mentioned in my review of The Infatuations:
Javier Marías doesn’t want to be “what they call a ‘real Spanish writer.’” These are authors who, Marîas says, prominently feature themes and motifs of classic Spain, including bullfighting and passionate women. While these tropes are certainly absent from his novels, which tend more to involve analytic and voluble narrators dissecting the vagaries of life, Marías is still obviously fascinated with the Spanish character, and with its gestalt, and perhaps that is in no clearer form than in his latest novel, Thus Bad Begins.
My review of Samanta Schweblin’s skin-crawlingly creepy Fever Dream is now live at Literal Magazine. My review, in a snippet:
For Fever Dream is truly less a dream and more a nightmare, although the kind that—like the best of horror—you cannot help but wanting to see through.
In a happy coincidence, the book was named to the Man Booker International Prize shortlist.
Many thanks to Drunk Monkeys for accepting my funny little story “Gaddafi in Drag.” You can read it here. And here’s how it starts:
And then Gaddafi came in, totally in drag. Not just eye shadow, which he was famous for, but a full evening dress, pearl necklace, and hose. Rouge on his cheeks. Four burly female bodyguards tailed him, holstering guns. Besides the slight dip in volume of conversation, no one at the party acted like anything was askance. Gaddafi’s lips were the red, it occurred to me, of that “Say goodbye a little longer” chewing gum, and it was that commercial jingle that played in my head as I watched him walking in heels like he practiced it. It wasn’t like he didn’t have the facial features to cross dress: thin cheeks and high cheekbones like a model’s. (This was before age sunk his face into a permanent scowl, before he insisted on that comb mustache and that sweep of a rug under his chin.) Perhaps this was because I was trained to spot such disguises, but it was obvious to me from the moment he walked in.
Funny enough, this is (oh very very loosely) based on a real story, albeit one that was hearsay on top of hearsay. Of course, for fiction, that’s all part of the fun.
Nobody asked me, but here are my 5 albums of 2016, in no particular order:
- A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead
- A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson
- We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest
- Sunlit Youth, Local Natives
- 22, A Million, Bon Iver
Since subscribing to an unlimited service, it’s been fun to explore my tastes, but it’s funny how this list still features three old favorites: Radiohead, the Tribe, and Bon Iver.
If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with the Bon Iver. That album seeped its way into my consciousness and wouldn’t let go. It made yard work a bit more bearable.
Edit: Somehow not until after I posted this did I finally listen to Blackstar by David Bowie, which definitely deserves to be on my list. So consider it Six Favorite Albums, then.
My review of Julio Cortázar’s Save Twilight: Poems (from City Lights Books) is up at Literal Magazine. It should be the first in a multiple reviews for Literal, where I have been given the opportunity to regularly write on Latin American and/or Spanish language literature.
If you know me, you know I’ve been a longtime fan of Latin American lit, from my days obsessing over One Hundred Years of Solitude in high school to discovering Dagoberto Gilb and Sandra Cisneros in college. As much as one can lump such disparate books together, there is something to these books that I respond to, that speaks to me in a louder voice than other novels and stories. More recently, many of the books I tackled for Necessary Fiction—including Álvaro Bisama and Eduardo Lalo—have been from the region, but I’ve also become deeply interested in the works of Spanish writer Javier Marías.
In fact, it’s to Marías that my next review turns: his brand-new Thus Bad Begins.
My short story, “Sunsets in Sunny Gardens,” has now appeared in the latest I-70 Review. Thanks to Gary, Maryfrances, Jan and Greg for accepting it. I received my copy in the mail this week and it looks fantastic.
The story opens:
My review of Bad Faith by Ted Wheeler has gone live over at Necessary Fiction. A bit:
Most of the characters in Bad Faith aren’t nice, and Wheeler plumbs that not-niceness throughout. The Pythagoreans talked of good as definite and finite, and evil and indefinite and infinite. Niceness may make for a slogan, and a friendly face to provide directions, but it is often just a veneer.
Having followed Ted’s writing career from a distance for a while (as a fellow Nebraskan), it was fun to finally read some of his stories. It’s a great collection, and I’d heartily recommend it. Go buy it here.
My review of the essential Seeing Red by Lina Meruane has been published over at the Colorado Review. An excerpt:
One evening in New York, Lina Meruane’s body “seize[s] up” and leaves her “paralyzed, [her] sweaty hands clutching at the air.” Just as she reaches to her purse to pick up an insulin shot, a “firecracker” goes off in her head: “That was the last thing I would see, that night, through the eye: a deep, black blood.” The stroke leaves her vision damaged, and the rest of Seeing Red, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, concerns how Lina, a writer and doctoral student, copes with losing and trying to reclaim her sight. Every day threads of blood continue to cloud her vision. “Being like this, in a fog,” she says, “is like being asleep and awake at the same time.” In the aftermath, Lina is unable to put pen to paper.
I particularly liked that the CR stuck the review in both their fiction and nonfiction sections. Clever—and the exact right move for this book, which straddles the two categories.
My review of Colson Whitehead’s absolutely brilliant new novel, The Underground Railroad, has appeared over at The Millions. Read the review if you’d like. Or better, go buy the book.
Go read something by Dana Spiotta. You can’t go wrong. I’d recommend Stone Arabia or her newest, Innocents and Others.
Otherwise, what you’ve been reading about Zero K is pretty much spot on, but the best novel of the year—which I am reviewing soon—might just be Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.