Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-short Stories from the United States and Latin America:
ed. by Robert Shapard, James Thomas and Ray Gonzalez
(Norton: 2010, $15.95)
reviewed by Cooper Renner

Sudden Fiction Latino is the obvious, and completely appropriate, title for this new anthology, though it will be unfortunate if the Latino adjective leads some readers to expect within its pages only Día de los muertos and life in the barrio. Ethnicity and ethnic heritage play a part here -- just as a collection of Midwestern stories would almost inevitably feature characters with Scandinavian roots -- but the experiences and aesthetic choices of these Latino writers are as broad and deep as the two continents and languages from which the editors draw their fictions. Included are works by long-admired heavyweights such as Jorge Luis Borges (represented by the late "The Book of Sand), Gabriel García Márquez, and Isabel Allende; well-established figures in mid-career like Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb and Edmundo Paz Soldán; and writers still little-known beyond the literary community, like Lisa Álvarez, Luna Calderón, and Juan Martínez. The cut-off point for length here is 1500 words; there is no predetermined criterion for style or content. Marco Denevi's "The Lord of the Flies", less than a page long, suggests a commentary on Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." Alma Luz Villanueva's "People of the Dog" combines pre-Columbian mythology with the plight of neglected children. Borges casts his shadow over works as different as Virgilio Piñera's one-paragraph "Insomnia" and Ignacio Padilla's "Chronicle of the Second Plague." Readers can find narratives which are also oblique commentaries upon the way literature works in Roberto Bolaño's "Phone Calls" and "Asunder" by Robert Lopez, an elimae favorite. There are even shades of the imagination and whimsy of Ray Bradbury in Hilma Contreras's "Hair," though Contreras writes with much greater control than Bradbury. Sudden Fiction Latino contains the work of almost six dozen authors, an introduction by Argentina's Luisa Valenzuela, and biographical notes on the authors, translators, and editors -- all in less than 350 pages, a wealth in brevity.