The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. This year, Galesburg will be reading Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories, and there will be a variety of programs to celebrate Latino history and culture through May 5, 2016. Visit www.galesburglibrary.org for a complete schedule of events, or stop by the library starting March 7. Free copies of the book are available while supplies last.
Like most story anthologies, Sun, Stone, and Shadows contained stories I admired, stories I didn’t necessarily enjoy but that I’m still thinking about, stories I thought were lame, and stories I just did not get.
The stories are grouped into five sections. My favorite section overall was “The Fantastic Unreal,” and my favorite story in the collection was Permission Granted by Edmundo Valadés
The most famous author represented in the collection is arguably Octavio Paz, and I found his story My Life with the Wave to be disturbing and mind bending but also thought provoking. The language is very provocative, and the story is filled with nice imagery. Three other stories are grouped with it in “The Fantastic Unreal.” Chac-Mool by Carlos Fuentes could have been an episode on the TV show The X-Files. History According to Pao Cheng by Salvador Elizondo had a nice twist at the end, and Francisco Tario’s The Night of the Margaret Rose was also very evocative and made me feel as I were in the story with the narrator.
The second section is “Scenes from Mexican Reality,” and they are mostly sad or melancholy tales. I especially liked the touchingThe Mist by Juan de la Cabada. The third section is “The Tangible Past.” The Carnival of the Bullets by Martín Luis Guzmán has a strong and terrible narrative that is hard to forget. Permission Granted by Edmundo Valadés is very good, the most entertaining story in the collection, with an excellent ending.
The fourth section (the weakest, in my opinion) is “The Unexpected in Everyday, Urban Life.” I found Inés Arredondo’s The Shunammite predictable and thought the ending of Cooking Lesson by Rosario Castellanos fell flat. The fifth section is “Intimate Imagination.” The Switchman by Juan José Arreola is about trains, so a good choice for Galesburg, and The Square by Juan García Ponce is full of lovely descriptions that gave me a real sense of place.
I really enjoyed this selection of works intended to acquaint me with Mexican literature and recommend it to anyone interested in Mexican culture and to everyone in the Galesburg area. Sun, Stone, and Shadows is available in English and Spanish at the Galesburg Public Library.