"Kafka in a Skirt: Stories from the Wall" – by Daniel Chacón

Daniel Chacón begins his latest collection of short stories with a metafictional device. He tells us how to read the book. We can read the stories in order or skip around, following themes. The device is borrowed from Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela (translated as Hopscotch), a masterpiece in 155 chapters, the final 99 of which can…

"All the Dreams We've Dreamed" by Rus Bradburd

This superb and harrowing book chronicles the life of Shawn Harrington, a charismatic college basketball star who becomes a victim – albeit a survivor – of Chicago’s gun violence. Harrington was recruited in 1995 from Marshall High School, Chicago, by the author, Rus Bradburd, who at the time was coaching at NMSU. When Harrington got…

The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections by Eliane Brum, translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty

The philosopher Theodor Adorno once stated that the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. Brazilian journalist and novelist Eliane Brum does just that in The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections, a compassionate trek through Brazil’s peripheries, where the poor and the marginalized reside. As she mines favelas…

“Roots Music: Listening to Jazz” by Eve West Bessier – review

Eve West Bessier’s Roots Music: Listening to Jazz is a blast from first to last, a word feast from West to east. Each poem in the collection was inspired by listening to old jazz numbers. From Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and co, the poet found her bounce, her rhythm, and the linguistic playfulness that makes…

The Latino Boom: The Felipe de Ortego y Gasca Lecture

In early October 2019 I gave the inaugural Felipe de Ortego y Gasca lecture in honor of my great friend and Chicano legend, who passed away in December 2018. I spoke about Latin American literature, more specifically the Latino Boom. The Boom was the period of about ten years, from the early nineteen-sixties, in which…

Dispatches from Spain: Radio interview/Entrevista en la radio

Yo y Alexandra fuimos entrevistados en la radio regional de Asturias. Hablamos de nuestras vidas aquí en España y otras cosas, como las diferencias entre los Estados Unidos y España, la politica, mi trabajo, etc. Hablé un poquito sobre mi novela Damnificados y tambien me preguntaron quién es mi escritor favorito. Naturalmente, mi respuesta fue…

Dispatches from Spain: Libroviedo

I’ll start by confessing to my almost complete ignorance of contemporary Spanish literature. Besides Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Javier Marías, I can barely name a Spanish writer who hasn’t been dead for eighty years (Garcia Lorca, Unamuno, Machado). So what a pleasure it was to attend Libroviedo 2019 and to try to update myself. The…

RIP Mark Medoff (1940-2019)

Playwright and screenwriter Mark Medoff was giving a presentation in 2017 when someone asked him, “How do you write a screenplay?” Mark replied: “Hands up if you’ve ever watched a film.” Everyone put their hands up. “Then you know how to write a screenplay.” If, in reality, it wasn’t quite that easy, Mark, with his…

Dispatches from Spain 2: Salamanca

Some cities are distinctly literary. Buenos Aires springs to mind. It has the largest number of bookshops per capita of any major city and was home, at least for a while, to Borges, Ocampo, Cortázar, and Neruda. Of course there’s also London, Paris, and New York. Slightly less famous is Salamanca. Roaming around for a…

Dispatches from Spain: Museo Nacional del Prado

Las Meninas. Los Borrachos. The Garden of Earthly Delights. The Triumph of Death. Vuelo de Brujas. The Dead Christ Supported by an Angel. El Prado is a writers’ feast. The great and terrible themes that have obsessed humanity for thousands of years are all here in oil and stone: war, love, faith, power. It’s a…

“Abbott” by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, and Jason Wordie

In the opening panels of this graphic novel, we’re introduced to a heroine so heroic, sassy, and cool she makes J-Lo look like Mickey Mouse. She’s a black, bisexual, chain-smoking, brandy-swigging reporter. She has the swagger of a supermodel and she represents pretty much everything good that came out of the Sixties: civil rights, women’s…