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Mundo Cruel: Stories (Lambda Literary Awards - Gay Fiction)

Mundo Cruel: Stories (Lambda Literary Awards - Gay Fiction) [Kindle Edition]

Luis Negron , Suzanne Jill Levine

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Product Description

Product Description

Luis Negrón’s debut collection reveals the intimate world of a small community in Puerto Rico joined together by its transgressive sexuality. The writing straddles the shifting line between pure, unadorned storytelling and satire, exploring the sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking nature of survival in a decidedly cruel world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 176 KB
  • Print Length: 97 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 160980418X
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press (12 Mar 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #522,369 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mundo Cruel 5 May 2013
By Cee Cee - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Its an easy read. Interesting collection of stories involving a significant amount of homosexuality. So if that bothers anyone they should not read it. I enjoyed the stories many of which shed light on the many dynamics of different realtionships, friendships included. Many are set in Puerto Rico, an amazing place for our minds to travel to. I wonder if anything was "lost in translation". I may read the original version as well.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Shocking But Smart Injection of Pathos, Humor, Sarcasm and Reality 11 May 2013
By G. Charles Steiner - Published on
This review is for: Mundo Cruel: Stories (Paperback)

The award-winning translator of this intimate but brief collection of nine short stories said that when she was first asked to read the manuscript in order to decide whether to translate it, what made the decision for her was the fact that she could not stop reading it. I think every reader will find Suzanne Jill Levine's experience to be identical. In fact, some of the short stories are written in such natural street language -- whether you live in Santurce, Puerto Rico where the author lives or whether you live in San Francisco or New York -- that the rapid-fire words come out of the story and into your imagination like the hand-triggered nail-gun a carpenter uses nailing an image or an impression on the reader's mind.

Or another image: reading many of Luis Negron's stories is like going to a phlebotomist who finds the biggest, plumpest vein on your arm in which to quickly inject a certain health-giving serum but who talks to you in such an intimate and bracing manner while doing so that you are distracted from noticing how deeply the syringe's needle has been pushed into the vein and you, happily, forget that moment of pain.

The very first story in the collection is the true shocker, the first stab of the needle on the syringe of the writer's craft. It's about an attractive, religious gay boy, the beatings he receives and his indomitable penchant for sex with other males, and it's called "The Chosen One." (For this reader, what's shocking about the story is not that it isn't true to real life, it's that the author told what's true.)

There are more than a couple of stories that concern themselves tenderly or seriously with the lives of gay boys. One story entitled "So Many, Or On How the Wagging Tongue Sometimes Can Cast a Spell" involves two women gossiping about a third woman's male child whom "everyone" believes is gay and therefore nasty and therefore deserving of punishment. If you think such a story or circumstance can only be found in the shanty sections of Santurce, Puerto Rico, you'd be horribly wrong. Check out the YouTube video of 2010 entitled "Man Kills Baby For Acting Like a Girl" in Riverside, New York.

The last story contains the titled story for the collection. If the first story in the collection provides a shock, this final story provides the smile and the humor after the initial injection, so to speak! It is the story of two very gay and very body-conscious men who are happy with homophobia and do not want to see it eradicated by political correctness and the (Communist) appeal to "diversity," especially by lesbians. Here's a wonderful sample of the writing:

"Both met up at the gym in the morning and went at the weights so much that they came out almost stiff. During their breakfast of Gatorade with PowerBars, they witnessed something which left them dumbfounded: Gabriel Sola Cohen, the head of Ambience Consultants, who owned the only lavender Audi in Puerto Rico and possessed such good genes that he had an almost made-to-order body, was eating no more and no less than fried eggs with white toast. They were so disappointed. If fabulous people put scratches like that on such a fabulous and spectacular soundtrack, if they had such habits, the world such as they knew it was about to end."

I like the variety of forms in which the stories are told: some are in first-person, some in third-person, some in email and telephone conversation or dlalogue between two persons in letter or over the gate and some are interiorly monologic.

The only disappointment for me was in the translation of only those stories that were specifically monologic where the Puerto Rican accent breaking through the story and is wonderful is nonetheless truncated or stifled in order to express a sentiment or perception in plain American English flatness of tone. Perhaps translating the nuances of the Puerto Rican patois required more artistry from the translator for just these stories. Nonetheless, the Puerto Rican pattern does emerge and can be more fully realized in the reader's imagination. I still imagine that if Eudora Welty could have been gay and Puerto Rican while living in a ghetto, she could have written many of these stories herself so that the natural street voice would come over completely to the reader.

The photograph of the author at the back of the book reveals a man who looks like he'd cut your throat as soon as look at you. The photograph makes you realize no one else could have written the gritty realistic story known as "Botella." Reading these stories all the way through, however, makes you realize once more, you know, that looks can be deceiving.

From "La Edwin": "They tell me that La Edwin is so desperate that she even joined a gym."
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories of urban violence. poverty, ignorance, prejudices, stereotypes as they exist in today’s Puerto Rican reality 17 July 2014
By Carlos T. Mock - Published on
Mundo Cruel by Luis Negrón; Spanish Edition

This is a collection of 9 short stories.

In "El Elegido," a “Chosen” evangelical candidate for baptism- which happens when he turns fifteen - narrates his homosexual adventures with the sons some of the parishioners, the minister's son, a bus conductor, a famous singer - who taught him how to smoke as he was taken to cheap motels in Caguas. The narrator is criticized for wearing effeminate white clothing to his baptism ceremony, however this makes the pastor get an erection at the ceremony and our narrator ends up in a hotel with the pastor who promises to move to Orlando with him.

In "El Vampiro de Moca" (Moca's vampire) A landlord meets a gorgeous tenant at the seven/eleven in Santurce. After fixing his studio apartment for him - air condition is added plus stolen cable service - the tenant moves in. Salivating over his tenant, the landlord stops going to gay bars in San Juan. Concerned over this, his friend, "la Carlos" comes to visit him to inquire on his whereabouts. As Carlos meets the tenant, he asks the landlord if they are dating. After a negative answer from the landlord, Carlos moves in on the tenant and the landlord is left with nothing to do but watch. "La Carlos, como yo, pensaba - este si es un hombre de verdad - y por lo que ví se le viró en la cama." Carlos, like me, thought this was a a real man, but from what I saw, he just turned around (was passive in bed).

In "Por Guayama" Guayama, a stray dog has died. The owner, Naldi, is asking Sammy, his friend, an advance of the money he's owed so that he can perform taxidermy on his beloved pet. The story is a series of notes from Naldi to Sammy in which it becomes clear that Sammy has no intentions of ever paying Naldi. Naldi ends up following Sammy to the Dominican Republic where the dog is finally stuffed. Upon returning to Puerto Rico, Naldi is arrested because the Dominicans stuffed the dogs with illegal birth certificates, social security cards, and US passports - a federal felony.

In "La Edwin," the story is a cell phone conversation between La Yola and La Jorge about the troubles that La Edwin is in. Apparently Edwin fell for a communist, Che Guevara university student type who was "bisexual" and after a brief romance the Che Guevara type leaves Edwin for a pro statehood homosexual. "Todas las locas son iguales y ustedes las jovencitas lo quieren cambiar todo de la noche a la mañana. Que si la bisexualidad, que si gay es una identidad política, buchas y locas juntas todo el tiempo, pero - entérate niña - que el mundo es mundo desde hace mucho tiempo. Y este mundo de nosotros es así." All gays are the same and you young ones want to change everything overnight. Bisexuality, gay as a political entity, femmes and butch ones together, but - be forewarned - the world has been the same for ages. Our world is that way.

In Junito A gay man is telling Junito he is moving to Boston to escape the stigma associated with being gay in Puerto Rico.

In “Bottella” (The Bottle) A cocaine addicted gay man walks into one of his older tricks named Paco, nicknamed Caneca, to find the old man dead. He panics and buys a bottle of Clorox to erase all of his DNA from the scene. Trying to explain what happened to his friend, Niebla, they go into Caneca’s house and the same man kills Niebla. Unfortunately, another of the gay man who also visits Caneca is known for carrying a bottle (Botella) of Clorox with him to prevent getting HIV. Botella becomes the main suspect and the killer and Botella go through lots of trouble to get Botella out to Boston to prevent being captured.

In “Muchos” (Many) two women, Worried Woman, and Worried also Woman, gossip about Alta’s son because he’s both gay and Dominican. It is clear that both of these conditions are stigma in Puerto Rican Society.

In “El Jardín” (The Garden), Nestito is taking care of his HIV infected lover, Willie. They live in a house in Santa Rita with Willie’s sister, Sharon. As Willie is dying he decides to have a big celebration for New Year’s Eve. We learn that Sharon has a secret: she has been dating a Sidney Poitier lookalike for over twenty years because she is afraid to marry him.

Finally, in “Mundo Cruel” (Cruel World) - the story that gives the book its title, two Condado “A homosexuals” José A. and Pachi, get a nervous breakdown because Gabriel Solá Cohen, the only owner of a purple Audi in Puerto Rico was having a full breakfast with eggs and white toast. Both of them spend all of their time at the gym and avoid eating, to the point that José A. is a bulimic. José A. goes home and calls in sick, but Pachi has to go to work. Pachi’s boss decides it’s time to have a talk on homophobia in the workplace. Pachi is petrified as sixteen of his co-workers come out of the closet. For Pachi “la patería no era asunto para promulgarse a cuatro vientos.” (Being gay was not a public thing). As they go to the gay bar that night, they are horrified by the number of lesbians in the bar, so much they have to ask the bouncer if it’s ladies night. After a negative answer, they are faced with an announcement that Ponce de León Avenue was closed because the mayor had declared gay nights in Santurce every Thursday. Pachi is able to adapt, because his childhood crush, Papote, come out that evening and takes Pachi home, but José A decides that he’ll move to Miami to prevent living with the underlings.

I was glad to read the original SpanIsh version. Most of the stories are written in phonetical Spanish, don’t think that translates too well. The feminine pronouns are used on male names to denote they are gay. Also the terms “loca” and “bugarrón” are used a lot. I guess the best English translation would be “queen” and “one who only is active in bed” but those would still miss the mark. The stories are strong on the plot, but not on character development. The country of Puerto Rico is one of the strongest characters, and places like Santurce are described in detail like on page thirty three “Santurce, Puerto Rico, antes conocido como Cangrejos, pero ya nunca más.” (Santurce once known as Cangrejos, but no more.) Most proper names are avoided. The writer wants to develop the themes and most characters are either anonymous - like Worried Women - or named after a an object - like Botella. The point of view is unclear most of the time, to the point that sometimes you don’t know who’s doing the talking.

I loved the book. These are stories of urban violence. poverty, ignorance, prejudices, stereotypes as they exist in today’s Puerto Rican reality. I was glad to see the book win the 2014 Lammy for fiction. Well deserved!
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Reader will feel whiplash! 27 April 2014
By Robert P Cabaj - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazing book I discovered by accident. Astonishing, very short stories; slices of life very few people know about or may (mistakenly) not think they care about. I want all I know to read it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Stark and Visceral 27 Aug 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Mundo Cruel will make you uncomfortable, but that is not it's intention. It is stark and visceral in it's telling and holds no punches. It also makes no apologies for this either. It simply is. Mundo Cruel is nine short stories of gay life in the Hispanic culture. Each told by the character experiencing it the most.

"...The news reached Papi through my brothers, who were eager for the beating that would follow. With the eyes of a Pharisee, while Mami turned up the volume on the radio that was playing the evangelical station, Papi grabbed my whole face with one hand and crushed it like a ball of paper in his fist..."

These are short tales of acceptance, understanding and lust. The loss the characters feel is filled with trysts of the flesh that still leave them unfulfilled. There is a yearning to these stories. A cry to be noticed.

"...One day I heard her talking with a sister of hers, the chubbiest of the three of them, who's married to the Holsum guy. That one...well that bitch told my wife that the little one's like that because she wanted to have a girl so bad when she was pregnant with him..."

Simple, honest and stark. The emotions are palpable in these stories as the situations maddening. But in the end there is a thread of honesty running through them that binds them all.
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