I didn’t think I was actually going to read “Salsa Nocturna”.
I definitely knew I was going to buy it, though. I’d heard too many good things and I wanted to have that book. I wanted to at least try to read it. But there was a problem: ghosts. Not just ghosts, but half-dead men, giants, and creepy porcelain dolls. I’m no scaredy-cat. I love horror films, even the bad ones. Still, reading horror hasn’t really been my thing since R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and “Stories to Tell in the Dark”. As an adult, it’s been hard for me to get into the stories and experience them the way I assumed the author intended. The same was true for sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve passed over these genres in favor of non-fiction and realistic fiction on countless occasions. Then, I saw the title of this book pop-up over and over on my social media accounts and in a few blogs I follow. “Salsa Nocturna” is a provocative title and I was intrigued by all the buzz. I ordered it from Crossed Genres with hope, but certainly, a lack of faith.
When “Salsa Nocturna” arrived, I sat down and cracked it open immediately. I knew myself well enough to know the longer I waited to do so, it would become less and less likely I ever would. And of course, this is the part where I tell you I didn’t put the book down until I finished it. I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was enthralled. Daniel José Older writes about supernatural occurrences in a way that allows the reader to embrace the story without suspending belief. This series of stories is about more than horror or any other label you could slap on a collection confined to its genre. There are moments I laughed out loud because they were so funny and so authentic. In some ways, I was jealous, unsure that I’d ever been so real in my own writing. And I write nonfiction! In other moments, Older’s stories made me want to cry out of frustration or longing to experience love the way he’d written it between those pages.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was really very refreshing to read a book with such a diverse cast of characters. Older’s characters exist on every plane between the living and dead. They are robust and bursting with life even when they aren’t exactly…alive. In fact, I would venture to say that the characters who are least alive are the ones who perform the most profound exhibitions of humanity. Carlos and Riley being my favorites, it is especially satisfying to read through their character development. What does it mean for the dead (or half-dead) to embrace his/her sense of moral or ethical responsibility? And what does it mean when that sense of responsibility puts him/her in direct opposition to the powers that be in this world or the next? Older answers those questions, not with clear-cut responses, but with stories that make you long for the certainty that your death will be more adventurous than your life, that you might have the opportunity to answer those questions with your journey beyond, that you might even dance right into the last phase of your humanity.
Excerpt screen captured from The Rumpus.
I stumbled across this gorgeous literary nonfiction comic over at The Rumpus and had to share. MariNaomi‘s drawings enhance every scene, legitimizing the words and thoughts without over-explaining. We all have some doozy exes we look back on and wonder how the hell we dodged that bullet when we were willing to stand right in the line of of fire for so long. Many of us empathize with the gunman long after they’ve gone. We wonder “what happened to…” even after we stop wondering “what if we…”
MariNaomi captures that feeling here. The embarrassment of what we’ve put ourselves through, coupled with the hope and longing for the ones who put us through it.
Check it out.
“So when I ask you not to leave me, the joke is I’m asking you to go against the cosmic grain.”
Is this true? This story in Wigleaf by Cezarija Abartis and this advice/essay/truth over at The Rumpus are making me wonder something terrible. How many people actually want to be where they are when they love someone? Is it our natural inclination to want to leave?
I think about my last relationship and how it happened twice. How he left me the first time and took 30 of my pounds and my ability to listen to The Weepies with him. How the second time we both left long before either of us actually left. How even now, I don’t want him back, but fuck if I didn’t want him to want to stay. How I don’t feel rushed to get married, or have babies, or graduate, or move, but I do feel rushed to find someone who just won’t leave.
Came across this story written by Mark Brinker over at Fringe and it felt like new toothpaste in my mouth. I guess that just means refreshing. In any event, I enjoyed it. I think you might enjoy it too. I don’t want to give away anything about the story, because I enjoyed the process of reading it, not just the resolution. Why would I deny you the same? This time, anyway.
Curtis Smith does some good stuff in this featured story on Wigleaf. The story is about fraternal twins, one of them labeled a “simpleton”, but as usual, it’s about more than that. It’s about responsibility and guilt and how both can be misplaced. It’s about the disjointed relationships we have with our family, especially as children, and how those familial relations really mean ownership and how we protect what we own even when we’re done loving it. It’s also maybe about how we’re never really done loving anything.
I suggest you read it.
These little moments corralled into one place are haunting, urgent, and almost melodramatic. Still, altogether, they made my face pretty warm.
E.C. Osondu used complete sentences to break my heart up in little bitty pieces. This thing from Fifty-Two Stories ruined me for an ounce of time. I wish I could clearly state why it affected me so, but I can’t, and I refuse to wait any longer to share.
If you are waiting for someone who will love you/hurt you/know you/keep you, and you’re not sure whether you’d rather bite or be bitten, stop moving your hands and read this book because all good/bad words matter.
Buy Daddy’s by Lindsay Hunter.
Thoroughly enjoyed this story over at Anderbo. Eleven year-old Antonio Aiello’s obliviously oedipal possessiveness of his mother, and her wanton behavior make for a high jumping emotional piece. He is a child who shouldn’t be where he is and she is a woman in need of some physical affirmation, perhaps at the cost of her relationship with her son.
This story is teeming with beginnings. They are both breaking out of restrained lives, headed toward separate freedoms. It’s a new year and they’re both trying to find some answers in the mouth of a bottle or the mouth of a man.
“The room spins faster. I try to stand up. So I can kick his ass, pull her away. Save her. Slap her. Hug her. Make Ernie/Eddie/Enrique clean up that red wine. I’m swimming through bodies all greased up, slicked up, coked up, dancing for their lives. Dancing to wash off the last remnants of 1984.”
Check this one out.
I assume relationships with dads are tough. Everyone seems to be writing about how much they love/hate/are disappointed in/are trying to kill/wish they could really know/worship their fathers. Ryan Gannon is another person who is doing it well.
Gannon’s story “Perseids” (A prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle–don’t pretend you didn’t wonder) over at Staccato Fiction begins with your basic hipster scene and evolves into so much more. A lot of contemporary work that gets into the father/son connection also explores the narrators relationship with religion.
“He’d take the miniature bible from the dash and thumb the leather surface for a minute, waiting for me to kill the engine, but I’d keep it running. He’d slink out into the daylight wearing his Carhartt coveralls, smelling of cigarettes and caked with a thin layer of carbon-black from the polymer plant. He’d ask me to come. I’d close the car door and tell him I’d pick him up in an hour.”
Do you stop believing in (a) God when you give up on your parents? And how do you make me think about stuff like that with such a short story?
My upper face is thumping.