Adios, Happy Homeland!

Ana Menendez, Author
Ana Men%C3%A9ndez. Grove/Black Cat, $14 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8021-7084-2
Reviewed on: 06/13/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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In her fourth book (after The Last War), Menéndez brings schizophrenic bravado to an ostensible anthology of fictional Cuban poets and writers (a group to which Menéndez herself claims membership) whose works have been collected by Herberto Quain, an Irishman. In his prologue, dated 1936, Quain recounts how a childhood fascination with Cuba led him to a job at the National Library in Havana. The stories that follow speak to his editorial authority and to Cuban literature with equal parts bright humor and strained artifice. In "Cojimar," Ernesto del Camino writes about an old man and the sea in a style that will be familiar to many. In "The Boy Who Was Rescued by Fish," a group of female co-workers use a self-help book to become "possibilitarians." In addition to shorts, poems, and a "Glossary of Caribbean Winds," the book includes a conflict between the authors and their editor; in an e-mail dated 1923, they question Quain's decision to unite such diverse writers under the "Cuban" banner and challenge his authority as a non-Cuban. His retort, dated 1912, hints at his ultimate goal—not so much a study of Cuban authorship as a meditation on fiction: "It is you who are invented, not I." The playfulness is both annoying and admirable. (Aug.)
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