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BEZOAR AND OTHER UNSETTLING STORIES

GUADALUPE NETTEL, SEVEN STORIES PRESS

RESEÑA

Intricately woven masterpieces of craft, mournful for their human cries in defiance of our sometimes less than human surroundings, Nettel's stories and novels are dazzlingly enjoyable to read for their deep interest in human foibles. Following on the critical successes of her previous books, here are six stories that capture her unsettling, obsessive universe. "Ptosis" is told from the point of view of the son of a photographer whose work involves before and after pictures of patients undergoing cosmetic eye surgeries. In "Through Shades," a woman studies a man interacting with a woman through the windows of the apartment across the street. In one of the longer stories, "Bonsai," a man visits a garden, and comes to know a gardener, during the period of dissolution of his marriage. "The Other Side of the Dock" describes a young girl in search of what she terms "True Solitude," who finds a fellow soul mate only to see the thing they share lose its meaning. In "Petals," a woman's odor drives a man to search for her, and even to find her, without quenching the thirst that is his undoing. And the title story, "Bezoar," is an intimate journal of a patient writing to a doctor. Each narrative veers towards unknown and dark corridors, and the pleasures of these accounts lie partly in the great surprise of the familiarity together with the strangeness.

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2

HORIZONTAL VERTIGO

JUAN VILLORO, PANTHEON BOOKS

RESEÑA

At once intimate and wide-ranging, and as enthralling, surprising, and vivid as the place itself, this is a uniquely eye-opening tour of one of the great metropolises of the world, and its largest Spanish-speaking city. Horizontal Vertigo: The title refers to the fear of ever-impending earthquakes that led Mexicans to build their capital city outward rather than upward. With the perspicacity of a keenly observant flaneur, Juan Villoro wanders through Mexico City seemingly without a plan, describing people, places, and things while brilliantly drawing connections among them. In so doing he reveals, in all its multitudinous glory, the vicissitudes and triumphs of the city ’s cultural, political, and social history: from indigenous antiquity to the Aztec period, from the Spanish conquest to Mexico City today—one of the world’s leading cultural and financial centers. In this deeply iconoclastic book, Villoro organizes his text around a recurring series of topics: “Living in the City,” “City Characters,” “Shocks,” “Crossings,” and “Ceremonies.” What he achieves, miraculously, is a stunning, intriguingly coherent meditation on Mexico City’s genius loci, its spirit of place.

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3

MOUTHFUL OF BIRDS

SAMANTA SCHWEBLIN, RIVERHEAD BOOKS

RESEÑA

The brilliant stories in Mouthful of Birds burrow their way into your psyche and don’t let go. Samanta Schweblin haunts and mesmerizes in this extraordinary collection featuring women on the edge, men turned upside down, the natural world at odds with reality. We think life is one way, but often, it’s not — our expectations for how people act, love, fear can all be upended. Each character in Mouthful of Birds must contend with the unexpected, whether a family coming apart at the seams or a child transforming or a ghostly hellscape or a murder. Schweblin’s stories have the feel of a sleepless night, where every shadow and bump in the dark take on huge implications, leaving your pulse racing, and the line between the real and the strange blurs.

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4

NATURAL HISTORIES

GUADALUPE NETTEL, SEVEN STORIES PRESS

RESEÑA

Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, cats, a snake, and a strange fungus all serve here as mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature buried within us. The traits and fates of these animals illuminate such deeply natural, human experiences as the cruelty born of cohabitation, the desire to reproduce and the impulse not to, and the inexplicable connection that can bind, eerily, two beings together. Each Nettel tale creates, with tightly wound narrative tension, a space wherein her characters feel excruciatingly human, exploring how the wounds we incur in life manifest themselves within us, clandestinely, irrevocably, both unseen and overtly. In a precise writing style that is both subtle and spellbinding, Nettel renders the ordinary unsettling, and the grotesque exquisite. Natural Histories is the winner of the 3rd Ribera del Duero International Award for Short Narratives, an important Spanish literature prize.

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5

THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED

MARIANA ENRIQUEZ, HOGARTH PRESS

RESEÑA

Mariana Enriquez has been critically lauded for her unconventional and sociopolitical stories of the macabre. Populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women, they walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror. The stories in her new collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken—fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history—with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can’t let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma. Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, and with a resounding tenderness toward those in pain, in fear, and in limbo, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is Mariana Enriquez at her most sophisticated, and most chilling.

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6

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

MARIANA ENRIQUEZ, HOGARTH PRESS

RESEÑA

In these wildly imaginative, devilishly daring tales of the macabre, internationally bestselling author Mariana Enriquez brings contemporary Argentina to vibrant life as a place where shocking inequality, violence, and corruption are the law of the land, while military dictatorship and legions of desaparecidos loom large in the collective memory. In these stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortázar, three young friends distract themselves with drugs and pain in the midst a government-enforced blackout; a girl with nothing to lose steps into an abandoned house and never comes back out; to protest a viral form of domestic violence, a group of women set themselves on fire. But alongside the black magic and disturbing disappearances, these stories are fueled by compassion for the frightened and the lost, ultimately bringing these characters—mothers and daughters, husbands and wives—into a surprisingly familiar reality. Written in hypnotic prose that gives grace to the grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a powerful exploration of what happens when our darkest desires are left to roam unchecked, and signals the arrival of an astonishing and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.

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