Thomas Colchie, ed. A Whistler in the Nightworld: Short Fiction from the Latin Americas.
Plume, 2002. 410 pp. Paper: $16.00.
As Thomas Colchie points out in his introduction to A Whistler in
the Nightworld, one of the defining characteristics of new Latin
American literature is its diverse, international nature. It is no
longer possible to pigeonhole Latin American writing as falling under
the influence of the "boom." And "magical realism"
doesn't work any better. Actually, in the case of this anthology,
there is a distinct, and intentional, lack of "magical
realists." Instead these writers are very cosmopolitan and worldly.
The subjects and styles of the stories range widely, from Pedro Juan
Gutierrez's darkly lyrical depiction of an afternoon in Havana
trying to scam two tourists and then almost witnessing a shooting while
waiting in line for a bottle of rum, to Mayra Montero's account of
a man forced to recall a disturbing event from his youth that included
the family's chauffeur splitting his head open in the gallery, to
Edmundo Paz-Soldan's story of an eccentric crossword-puzzle maker
who includes the name of a woman he is obsessed with in all of his
puzzles. Two of the more interesting stories are by Ignacio Padilla and
Jorge Volpi, both members of the "Crack" group. Volpi's
"Ars Poetica" is a hysterical story that opens,
"I'll begin the story with a statement of principles: I am a
character and I am prepared to speak (badly) of the author of the books
in which I appear." "Ars Poetica" demonstrates the
influence world literatures have on one another, since it is obviously
more in line with Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds and
Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew than most Latin American authors
(although Juan Onetti does come to mind). I wish only that other members
of the "Crack" group had been included.