Contemporary readers are fortunate that New Directions recently re-released this overlooked classic of the Black Arts Movement. At The Literary Review, I take a look at Fran Ross's Oreo: the book's literary context and its modern-day resonance, in particular its picaresque heroine's role as embodiment of America's diverse cultural identity. The novel interrogates a wealth of sociological themes such as race, ethnicity and feminism, all with a delightfully irreverent tone that mixes high and low culture and will have readers of all tastes laughing out loud. Keenly satirical, linguistically innovative and unabashedly erudite, Oreo has long been ripe for rediscovery.
The latest issue of Schoolcraft College's long-running magazine The MacGuffin is now available, featuring the winners of the 19th annual National Poet Hunt with commentary. I am thrilled to have my short story "Patron Saint of Flappers" included among such talent. A limited number of issues are available for online ordering via the NewPages website, while mail orders of single issues or full subscriptions are accepted directly through Schoolcraft College. An eclectic mix of styles and voices, illuminated with beautiful photos and prints, this issue proves once more Schoolcraft's devotion to the literary and fine arts.
My latest review looks at finalist for this year's Best Translated Book Award, Valeria Luiselli's Faces in the Crowd (translated by Christina MacSweeney). This "haunting, intelligent masterpiece" introduces English readers to a boldly original voice in world literature. Not only does MacSweeney's deft handling of the narrative's braided voices, metafictional layering and inventive use of language signal that this translation is more than deserving of the award. Readers will also find themselves under the spell of the novel's shifting sands, pitching back and forth in time and place, in a narrative which steadily builds to a breathtaking conclusion.
Meet Erasmo Aragón, the anxious, self-deluding and extremely unreliable narrator of Horacio Castellanos Moya's The Dream of My Return (translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver), which I reviewed recently at The Mookse and the Gripes. Erasmo's torturous attempts to remember his past, all while planning a possibly foolhardy return to his native El Salvador, will leave the reader reeling. A "maddening yet provocative whirlwind" of a psychological novel which unsettles with its explorations into questions of memory, trauma and identity, The Dream of My Return is worth returning to again and again.
My latest review at Reading in Translation looks at a picaresque masterpiece from Georgian author Mikheil Javakhishvili, Kvachi. In its exploration of themes from personal legacy to the stain of twentieth-century history to the ambivalence of Georgian identity, Kvachi proves "both epic and intimate." Thanks to Donald Rayfield's painstaking translation, modern Anglophone readers can enjoy this "devilishly provocative, heartfelt and ironic" novel in its most complete version to date (in any language), making it a literary event not to be missed.
FLAPPERHOUSE, home to my story "Introduction: A Moor in the Onyx Ash Grove" (#4), has just released print versions of all four year-one issues, as well as a Year-One anthology, brimming with all the wildly imaginative fiction and poetry readers have come to expect from this innovative journal. I am proud to see my work in such a beautiful edition, and even more thrilled to know my story has played a small role in setting the aesthetic tone for this journal, as it continues "dragging the future back through the past."
Readers interested in introducing themselves to the rich heritage that is Indian literature would do well to begin with Saadat Hasan Manto, a master of the short-story form and one of the most celebrated Urdu-language writers, influential to such luminaries as Salman Rushdie. Nevertheless, as I point out in my review of a recently released Manto collection, Bombay Stories (translated by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad) featured on Reading in Translation, while these stories are imbued with a vivid sense of place, the genre-bending originality of Manto's narrative style and themes transcends the stories' specific setting, "playfully treading that fine line between traditional and modern, individual and collective, to alight upon an enduring universality."
I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of famed (yet notoriously prickly) critic GLB Pym's latest piece of literary scholarship, and it appears in the Winter 2015 issue of FLAPPERHOUSE, out today. Here Pym introduces us to the life and work of eccentric poet, writer and translator, Sylvain Dubois - while settling a few scores along the way. The piece appears in impressive company, surrounded by wildly provocative, utterly beguiling, fiction and poetry.
My story "Sitting on Avalon" is included in the 2014 issue of Emrys Journal, available now. I am proud to find it in the company of some excellent writing and to be a part of Emrys Foundation's mission to widen the reach of the literary arts.
This review marks my new role as regular contributor to the blog The Mookse and the Gripes. The book is Barbara Comyns' Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, a novel so darkly powerful yet "strewn with hidden gems of wry humor and glitter[ing] with flashes of tenderness." I hope you will check out the review - and then read this wonderful book.
Publication announcements, bookish items of note and the occasional literary musing.