Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Monday, April 6, 2015

Night at the Fiestas

It feels only natural to post a follow-up to last week's post on Kirstin Valdez Quade's new collection of short stories, Night at the Fiestas. She read from it at Collected Works Bookstore, where, long ago, she was employed. Now, she's a graceful, beautiful, well-respected artist whose dreams, as she told her audience, came true the night she read from her book in Santa Fe.

Her newfound fame is well-deserved. Night at the Fiestas reads like you'd expect a first book to - there are a few frayed edges, a couple sharp, abrupt endings, several strange and jaunty shifts in time and space. The stories linger and endure nevertheless. Each one captures a distinctive, realistic portrait of a wild place. The writing feels truer than fiction, vivid and swiftly-paced and stylish. The collection focuses mainly on Northern New Mexico, and showcases Quade's brilliance - namely, at creating realistic interactions between people. Where her descriptions of landscape fall short, her dialogue takes over - as acute as if she transcribed actual conversations, word for word. (For example, I've never, ever read the word 'Doy' - as in 'Duh' - in anything, ever, and yet sixth-graders use it all the time. Masterful.)

Overall, my favorite stories weren't the ones the New Yorker celebrates - "The Five Wounds" and "Ordinary Sins" felt too carefully-sculpted to read naturally. Too overworked, perhaps. What I loved was the closing story, which Narrative Magazine has snapped up: "The Manzanos" is a testament to the power of subtle, quiet prose. This was the story my body responded to - shivers, hairs on end, tears at the corners of my eyes.

I look forward to seeing what's next - a novel, the author claims, but superstition keeps her from saying more.

In the meantime: Brava, Ms. Quade, brava. You've done Santa Fe proud.


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