cover image Cars On Fire

Cars On Fire

Mónica Ramón Ríos, trans. from the Spanish by Robin Myers. Open Letter, $14.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-9488–3016-4

Ríos’s mesmerizing English-language debut invokes an array of writers, auto-plant workers, Marxists, immigrants, actresses, and murderers. “Obituary,” the first of three parts that maintain distinct tone and form, contains accounts of the lives and tragedies of strange, terrible, or tragic people, among them a psychoanalyst whose collapse into insanity is treated by a Freudian analysis, and a woman whose rape and murder is rendered as a series of political speeches. “Invocation,” the book’s second part, consists of miniature epics. Two former lovers narrate one story simultaneously (an effect performed by dividing the page into columns). In the title story, the Chilean-American narrator occasionally talks to himself in a mix of New York and Santiago vernacular to tell of his immigrant father’s assimilation into American life and culture. Rounding out the collection is the fantastical “Scenes from the Spectral Zone,” which features a chorus of art works that speak in manifestos and a monstrous kitten that eats people. Ríos’s themes are unwaveringly contemporary—LGBTQ and feminist issues; immigrant life; politics—but it is artistry, not dogma, that guides her prose. This is art house literature at its best: provocative, alluring, and uncompromising. (Apr.)