The Portable Museum Vol 2 – featuring Uhart, Levrero, Sáez de Ibarra, Salvatierra, Villoro – A Review

The Portable Museum Vol 2
featuring Hebe Uhart, Mario Levrero, Javier Sáez de Ibarra, Dany Salvatierra, Juan Villoro
Ox and Pigeon, 2013

The second volume of The Portable Museum is another interesting collection with a couple revelations. Of the authors included, I was the most familiar with Javier Sáez de Ibarra because he is well know in the Spanish short story circles that I read. Surprisingly, though, I’ve only read one of his stories. His piece, The Gift of the Word, was as interesting as I hoped. Told in a series of brief paragraphs from seven repeating narrators, the story describes the power and weakness of love. The story is not a typical  love story, especially given that one narrator describes Nietzsche’s philosophy. Instead, Sáez de Ibarra writes of the words people use to describe love and how it is constructed. Of the two collections, it is the most experimental story and shows a writer who takes real risks. I definitely want to read some more of his work.

The real revelation of the collection was Mario Levero. According to the bio, he is a bit of a cult writer and I can see why. Still, his work is fascinating and I would like to see more in English and of course I think I’ll track some down in the future. The story, The Boarding House, is a long monologue about a strange boarding house in a corrupt or totalitarian state where strange things happen, such as a phone is suddenly installed after a year of waiting. What makes his work intriguing is not only the byzantine world he creates, but his writing style which flows in fantastical impressions that are hard to grasp at first, but slowly create a dystopian view of the world. For my money, the story is worth the price of  the issue.

Conversation by the Pond from Dany Salatierra was also interesting in its fantastical story of a daughter trying to escape her mother’s control. What made it notable was the daughter burned the mother in a rage, but then was forced to take care of her charred body that is given to over heating. It is a nice play on the rage and fury that was in their relationship before the fire.

The Juan Villoro piece is a humorous piece about Mexican macho culture told through a mariachi who makes an independent film. The film gives him cache as a hip singer, but it also turns him into a sexual image that he is unable to sustain and uncomfortable. It wasn’t as compelling a story as I might have liked, but I it is a window into Mexico similar to Down the Rabbit Hole.

I should mention there was also a story from Heve Uhart, but it was least interesting of the stories, mostly because I don’t have too much stories for anything related to academia in my fiction.

In all, another good collection.

FTC Notice: The publisher provided me with this book. Thanks for the book.