FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry

We’ll have a review of FSG’s quite impressive Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry in the next issue of The Quarterly Conversation.

The LA Times has a review this week, which is nice, but, well, they might have given it to someone who knew what they were talking about:

Yet, despite my inspirational environs, for many years my knowledge of Latin American poetry was limited to a handful of stalwarts like Neruda, the nonpareil of romantic yearning, and his compatriot and fellow Nobel Prize-winner Gabriela Mistral. Some poets I’d known better as political prophets and provocateurs than as verse-makers (José Martí, Ernesto Cardenal, Roque Dalton). I’d read and re-read the brilliant, book-length essays of Octavio Paz (yet another Nobel recipient) but was far less acquainted with his poetry, drawn not only from the deep cenotes, or sinkholes, of Mesoamerican mythology but also from his scholarly immersion in Sanskrit, Japanese haiku and whatever else his elegant mind alighted on.

For that reason, among others, I’m grateful for the publication of “The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry,” which thoughtfully gathers selected works of these relatively familiar names, along with many deserving lesser-known ones. Handsomely printed and designed, the collection has been astutely edited by Ilan Stavans, the prolific author and Amherst College professor who has done as much as anyone alive to bridge the hemisphere’s linguistic gaps, and it boasts an all-star lineup of translators.

I’m as pleased as anyone with a reviewer brave enough to admit his ignorance in print. But a paper with the resources of the Times at its disposal should have been able to find someone with the chops to give us a serious critique this anthology, rather than just list the names of the people involved.

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I just wanted to thank you for the front-page ad for Steinbeck. Those are the people who are my characters also, and the Great Depression has never, sadly, been so relevant as now.

It’s too bad Steinbeck is so sentimental and barefacedly political. The thing about the Nobel Prize is that when it DOES go to Americans, it is completely undeserved (cf. Bellow, Steinbeck, Morrison). Oh, well, at least they got to Faulkner.

I think part of the problem is that over the last 6+ months, the LAT has been assigning 80% of reviews (in my unscientific assessment) to LAT staffers. Freelance assignments have practically dried up. In this case, as you mentioned, they would’ve been well suited to spend the time to find someone with the requisite knowledge.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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