Invited to guest edit an anthology of Mexican fiction, initial enthusiasm soon gave way to ennui: twelve or so spots to fill, and twenty-five or so obligatory and obvious names comprised my first list. What's the fun of doing the anthology if you can't do the unexpected and make room for some surprise choices and, hopefully, introduce some exciting young writers who few in this country, and even Mexico, have encountered before? Simply to whittle the field down, I decided not to include writers born before the nineteen-fifties (cross off Fuentes, Pitol, Glantz, Monsivais, García Ponce, Elizondo... ) Even without that arbitrary age cutoff, I would have been forced to forgo a number of those eminences anyway. I couldn't choose pieces already published in translation elsewhere, and that, for the most part, I was expected to feature writers not yet well know known here. So that meant I could forego some of the internationally recognized young writers of the so-called Crack movement. (Instead a lesser known member of that group, Vicente Herrasti, is included here.) Nor could I choose an excerpt from Cristina Rivera Garza's Nobody will see me weep, considered by some the most impressive novel yet written by a member of her generation, because that too has already been published in English.
So now I had some room to play. This is a moment of perhaps unprecedented vitality in Mexican prose writing, in fiction and non-fiction. (A crónica by Juan Villoro, who along with being a celebrated fiction writer is a contemporary master of that nonfiction form, so venerable and beloved in Mexico, is included here.) Every month or so, it seems, I learn the name of some new writer my friends are enthusiastic about. I was constrained in my choices here by time, and distance - operating, during the assembling of this little anthology, mainly from New York. I'd decided that I wanted to publish a story by Pedro Soler Frost, for example, but the collection of short-stories I got my hands on had, because of a printers' error, all its pages out of order. Mario Bellatín I'd already picked for a forthcoming Words with Borders anthology to be published by Anchor Press. A wonderful submission from Daniel Sada's novel in progress (Roberto Bolaño considered Sada the most important and complete Mexican writer of his generation) couldn't be translated in time. Ditto stories by Julietta Garcia and Guadelupe Nettel. Nor was I able to hunt down a copy of the Culiacán novelist Elmer Mendoza's strongly recommended early collection of stories. Xavier Velasco, Eduardo Antonio Parra, David Toscana, Rosa Beltrán, Norma Lazo, well this list could go on and on, there are so many whose writing I could just as easily have included here as the ones I did finally choose.
The selection I came-up with is not arbitrary, however. It doesn't pretend to be the Best of the Best or anything like that. I guess its more like a CD you might burn for a special friend, comprised of songs that happen to be accessible to you at the moment, songs you feel enthusiastic about and that have been arranged to convey, at least intuitively, some thematic unity with counterpoints, and to mix the familiar with some surprises and a few new discoveries. And of course I hope it gives readers some sense of the diversity of Mexican writing at this moment, in approach to content, style and form, and also in geographical range (though here Sada, from Mexico's north, is especially missed.) Some of the writers whose work I've chosen are personally close to me, and some of their recommendations led me to other writers included here. At one end of this spectrum are Juan Villoro and Carmen Boullosa, established Mexican literary figures - several of Carmen's novels have appeared in English, but her wild talent has been insufficiently recognized here - while at the other end is the twenty-five-year old Guadalajara writer, Antonio Ortuño, whose as yet unpublished novel - excerpted here — has been creating extraordinary word of mouth excitement among younger writers. Ojalá que lo disfruten. Enjoy!
February 2006, New York