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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

FEVER DREAM

SAMANTA SCHWEBLIN, RIVERHEAD BOOKS

RESEÑA

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family. Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.

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3

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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4

LITTLE EYES

SAMANTA SCHWEBLIN, RIVERHEAD BOOKS

RESEÑA

They’ve infiltrated homes in Hong Kong, shops in Vancouver, the streets of in Sierra Leone, town squares in Oaxaca, schools in Tel Aviv, bedrooms in Indiana. They’re everywhere. They’re here. They’re us. They’re not pets, or ghosts, or robots. They’re real people, but how can a person living in Berlin walk freely through the living room of someone in Sydney? How can someone in Bangkok have breakfast with your children in Buenos Aires, without your knowing? Especially when these people are completely anonymous, unknown, unfindable. The characters in Samanta Schweblin’s brilliant new novel, Little Eyes, reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung souls—but yet they also expose the ugly side of our increasingly linked world. Trusting strangers can lead to unexpected love, playful encounters, and marvelous adventure, but what happens when it can also pave the way for unimaginable terror? This is a story that is already happening; it’s familiar and unsettling because it’s our present and we’re living it, we just don’t know it yet. In this prophecy of a story, Schweblin creates a dark and complex world that’s somehow so sensible, so recognizable, that once it’s entered, no one can ever leave.

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5

LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE

VALERIA LUISELLI, KNOPF PUBLISHING GROUP

RESEÑA

In Valeria Luiselli’s fiercely imaginative follow-up to the American Book Award-winning Tell Me How It Ends, an artist couple set out with their two children on a road trip from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. As the family travels west, the bonds between them begin to fray: a fracture is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. Through ephemera such as songs, maps and a Polaroid camera, the children try to make sense of both their family’s crisis and the larger one engulfing the news: the stories of thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States but getting detained—or lost in the desert along the way. A breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, Lost Children Archive is timely, compassionate, subtly hilarious, and formally inventive—a powerful, urgent story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world.

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6

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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7

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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8

OPTIC NERVE

MARIA GAINZA, CATAPULT

RESEÑA

The narrator of Optic Nerve is an Argentinian woman whose obsession is art. The story of her life is the story of the paintings, and painters, who matter to her. Her intimate, digressive voice guides us through a gallery of moments that have touched her. In these pages, El Greco visits the Sistine Chapel and is appalled by Michelangelo’s bodies. The mystery of Rothko’s refusal to finish murals for the Seagram Building in New York is blended with the story of a hospital in which a prostitute walks the halls while the narrator’s husband receives chemotherapy. Alfred de Dreux visits Géricault’s workshop; Gustave Courbet’s devilish seascapes incite viewers “to have sex, or to eat an apple”; Picasso organizes a cruel banquet in Rousseau’s honor . . . All of these fascinating episodes in art history interact with the narrator’s life in Buenos Aires―her family and work; her loves and losses; her infatuations and disappointments. The effect is of a character refracted by environment, composed by the canvases she studies. Seductive and capricious, Optic Nerve marks the English–language debut of a major Argentinian writer. It is a book that captures, like no other, the mysterious connections between a work of art and the person who perceives it.

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9

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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10

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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