Between now and May 1, 2011, the PEN World Voices Festival presents a team of National Book Critics Circle Stand-Up Critics. These influential and celebrated American critics will appear before every Festival event with the intention to enhance Festival audience already-extensive list of must-reads. These six tireless servants of literature will rotate throughout the week to suggest individual lists of thirty meticulously tested titles. The Stand-up Critics will present 1) a contemporary novel 2) a translated book 3) a classic 4) a small/indie press title and 5) a surprise! For more information, see the PEN World Voices Festival website, http://www.pen.org See #3 here tomorrow.
Recommendations, #2: Rigoberto González
Contemporary novel: Silver Sparrow, by Tayari Jones (Algonquin). A touching tale of half-sisters, daughters of a bigamist, whose lives cross paths repeatedly, one always in the shadow of the other.
Translation: The Black Minutes, by Martin Solares, translated by Aura Estrada and John Pluecker (Grove). A novel that defies categorization, weaving mystery, magic, and political corruption along the embattled Mexican border.
Classic: Uncle Silas, by Sheridan Le Fanu (Penguin Classics). A Gothic masterpiece by the Irish ghost story writer, which ushered in the “locked room mystery” subgenre.
Small/indiepress: Dhaka Dust, by Dilruba Ahme (Graywolf). A post-911 book of poems that explores how the South Asian community navigates America&rrsquo;s xenophobic anxieties.
Surprise! Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms with Queens, edited by Nicole Steinberg (Excelsior Editions). An exceptional literary introduction to the most linguistically and ethnically diverse neighborhood in the nation.