McSweeney’s No. 46

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Stefan had never heard of Uruguay and, when he looked it up on the map, he saw why.

I was so excited to read this installment of McSweeney’s Quarterly that I stole it right off my sister’s shelf and flew it 2,500 miles away to my own abode. I paid no heed to her relentless begging and pleading to “Don’t take my book! I haven’t read it yet!” I had visited her a few months before when she had shown off her new purchase to me. “Can I take it?” I asked her then. She sang her unyielding tune of “No, I haven’t read it!” That time I listened to her, but silently I vowed that I would be back and that book would be mine.

Finally the day came and I saw it sitting on her shelf, untouched for months, piled beneath a dozen other books. I knew what I had to do. I stealthily slid over to the bookshelf to slip the book out. But the damn book was not easily dislodged. I took apart the book stack, throwing novels this way and that as I frantically tried to get to the bottom of the pile. Needless to say, I was found out. “You aren’t!” the sister cried. “I am!” I yelled, stomping my socked foot on the ground to signal there would be no further discussion. As I hid the book in the bottom of my traveling bag (just in case she tried to pull a fast one) I smiled at my thievery and how it was the perfect way to begin reading this particular book, a book all about crime.

Instead of summarizing the book myself, I’m going to insert a quote from the introduction that says everything I would like to say, but better and in a more concise fashion. “This issue of McSweeney’s sprang from a desire to bring together a collection of stories that would offer a comprehensive sample of new Latin American fiction. To tie it all together, we selected a single target — thirteen writers from ten different countries were asked  to write a contemporary crime story set in their home country.”

I thought, “This is going to be magic!” I should know by now never to go into a book with too high of hopes, because I will inevitably be let down. That sounds harsher than I want it to. It was a good collection of stories, some better than others. Although all the stories were hugely different there were a few reoccurring themes that popped up: transvestites and police corruption. There was also one commonality between them all: the complete lack of magical realism (which I was forewarned about in the introduction, but a girl can have dreams).

I think my overall problem with the collection is that the focus was too narrow. It started to get dull after the third or fourth story. I’d like to see what the authors would have done had they been given free rein. To sum up, I do think the collection is worth reading, but I would do so a story at a time instead of straight through.

The coffee tastes burned, but the inspector doesn’t know this: he thinks that this is the taste of authentic coffee.

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