The Newest Big Thing From Latin America

18007563Every once in awhile a book comes across my desk that I read and can’t believe hasn’t blown up bigger already. Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen is the thing I’m big on right now, a novel about the dangers of being a girl in contemporary Narco Mexico, narrated in first-person by our protagonist, Ladydi Garcia Martínez.

The novel is about the young girls and women growing up in the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico where the men have left to work in the United States and the women are left to fend for themselves, hiding their daughters away from the drug traffickers who roll through town in their black SUV’s looking for young girls. While the writing is good (very good, in fact) and the plot is fuller than some of Clement’s other works, the thing I’m big on with this book isn’t so much its technical or narrative aspects as its timeliness: this is probably the first English-language novel about the contemporary Mexican drug war written by a Mexican author.

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Ploughshares Fantasy Blog Draft Round 2 – The Mighty Duck Palahniuks vs The Holden Caulbabies

After a fevered start to the competition, with spirited fights from each side, the competition slowed this last week as Buckle Your Corn Belts and Vonnegut to the Chopper! tortoised their way through the match-up. The teams ended at a stalemate, and we were forced to implement a tiebreaker: write one tweet from the point of view of one of your team’s writers, explaining why your team deserves to advance.

The winner, determined by the commissioner with help from the Ploughshares front office, was Vonnegut to the Chopper! Manager Brenna Dixon tweeted from Langston Hughes’s point of view, her take on the poem “Children’s Rhymes“: “By what runs/the Cornhuskers/we ain’t run/Genre HOA/is just no fun/What bugs/them cornfolks/don’t bug us/we know rules/aren’t worth the fuss.”

They advance to take on What the Chuckin’ Buk?! two weeks from now.

Draft bracket - Round2Match1 - resized

But this week, we have the semifinals!

mighty duck palahniuks

Editor: George Plimpton
Fiction Writer: Kurt Vonnegut
Events Coverage: Emily Dickinson
Nonfiction Writer: Werner Herzog
Poet: Melissa Broder
Health and Living Columnist: Hunter S. Thompson

holden caulbabies

Editor: Dave Eggers
Fiction Writer: William Faulkner
Cultural Critic: Roxane Gay
Nonfiction Writer: Michel Montaigne
Poet: Elizabeth Bishop
Travel Writer: James Baldwin

The semifinals begin with an epic match-up that really could be the finals of this competition. I don’t want to count out What the Chuckin’ Buk?! or Vonnegut to the Chopper!, but they just don’t command the same star power as these two teams. Both Caulbabies manager Michael Nye (Missouri Review) and Benjamin Samuel (Electric Literature) follow the formula favored by NBA teams, publishing houses, and book clubs across America: three All-Stars supported by key role players.

Nye has been bold with his trash talk at the podium:

Look, if The Holden Caulbabies are going to battle, there isn’t much need to talk about how we’re going to dominate. Still. We enjoy looking around at the bracket and deciding who is going to finish second. I’m sure there are plenty of tired witticisms from the editors and writers on the other teams. Child, please. We have no reply to make to them other than the brilliance of our poetry and prose. You come at the king, you best not miss.

But will his team back up the talk? Joining the commissioner today to analyze the competition is writer and assistant professor from the University of New Orleans M.O. Walsh.

Walsh was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but he studied in Oxford, Mississippi (The Land of Faulkner!), and still runs the Yokshop Writer’s Conference there—so the commissioner is especially curious about his take on the fiction writer match-up this week. How do you see the Faulkner-Vonnegut battle going? Does Vonnegut even get up from his recliner? Do you think The Mighty Duck Palahniuks concede the fiction spot?

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Fantasy Blog Draft – Round 6 – Final Wildcard Picks!

Fantasy Blog Header - resizedMarch Madness has come and gone, as have the NFL draft, the NBA draft lottery, most of the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the start of the MLB season—but the Fantasy Blog Draft competition is only just getting started. Literature never sleeps!

This week the managers will fill the final spot on their rosters and then start up training camp to prep for the competition. In two weeks, we will preview the matchups and once again ask for you to pick the winners, and two weeks after that the competition will begin in earnest.

But before that, let’s see what decisions the managers made this week. Remember: for the last wildcard picks they must choose the blogger and the blogger’s position, so there’s lots of room for creativity.Continue Reading

Literary Boroughs #34: Lexington, KY

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. Posts are by no means exhaustive and we encourage our readers to contribute in the comment section. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the thirty-fourth post on Lexington, Kentucky, by Lindsay Sainlar. -Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

Look at this map of Kentucky. On the squiggly-line northern border, defined by the Ohio River, you’ll find Louisville – where I was born and raised. This River City is the birthplace of Hunter S. Thompson and the song, “Happy Birthday to You.” It’s where ZZ Packer lived for bit, and incorporates into her writing. Where Sena Jeter Naslund is editor of The Louisville Review at Spalding University. Jay Gatsby was stationed here, and Louisville is where he met and fell in love with local Daisy Buchanan. And let’s not forget about the The Kentucky Derby.

Now drag your eyes east away from the blue dot in this red state, and stop when you find the second biggest Kentucky city, Lexington—where I now live. Once known as the Athens of the West, this city is claiming to be the literary hub in a state that’s working hard to establish itself as the Literary Capital of Mid-America.

Is that crazy? I don’t think so. I mean, we’re Kentuckians.

We know how to tell stories and drink bourbon.Continue Reading