Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Best Way to Talk About Loneliness and Loss: Q&A with Santiago Roncagliolo

Born in Peru, and now living in Barcelona, author Santiago Roncagliolo was named as one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists a few years back. Noted for being the youngest person to win the prestigious Alfaguara Prize (for his novel Red April, which was published in English in 2010), Roncagliolo is also a translator, a children’s book author, a newspaper contributor, and a soap opera writer. His past work has examined the horrors of the Sendero Luminoso in Peru as well as the sex trade in Tokyo, but in his latest book in English, Hi, This Is Conchita and Other …Continue reading

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A Black Family’s Fantastical Cuban History: Carlos Acosta’s ‘Pig’s Foot’

Günter Grass begins his magical realist masterpiece The Tin Drum by explaining that “no one ought to tell the story of his life who hasn’t the patience to say a word or two about at least half of his grandparents before plunging into his own existence.” In Pig’s Foot (Bloomsbury, 333 pages), Carlos Acosta’s first novel (translated by Frank Wynne), the narrator more than abides by this advice. Pig’s Foot is the story of the narrator, told from the very beginning, when his great-great-grandmother arrives as a slave in Cuba in the 1800s. Acosta’s novel, set in a remote and …Continue reading

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Big Two-Hearted River Still Runs: Donald Lystra’s ‘Something That Feels Like Truth’

The recent award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Alice Munro was one of those cultural events which seemed uniquely well-deserved, if just because of the Canadian author’s modest attention to the little disturbances of men—and women— that give life meaning and shape. It may mean—I hope it means—a rebirth of interest in the short story, a form that while notoriously hard to “brand” in the publishing world, is uniquely qualified to communicate such particularities. Donald Lystra explores this territory with tact and precision in his new collection, Something That Feels Like Truth (Switchgrass Books/Northern Illinois University Press). A …Continue reading

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Balancing Being Herself and Being True to the Author: Q&A with Silvia Pareschi

In his novel Freedom, Jonathan Franzen has one of his characters make a pun that would make anyone groan. “Nor-fock-a-Virginia!” a character says in a fake Italian accent. When his German translator asked for clarification, Franzen explained: “Punchline of a pun about an Italian who won’t fuck virgins. The pun refers to the city of Norfolk, Virginia. Anything that works in German and is both dirty and refers to Italy or Italians would be fine with me.” If it was hard to come up with a solution in German, it was almost impossible in Italian: “It had to be something …Continue reading

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An Evolution Beyond Gender in the Wild West: Cutting Ball Theater’s ‘Sidewinder’

For the world premiere of Basil Kreimendahl’s hilarious and tenderhearted play Sidewinders (directed by M. Graham Smith), the Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco has flipped its performance space, arranging the stands of chairs so the stage is deeper than it is wide. Papier mache clouds hang from the ceiling, casting shadows on the clouds painted on the walls, creating an illusion of depth (lighting design by Heather Basarab). The stage seems to open up in front of us on three sides. The set, designed by Michael Locher, is dotted with sandy colored, flat-topped stumps, like desert mesas in miniature. …Continue reading

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Deft Handling of the Short-Short Story: Ethel Rohan’s ‘Goodnight Nobody’

Ethel Rohan’s latest collection, Goodnight Nobody (Queen’s Ferry Press), is a slim volume of thirty (extremely) short stories, most of which clock-in at under five pages. It’s a daring, highly compressed form, and Rohan uses it to turn out characters who are often stuck, ill-adapted, grieving, or fallen out of love. In “Someplace Better,” one of the few longer pieces in Goodnight Nobody, a guy picks up a girl at a tattoo shop. She’s young and beautiful, and she’s there to get a tattoo of a planet across her forehead. Though the tattoo artist refuses, the manager relents, and it’s …Continue reading

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With Mercer Out of the Hospital, ‘Swearing in English’ Finally Has Its Big Night

Earlier this year, when Oakland actor and author John Mercer was due to take the stage for the opening night of his one-man show drawn from his memoir/essay collection, Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun, he was otherwise occupied: he was in the hospital with viral encephalitis, a life-threatening illness that would keep him there for 11 days. The advertised shows were cancelled, and the book launch never happened. (You can read more about the memoir here.) Now Mercer, who is a member of the Shotgun Players, has recovered and the show will go on. What was going to …Continue reading

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