Kafka in a Skirt (And My Other Books).

Kafka Cover

 

 

This is my latest book, which came out right before the quarantine in late Fall 2019, before the virus spread around the world and millions got locked down in their own homes.  

Although it came out in the Fall, we just had a baby girl, so I didn’t want to leave home and wasn’t going to tour the book until Spring 2020. I had big plans. book festivals, campus visits, bookstores in various cities, but all of them were canceled.

So what can I saw about this book?

Check it out.

The subtitle is Stories from the Wall®, which should not only evoke Trump’s wall being erected between the two cities in which I live, El Paso and Juárez, but it also refers to the technological wall, the kind you would put on your computer to protect your data. The Wall® becomes a place where the cloud is protected, all your information, all the data that ever passed through your cyber psyche, even things you don’t remember.  It knows you’re history. It knows your present. It knows your future.

It’s a scary place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

shadows

and the shadows took him is my first novel (although not my first book), and this one is important to me as a writer. During the years when I was writing it, Joey Molina, the protagonist, wouldn’t leave me alone.

When I didn’t want to write about him, he would show up anyway.

I remember one time I was in a department meeting at Southwest State University in southern Minnesota, and Joey whispered to me, “Write this down!”

I had my pen and pad ready just in case something at the meeting would be worth writing down, but instead I used them to write what Joey Molina was whispering to me.

Some of it ended up in the novel.

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jury

When the poet Andrés Montoya was dying in the hospital, he called me into his room, because, he said, he had a favor to ask of me.

I probably would’ve done anything he asked. He was not only one of my closest friends, and a great poet, but he was also one of the most gentle spirits I had ever met.

When you looked into his eyes, you saw the light of God.

He asked me to take responsibility for everything he’s even written, all  his poetry, his notebooks, every single file on every single floppy disk.

“Do what you think is right with it,” he said.

Over 10 years after his death, I published a jury of trees, a posthumous collection of his poetry.

 

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Hotel Juárez, Stories, Rooms, and Loops.

hotel jua

This is my most critically acclaimed book, a collection of stories and loops mostly taking place in the twin cities of Ciudad Juaréz and El Paso, during the first decade of the 2000s, when the drug violence was going on and Juárez was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It was positively reviewed by Alan Chuese on NPR, Publishers Weekly, Texas Review of Books and many others, and it won some great awards, like the Pen Oakland Award for Fiction.

 

 

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last supper

One time, Dr. Mimi Gladstein and I were siting next to each other at dinner for a visiting writer, and she leaned over and asked me what I have been working on.

I told her about the novel I was writing, some other projects, and I said, “But what I would really like to do is a collected works of Burciaga.

“Let’s do it!” she said.

“Coeditors?” I asked, and she said yes.

“That’s a great idea!” I said, not thinking much more about it until the next day when I got an email from her saying, “Let’s get started.”

We worked very well together, and we both loved the work and the man of José Antonio Burciaga.

She was close friends with his widow, Cecilia Burciaga, who invited us to their house on the California coast. We stayed there two nights, and she gave us access to all of his work, multiple boxes of his art,  poetry,  essays, images he drew on napkins while out with friends.

We took what we thought the best of his lifetime of work.

It won the American Book Award.

 

 

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Unending Rooms was a milestone for me in my development as a writer, because it was the first book I wrote wherein I completely ignored the idea of an “ideal reader,” and, taking the advice of one of my mentors, I wrote the kind of stories I like to read. Some of the stories turned out a bit weird, I guess you could say “irreal,” not because I set out to write weird stories, but because the way I see reality is weird.

 

rooms

After spending years on writing the stories, I was surprised one morning to check my email and find out that it had won the Hudson Prize.

“Cool,” I thought.