Review: Mundo Cruel: Stories by Luis Negrón
The persistent cynic and the optimist in me agree on one axiom: most of life is getting through it. I feel Luis Negrón has a similar mindset because his collection of short stories, Mundo Cruel, represents the tragedy and beauty of that concept extremely well. In nine stories, Negrón manages to convey the cruelty of life and the simple beauty of surviving it in whatever unusual way necessary.
Each of the stories in this collection, dealing with the LGBT community of Puerto Rico, is simultaneously subversive, elegant, direct, and beautiful. With a stunning ear for dialogue and voice, combined with unflinching approach to unusual subject matter, Negrón brings each story to life. Whether it is a story comprised of frantic letters to get money in order to taxidermy a beloved dog, or planning a New Year’s party despite failing health, each story sticks with you long after you stop reading.
Most of the stories are told from a first-person perspective, but each one sounds distinct, with the voice of the character shining through. Each sentence bears Negrón’s lyricism and keen eye for detail. But what makes these stories so wonderful is not just Negrón’s ability to layer details into sentences and paragraphs; it’s his ability to challenge your ideas of how people are supposed to want and how they’re supposed to act.
The stories tackle ideas of identity and community, the space between what you desire and what you can get away with in the world you live in. The characters, gay or straight, all have to navigate through derision, angst, camaraderie, pride, and conservatism in their own ways. In “Junito”, a man leaves Puerto Rico to try to find a more accepting life for his son, who he believes is gay. In “So Many: Or On How the Wagging Tongue Sometimes Can Cast a Spell”, two neighbors, Worried Mother and Worried Mother Too, stand around their yards talking about the threat homosexuality poses for their sons. In “The Vampire of Moca”, a man realizes how much time he spends trying to find macho-looking men after he discovered his supposedly straight tenant who turned him down was actually sleeping with (and mooching off of) his friend the whole time.
All nine of the stories brilliantly convey the strangeness and the tenderness of being human and, at 82 pages, the collection is easily finished in a single sitting. Despite its brevity, you’ll be thinking about it long after you close the book.
For more information, or to purchase a copy, please visit Seven Stories Press’s website.
March 12, 2013
Trade Paperback Original
Posted: Jul 24, 2013
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