Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

by Kathleen Alcala, Katherine Dunn
     
 

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Fiction. Latino/Latina Studies. "This brief collection of short stories set in Mexico and Southern California exudes a seemingly effortless charm, piquing the palate with a modicum of Latin-style spice. Alcala understands the necessary understatement of magical realism. In one tale, a mild archbishop leaps off a balcony on impulse and soars above the village,…  See more details below

Overview


Fiction. Latino/Latina Studies. "This brief collection of short stories set in Mexico and Southern California exudes a seemingly effortless charm, piquing the palate with a modicum of Latin-style spice. Alcala understands the necessary understatement of magical realism. In one tale, a mild archbishop leaps off a balcony on impulse and soars above the village, waving to those below. He is particularly pleased that no one can smell his foul body odor from the distance. Many of the stories are mysteries of sorts, pivoting on unexpected, ironic turns of events yet moving methodically toward resolution. A fortune teller reveals the immediate future to a wild young man. 'You are going very fast...with a powerful man, a dangerous man...holding you against your will.' When the youth angrily demands his money back, the police are called, drugs are discovered and the prophecy comes true. Other stories describe family traumas: a wife mistakes her husband's lust for gold for an affair with another woman; one of two elderly sisters visits with the dead and spends leisurely hours in purgatory. This is Alcala's first book, by turns touching, entertaining and surprising, and uniquely her own"--Publishers Weekly. MRS. VARGAS AND THE DEAD NATURALIST received the King County Publication Award in 1992. Two of the stories in this collection are included in The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This brief collection of short stories set in Mexico and Southern California exudes a seemingly effortless charm, piquing the palate with a modicum of Latin-style spice. Alcala understands the necessary understatement of magical realism. In one tale, a mild archbishop leaps off a balcony on impulse and soars above the village, waving to those below. He is particularly pleased that no one can smell his foul body odor from the distance. Many of the stories are mysteries of sorts, pivoting on unexpected, ironic turns of events yet moving methodically toward resolution. A fortune teller reveals the immediate future to a wild young man. ``You are going very fast . . . with a powerful man, a dangerous man . . . holding you against your will.'' When the youth angrily demands his money back, the police are called, drugs are discovered and the prophecy comes true. Other stories describe family traumas: a wife mistakes her husband's lust for gold for an affair with another woman; one of two elderly sisters visits with the dead and spends leisurely hours in purgatory. This is Alcala's first book, by turns touching, entertaining and surprising, and uniquely her own. (July)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780934971263
Publisher:
CALYX Books
Publication date:
06/01/1992
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.81(h) x 0.81(d)

What People are saying about this

Charles Johnson
"Kathleen Alcala has written a superb collection. Gentle and lyrical, her stories open onto lives and legacies we cannot afford not to know."
Rudolf Anaya
"Kathleen Alcala captures the essence of the magical realism in her work. Her stories convincingly move the reader from one reality to the other. Kathleen's craft illuminates the souls of her characters: the Mexican women who carry the universe in their hearts. The relationships of the women in the stories are finely wrought, and it is in the relationships that these women find the complex richness of their lives. Not since Ron Arias' The Road to Tamazunchale have been I so captivated by the story and the style. I'm sure Mrs. Vargas & the Dead Naturalist will stand the test of time. A most welcomed contribution to the world of literature. Expecially that stamped with the magic of Mexico."

Meet the Author


Kathleen Alcala is a writer whose trilogy on nineteenth century Mexico was published by Chronicle Books. Her work has received the Western States Book Award, the Governor's Writers Award, a Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award, and a Washington State Book Award. A co-founder and contributing editor to The Raven Chronicles, Kathleen teaches at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island, a low-residency program. She was recently deemed an Island Treasure by the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council. Kathleen received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Award for work on her book, Cities of Gold. She is a member of Los Nortenos writers group. Her work has been produced for public radio, and she co-wrote, with director Olga Sanchez, a play based on her novel, Spirits of the Ordinary that was produced by The Miracle Theatre of Portland, Oregon. Kathleen is the author of a short story collection, MRS. VARGAS AND THE DEAD NATURALIST, and three novels: Spirits of the Ordinary, The Flower in the Skull, and Treasures in Heaven. Her collection of essays, The Desert Remembers My Name is available from the University of Arizona Press, and her previous books are all available in paperback. Her latest story appears in SEATTLE NOIR from Akashic Books.

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