Thursday, March 06, 2008

Latin America

Hi Everyone – Thank you for letting me offer some selections for our next book discussion. I hope you’ll enjoy taking a trip down to Latin America. I’ve chosen some writers who’ve been on my radar for some time now. I admit I haven’t read anything by these authors but the reviews I read sounded very promising.

Below are the choices which are available on Amazon. I couldn’t find any of these on BookMooch but I did notice that BookCloseOuts has some of these titles at a great price.

Please vote in the comment section. Let’s say everyone vote by Monday, March 10 and I’ll announce the selection then. Discussion will start on Wednesday, April 30.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano (Chile) -- This highly stylized novel is ostensibly about two poets, leaders of the Mexican visceral realist literary movement, and their search for an obscure icon of the movement and its repercussions. The book spans a decade and follows the poets from Mexico City to the Sonoran Desert, Guatemala, Barcelona, Paris, Israel, Congo, Liberia, and the U.S. The narrative becomes secondary to the voices of the people who meet these poets as this long novel told through the personal stories--some humorous, some inscrutable, some tragic--of the eclectic assortment of characters they encounter on the way becomes less about the search and more about literature and language.

Drown by Junot Diaz (Dominican Republic) -- The 10 tales in this intense debut collection plunge us into the emotional lives of people redefining their American identity. Narrated by adolescent Dominican males living in the struggling communities of the Dominican Republic, New York and New Jersey, these stories chronicle their outwardly cool but inwardly anguished attempts to recreate themselves in the midst of eroding family structures and their own burgeoning sexuality. Diaz's restrained prose reveals their hopes only by implication. It's a style suited to these characters, who long for love but display little affection toward each other. Still, the author's compassion glides just below the surface, occasionally emerging in poetic passages of controlled lyricism, lending these stories a lasting resonance.

Women with Big Eyes by Angeles Mastretta (Mexico) -- The women who come to life in Mastretta's engaging bilingual story collection are independent and passionate individuals, and she writes about them with compassion and, above all, humor. Each story portrays a different woman as she enters a crucial point in her life, such as Aunt Daniela, who "fell in love the way intelligent women always fall in love: like an idiot." Or Aunt Amanda, who suddenly marries her deceased mother's ex-lover in order to quiet the townspeople's gossip about her parentage. Part fable, part mysticism, the stories are tied together with details of everyday life in the author's native Puebla, Mexico.

Eccentric Neighborhoods by Rosario Ferre (Puerto Rico) -- Ferre creates a colorful family saga as a way to explore the modern political and social history of her native Puerto Rico. The narrator, Elvira Vernet, claims descent from two prominent families whose divergent natures effectively embody contrary strains in the national character. Elvira's mother, Clarissa Rivas de Santillana, grew up among a privileged family made wealthy by its several sugar plantations. One admires Ferre's ferocious ingenuity and energy as she depicts a society and century in flux. This most demanding of her novels so far is probably also the best.

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia (Cuba) -- The title is beautifully evocative of a book of dreams, dreams of three generations of a Cuban family living both in Cuba and Brooklyn. These dreamers are Celia, who, loyal to Castro, writes letters addressed to her lover Gustavo, although he has fled to Spain; Celia's troubled daughter Felicia, who also remains in Cuba; Celia's other daughter Lourdes, who opens a bakery in Brooklyn, consuming vast quantities of her own baked goods; and her daughter Pilar, a defiant bohemian painter. Deeply evocative, by turns funny, poignant and grotesque, this ambitious novel weaves together the lives of its characters in a complex, haunting web of vignettes, which convey a strong sense of place and history."

15 comments:

j.c. montgomery said...

I love this! I read a spanish author this year (Carlos Ruiz Zafón) and found my self completely enamored with finding more works by Spanish or Latin writers. Perfect timing.

All of these sound wonderful. If I had to choose I would like to try The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano.

It was a hard choice. But to make myself feel better, I think I will put all of these on my TBR wish list. Thanks!

Melody said...

Hi, I'm here after reading a post from
Bookgirl's Nightstand
.

All of them sounds great! But I'll go with Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. :)

Thanks, and happy reading!

Stefanie said...

They all sound so good but I've been wanting to read Bolano for ages so my vote goes to Savage Detective.

Imani said...

Me too! Another vote for Bolano.

Danielle said...

It's been ages since I've read any Latin American fiction (and I used to read loads of it--including Dreaming in Cuban, which I thought was great), and I'd be happy to read any of them. However I've really been wanting to read Roberto Bolano, so I vote for The Savage Detectives as it would be wonderful to read him in a group. Great suggestions Iliana!

Dorothy W. said...

I'm fine reading any of these, but since many people have already voted for Bolano, I'll go along with them. This will be fun!

litlove said...

This is a wonderful idea! I don't mind what we read, BUT I possess the Bolano and it's HUGE - about 500 pages. Is that a problem for anyone? I'm not sure I could get through it, although I'm willing to give it a go. Otherwise, my interest was piqued by Dreaming in Cuban.

Iliana said...

So glad you guys are enjoying the list.
Litlove - I didn't realize the Bolano book was that hefty. Hmmm, but I did notice that it just came out in paperback. That's much nicer on the pocketbook :)

Imani said...

Oh poop, that's right, we usually try to keep the size of the book selections to a reasonably low page count. Err...well, in that case, I'd be happy to read Cristina Garcia or Junot Diaz titles since those are both shorter (under 300 pages in hardcover/paperback) and available at my local library, if others prefer we go that route. :) The Bolano trade paperback released in Canada has over 600 pages.

Stefanie said...

We could always give ourselves extra time and have the discussion on May 30th. If the book is too long I'd be willing to change my vote to Dreaming in Cuban

Iliana said...

Darn, now I don't know what to do...

If we go with the Bolano book and move the discussion date to May 30 would someone mind taking on opening the discussion and all that good stuff? I'll be on vacation so it's doubtful that I'll be able to join in on time.

Or we go with the April 30 date and read Dreaming in Cuban which I think was the other book with most votes.

Whatever you guys think works best. I don't mind either way.

Dorothy W. said...

I'm perfectly willing to change my vote too. Reading over 500 pages by the end of April probably won't work for me (almost certainly won't), and I want Iliana around for the discussion! So why not go with Dreaming in Cuban?

stefanie said...

I want Iliana to be around for the discussion too, so April 30th and Dreaming in Cuban is fine with me!

litlove said...

Yes, I would rather we had iliana with us.

Iliana said...

Aw, thanks you guys!
Okay, let's go then with Dreaming in Cuban. I will post the announcement.

Also, I saw that there were a few copies of the book available on bookmooch.