PEN America 9: three fictional encounters

PEN America 9: Checkpoints will ship later this month. In the meantime, we're putting up selections from the new issue at PEN.org, starting with new fiction by Yousef Al-Mohaimeed, Xiaolu Guo, and Anya Ulinich. In each of these stories, a woman describes an encounter with a man-- an encounter that becomes a metaphorical checkpoint, a threshold between one place and another.

Anya Ulinich, in a story every bit as brilliant and funny as her fans have come to expect (her novel Petropolis was called "a real feast of sharp wit, quirky characters and amazing situations" by Lara Vapnyar) invents a meeting between a nurse and a novelist in Brooklyn.

Xiaolu Guo, author of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (hailed as "an inventive, often humorous and poignant story") and the recent Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, describes a call girl in contemporary China who gets caught between her present and her past.

And Yousef Al-Mohaimeed, whose Wolves of the Crescent Moon was described as "the first great Saudi novel" by the excellent critic Benjamin Lytal, imagines a widow and washer of corpses who travels with a kind-looking stranger to the desert and there witnesses something she cannot shake from her memory. This piece is adapted from Yousef's novel The Bottle, which has been translated by Anthony Calderbank but not yet published in English. It caused quite a stir in Saudi Arabia:
Two months ago, a group of men entered a bookstore on one of the capital's broad avenues, lined with designer boutiques and glass-and-steel shopping malls. They seized copies of "The Bottle," which includes an unflattering portrayal of an Islamic militant, after it had sold 500 copies in just three days, a feverish pace in the kingdom. Although the government had approved the book for sale, the men warned the shop not to carry it again.
There are some other pieces online as well, and I'll be highlighting those in the weeks to come. And there's much more in the issue itself, so of course you should pre-order a copy now-- or just subscribe already.

(The cover photo is by Alex Webb, and was taken at Border Field State Park in San Ysidro, California, in 1992. It appears in Webb's excellent book, Crossings: Photographs from the U.S.-Mexico Border.)

1 comment:

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