cover image Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino

Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino

Julian Herbert, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Graywolf, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-64445-041-3

The playful, surreal collection from Mexican writer Herbert (Tomb Song) evokes a version of contemporary Mexico where pretentious critics and conceptual artists rub up against ultra-violent drug cartel leaders. In the title story, a cheerfully verbose film scholar and Tarantino fan is kidnapped by a drug lord who looks exactly like the director and wants Tarantino dead, but not before learning as much as he can about Tarantino from the narrator. Those who know how to manipulate words and ideas tend to come out on top, such as the ghostwriter in the wry and scatological “The Ballad of Mother Teresa of Calcutta” who conceives a fiendish plan to punish the clients who neglect to pay him. Herbert ventures into fantasy in several of the stories, including the dark “Z,” in which most of the population of Mexico City—apart from the narrator and a few others—is in one stage or another of turning into “nascent vegetal man-eaters in a perpetual and pestilential state of putrefaction.” While not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, Herbert’s stories use a light touch to explore the dilemma of the intellectual enmeshed in a crudely vicious world. This provocatively cerebral volume should amuse those with a taste for literary horror. (Nov.)