The Barcelona Review. International Review of Contemporary Fiction
Barcelona Review Issue 66 Spring 2009


It’s been a chilly winter here in Barcelona with temperatures often below 10C.   Nothing like those rough winters in England and northern Europe, but at least they have heat.  I’ve adjusted very well to my life in Barcelona, but I will never adapt to the local custom of retail stores and cafés leaving their doors wide open in all weather. Very difficult to enjoy my morning coffee with an Artic blast of air whipping around the table.  And getting a butane tank refill to heat my Gótico apartment means listening for the butanero yelling in the street, then scrambling for the correct money and rushing to the balcony to hail him down. But not to complain, there are other benefits:  national health, for example.  Which works beautifully, by the way, and contributes, as new statistics show, to Spain’s having one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world along with most of Europe.

Well, winter though it is, some first-rate writing has come along to brighten the season, and is sure to give you a lift as well wherever you live.  From warm and sunny Australia we are delighted to have a piece by writer Venero Armanno, The Sleeping Stranger.  Here we find an elderly woman with a black fugitive in her shed.  The one distinction they share is that both are non-natives who have come from war-torn countries; very different countries to be sure, from very different times, but that is the tie that binds. As the past informs the present, it is intriguing to read how this dangerous chance encounter plays out.

From the U.S. we have two fine stories by Patrick Somerville, one of  TBR’s favorites (see The Cold War, issue 57). You Will Be Tested, Too, follows a teenager on his shift at a BP gas station where an incident occurs which tests his character in a subtle but meaningful way, something that is sure to evoke empathy in the reader; while So Long, Anyway, relates a young man’s kid and teen years which will be forever be tied to trips to the dentist. This month, by the way, marks the release of Somerville’s new novel, The Cradle.  Be sure to check it out.

One of the pleasures of publishing a literary review is discovering a new writer.  We have the very good luck this issue of being able to present not one, but two talented new American writers who by chance happen to be living in Spain at the moment (no, I don’t know either; they surfaced on their writing skill alone).   Dona E. Bowen’s Hooked on Sugar is full of sass and spunk, coming from the unwittingly funny mouth of a seven-year-old black girl who nails the neighbors and relatives in her community as only a sharp kid can.  And as only a native of New Orleans can, Kathleen Heil gives us a short but memorable glimpse of the post-Katrina atmosphere through her elliptical tale of a young girl who struggles to find her own way out of limbo.

In picks from back issues, you’ll want to read Steve Earle’s Wheeler County; he may be best known as a country singer, but the guy can write, too.  Also:  Dancing with Fidel by the great “indie” writer Barry Gifford.  OK, he’s hit the mainstreamlike those great indie directors Jim Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant—but like them his work is marked by a unique style and direction that refuses to conform to fads or fashion.

A new addition to TBR this issue is Video.  No, not of our pets or drinking sprees, but, as the Spanish say, a proper “cortometraje”; i.e. a film short.  We invite your submissions (see Submission info) of under 10 minutes.  To kick off, we present El Otro (The Other) by Venezuelan actors Metzli Gallardo and Marcos Alcalá.  It’s hot; it’s sexy . . . and it sets the bar.

Our quiz this issue is on Don DeLillo. And, because it seems we had a glitch in last issue’s quiz form, we’re running it again, too:   Excerpts from 15 Top 21st-Century U.S. Novels.  A 30-euro gift certificate from Amazon goes to the winner of each quiz.  Try both and rack up.

 In book reviews, we have Australian writer Tim Winton’s eighth novel, Breath, about extreme surfing (and extreme sex), as well as the debut novel Apologize, Apologize! by Canadian Elizabeth Kelly.

Not-so-Local news:  Last issue I wrote about being an American abroad and the joy, after Obama’s election, of being liked again. We Americans abroad had lived so long under the Ugly American that the immediate change of feeling was a bit overwhelming.  I received dozens and dozens of emails from Americans abroad identifying with my experience.  Thank you all for sharing.  Click here to read a sampling. 

We’ll be back with our next issue, June 1.  Click here if you’d like to be notified when new issues are online.  And drop us a line with your thoughts.

All the best from Barcelona,

Jill Adams



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