Twenty-one Latin American voices rise up in a discordant but memorable collection.
Fewer than half of the authors culled for this anthology currently live in Latin America, the rest scattered from Europe to the South Pacific. Accordingly, editor Colchie (A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes, not reviewed) seems to have tried for something different from what is usually thought of as “Latin American” fiction and for the most part has achieved his aim. A standout is the always-sublime Junot Díaz, whose “Edison, New Jersey” takes a monologue by a man with kleptomaniac tendencies who delivers pool tables and makes it into a small epic of lost opportunity. Other stars, like Julia Alvarez and Laura Esquivel, also make appearances, Alvarez with the tortured and occasionally overwrought family saga “Blood of the Conquistadors,” and Esquivel with “Blessed Reality,” a tiny chuckle of sex and technology. Taking the volume into more uncharted territories is Ignacio Padilla’s “The Antipodes and the Century”—short and to the point, a Calvino-esque story about a Scottish explorer from the Geographical Society who gets lost deep in the Gobi desert and spins a web of insanity around his yearning for Scotland that entrances the Knirgiz nomads who find him. In “Natural Disasters,” by Anna Kazumi Stahl, a young girl with a weather-obsessed father and a gently insane mother waits in 1955 Louisiana for a deadly monster of a hurricane that her father just can’t wait for. There are some rough spots, like “After Elian,” by Ernesto Mestre-Reed, which takes a slight premise about an old Cuban woman living in Miami who gets fed up with her nursing home existence and tries to stretch an unfortunate amount of meaning around it.
Still, there’s also much here that’s humorous, haunting and alive in a way that short fiction anthologies almost never are.