Archipelago Books consistently introduces brilliant international writers to English-language readers. In May, they'll publish Caio Fernando Abreus collection of eighteen stories, Moldy Strawberries, bringing this revered Brazilian writer to English for the first time. Abreu animates 1980s Brazil with deeply personal accounts of daily life against a larger biopolitical backdropmuch like Reinaldo Arenas did for 1970s Cuba. But the tone of these stories is what I found most striking. Abreu balances matter-of-fact description with an inquisitive voice similar to that of Ocean Vuong. The story excerpted here typifies Abreus investigation of self, otherness, and the unlikelihood of connection.
When we first meet Michael, the narrator of "In Judy’s Room" by Ben Goldstein, he has just arrived at a hospital in the Berkshires to receive treatment for an unspecified mental illness. We learn that, to Micheal, the onset of his illness is inextricably entangled with both love and heartbreak, a memory of a violent sexual rejection that he believes led him to commit his own monstrous act. The story's tension comes from Michael's journey between the past and present, his struggle to decipher the real from the unreal. One of the pleasures of reading this story for me came from Goldstein's gorgeous descriptions of the natural world and the town itself. As we navigate Michael's emotional landscape, he simultaneously moves through a setting so idyllical that it too feels dreamlike and magicala place where the townspeople have a yearly tradition of recreating a famous Norman Rockwell painting and where Judy Garland once dressed up in a gleaming ball gown and heels right out of The Wizard of Oz.