Posts on Press

Latest Reviews, Quotes & Profiles:

From The New Yorker:
“Strong and simple . . . [it] never falters.”

From Le Monde (France):
“A first book as magical as it is realistic. A utopia knowledgeably wrought, rich and deliciously optimistic.”

From the Washington Post Book World Review:
“Enchanting . . . a rollicking and often shocking tale that Cañón tells with charm and bite.”

From Elle:
“Mesmerizing . . . From it’s bravura opening, James Cañón’s brilliant novel has an imaginative reach that encompasses political, philosophical, sexual, religious, and magical realms while it also explores the deeper conflicts between tradition and freedom.”   

From Chicago Tribune:
“. . . There’s more than enough here to make this [novel] a debut worth honoring.”

From Kirkus Reviews
“Slyly pushing the envelope Aristophanes opened with Lysistrata, debut novelist Cañón exultantly sets up the saga of Colombian women on top . . . Prime magic realism à la Márquez, Cortázar and Vargas Llosa, updated with a pop-culture twist.” 

From Kirkus’ Top Picks for Reading Groups Issue:
“An immensely rewarding debut . . . Tackling politics, gender, history, religion and Latin America studies with a surprisingly winning combination of laugh-out-loud humor and poignant chronicles of the chaos and devastation of a society fractured by civil strife, Cañón’s tale is unique and inspiring.

From School Library Journal:
“Thought-provoking . . . tragic, funny, rich, and magical . . . The theme of a world in which women and men are separated and pursue divergent paths is always intriguing, and has been explored by a number of fine writers in science fiction, fantasy, polemic, and utopian modes. This title stands among the best of them.” 

From Booklist:
“Increasingly delicious . . . Start with a broth of magic realism à la Gabriel García Márquez, toss in a soupçon of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, add a twist of the musical play Brigadoon and even some ingredients from the Book of Genesis, and then top off with some borrowings from post-revolutionary France, and you have a first novel that is not a derivative pot of unintegrated elements but an inventively rich stew.”

From Library Journal:
“Highly recommended . . . The story of these women touches our deepest emotions and reveals fundamental needs and concerns. This exciting book confirms the idea that our world would be far better off in the caring hands of women—especially the women from Mariquita.”   

From The Australian:
”. . . Remarkable and impressive . . . Cañón’s first novel has the potential not only to set him up as a novelist but to focus attention on the suffering of the voiceless and powerless in his country of origin.”

From Libération (France):
“. . . a burlesque that’s swollen like the picture of Botero on its cover: a kind of magical lantern lighting the blackness of a civil war.”

From Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitun/FAZ (Germany):
“Cañón’s first novel fascinates for his humor, delight, sensibility, and for his critical mind.”

From Madame Figaro (France):
“Magnificent, horrifying, generous and sensual.”

From Padhuis Press (Netherlands):
” Unforgettable . . . a sparkling novel by a masterful storyteller.

From Glamour (Germany):
“Ingenious and highly entertaining. . . it carries serious depth.”

From Le Maine Libre (France):
“James Cañón embraces lushness, violence, humour and atrocity with the largeness that characterizes the best South American literature.”

From Edelweiss (Switzerland):
“A fable full of humor, which takes women to the highest level, for the biggest pleasure of the readers . . . a tragicomedy full of spirit.”

From U.K. Herald (England):
“A beautifully crafted story . . . a fresh, startling perspective on a long and bloody conflict.”

From Buchkultur (Germany):
” . . . Full of melancholy and beauty. Into clear, simple language Cañón writes about the absurdity of the war, and in the best South American narrative tradition.

From OutSmart Magazine:
“It would be easy to say that ‘this is a female utopia book that really works,’ but that would minimize the brilliance of this major work.”

From Leestafel (Netherlands):
“A splendid novel!”

From Neue Presse (Germany):
“Oh, what a magic narrator Colombian author James Cañón is!  The look on human depths he shows up among the absurdity of the war are linguistically, virtually and affectionately insightful. Read!”

From Melbourne Herald Sun (Australia):
“[A] fabulous debut . . . Thought-provoking, darkly funny and sad.” 

From Financial Times (England):
“James Cañón’s first novel presents a lively mixture of magic realism and Amazonian feminist politics. But he never strays far from the historical violence that has riven his native Colombia since the 1960’s.”

From North List (Korea):
“Every page is better than the one before.”

From Good Reading Magazine (Australia):
“A triumph not only of characterisation (of which there are many) but also in the study of political science and sociology.”

From Freundin (Germany):
“Wonderful, ingenious and full of life . . . A fascinating homage to femininity.”

From DNA Magazine (Australia):
” . . . Earthy, accomplished, and highly imaginative.”

From The Sunday Business Post (Ireland):
“Wickedly satirical . . . Cañón’s [debut novel] builds an impressively progressive feminist socialist ideal that gives human societies a ‘second opportunity on this earth’.”   

From Chronogram:
“Cañón, with his ability to encapsulate epic political history into poignant, poetic prose, promises to evolve into an enduring literary presence.”

From Readings Monthly (Australia):
“A fascinating debut, blending the supernatural and the allegorical.”

From El Paso Times:
“Ambitious, charming, imaginative.”

From Metro (England):
“A beautifully crafted book.”

From Indianapolis Times:
“Captivating.” 

From Notebook Magazine (Australia):
”. . . Intriguing . . . a thought-provoking debut novel.”

From Strandbooks.com:
“[An] astonishing debut.”

From Pages Magazine:
“A stunning, unique novel.”   

From Sunjournal:
“Commendable.”

From The Brooklyn Paper:
“Name another author who moved to New York at age 26 to learn English and started his writing career with a grammar course at NYU. It doesn’t happen too often — but neither do novels like Tales from the Town of Widows, the debut by James Cañón. Set in a fictional Colombian town, the book follows the lives of men who are all killed or “recruited” by guerillas, and the women who are left to fend for themselves. Along the way, Cañón introduces us to colorful characters, including an ample-bottomed magistrate, a stern schoolmistress and a cow named Perestroika.”

From ReviewThisOnline.com:
“What if there were no men? What if one day they just all disappeared? On November 15, 1992 in the small Colombian village of Mariquita that is exactly what happened. In Cañón’s debut novel he tackles the issues of a strictly feminine society, while educating readers about the political climate and struggles of Colombia as a nation. An entertaining view on the role of women in society and insight into the time old question, Do we really need men to survive?”

From Bookslut.com:
“[Tales From the Town of Widows] mixes supernatural and allegorical elements into an account of a dying town.”

From Benjamin Kunkel, author of “Indecision”:
“James Cañón achieves an extraordinary combination of largeness and intimacy. Here is the sweep of history together with the feeling of home, both conveyed with high intelligence and real eloquence. Cañón is a young American—in the broader, hemispheric sense of the word—to celebrate.” 

From Maureen Howard, author of “The Silver Screen”:
“Cañón is a gifted storyteller, as full of his radical purpose as Jonathan Swift, as enchanting as Gabriel García-Márquez, as brainy as Pamuk, yet his anger and compassion, as well as his humor, are distinctly his own.”

From Joan Silber, author of “Household Words”:
“Like his villagers, Cañón has built a new world on an old—a realigned literary landscape, with new sex roles, new stubbornness, new glory, and new wreckage. A much-loved tradition of Colombian fiction has been gorgeously re-imagined.”

From El Diario Montañés (España)
“Cañón vivió esa metamorfosis de la que sólo pueden presumir un puñado de autores privilegiados: Conrad, Kafka, Nabokov o Kundera. Escritores capaces de firmar obras magistrales en una lengua que no es la suya. O que no lo era, pues el propio Cañón relata en su web cómo utilizó la redacción de esta novela para aprender inglés; es decir, para profundizar en su conocimiento hasta el punto de poder explotar sus habilidades literarias y crear textos de calidad. De alta calidad, añadimos.”

Profile: Letralia (Venezuela):
“James Cañón pertenece a esa estirpe subversiva de escritores de lengua nómada y memoria fiel.”

Profile: Semana (Colombia):
“Lo maravilloso es que la mano de Cañón no tiembla ni se dobla, avanza armada de confianza, precisión y humor.”

   

» Posted by Santiago, on Wed, September 12, 2007
» category: Press
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“Tales” Noted in The New Yorker!

“In this début novel, guerrillas forcibly recruit all the men in a Colombian village. Lacking their fathers, husbands, lovers, and sons, the women eventually create a model society, with communal property, nudity, and lesbianism. At one point, the older women debate the wisdom of a breeding program to create more men: “Didn’t they remember those creatures with broad-brimmed sombreros that would go drinking rather than stay home nursing a sick son?” The premise is half poignant, half hokey, but Cañón’s strong and simple writing, which is touched by humor and magic realism, never falters, as when he describes the town’s using cornbread arepas as communion wafers, “sometimes sweet, sometimes salty, and, when available, flavored with cheese.”
— The New Yorker

» Posted by Santiago, on Tue, March 13, 2007
» category: Press
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Tales from the Town of Widows: one of Kirkus Reviews’ Top Picks of 2007 for Reading Groups!

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“In our third annual special issue featuring noteworthy book-club titles, we have once again sorted through piles of candidates and have emerged with a diverse collection of books that are sure to inspire lively and earnest—and often, necessary—discussion. In fiction, we present illuminating historical fiction from Alison Weir, Margaret Forster and Ariana Franklin; thoughtful political and social commentary from Louise Dean and Mohsin Hamid; a meditation on love from Orange Prize–winning Lionel Shriver; and a magical debut from James Cañón.”
Read the full article here.

» Posted by Santiago, on Fri, March 09, 2007
» category: Press
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The Washington Post Book World Review of “Tales from the Town of Widows” is finally here!

THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE
When a village loses all its men, the women find themselves in paradise.
Reviewed by Jonathan Kirsch
Sunday, February 18, 2007

Among the colorful characters who populate James Cañón’s first novel is an American reporter who carries a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in his backpack, an incidental detail that turns out to be a wink and a nod to the reader. Cañón’s owes a creative debt to the literary tradition of South American fabulism, as pioneered by Gabriel García Márquez and as more recently practiced by Isabel Allende.
Cañón, born and educated in Colombia and now living and writing in New York, sets his story in a Colombian village in the last decade of the 20th century. Mariquita is a charming backwater that boasts a priest with a congregation of one, a rather more active brothel with 13 bedrooms, a medical doctor and a witch doctor, a constabulary whose officers spend their days playing Parcheesi under a mango tree and an open-air market where “older women under green awnings sold everything from calf’s foot jelly to bootleg cassettes of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.” Then, one day, the men of Mariquita are gone, and the place abruptly turns into “a town of widows in a land of men.”
No magic is necessary to explain the disappearance of the menfolk. Rather, when a passing band of guerrillas fails to inspire a single villager to join up, they conscript the entire male population, leaving behind only the hapless priest and the 13-year-old son of his sole congregant, a formidable widow who dresses her son in a frock and hides him among her three daughters. The boy feels so comfortable in his new garb that he resolves to remain a girl. So begins the transformation of Mariquita and the women and children who were left behind, a rollicking and often shocking tale that Cañón tells with charm and bite.
The absence of men poses a number of practical problems, including the fundamental question of how to repopulate the village. The new female magistrate declares a Procreation Campaign, and the priest offers to compromise his vow of chastity for the public good. His encounter with a young virgin, appropriately named Virgelina, is rendered with a blend of eroticism, dark comedy and muted horror. The girl’s grandmother teaches her the arts of seduction in seven easy-to-remember steps: “Commend yourself to God and let him do the rest” is Step Six. “I hope that your grandmother considers putting your name down for a second visit,” says the selfless priest.
Cañón’s enchanting tale is punctuated with first-person accounts by various male voices who testify, sometimes poignantly and sometimes ironically, to the human capacity for brutality. “One thing I’ve learned in the army is that the less contact you have with your victim, the easier it is to kill him,” muses a 32-year-old officer in the Colombian army. “I once let a man talk to me for too long before I shot him, and I still regret it.” And the guerrillas, too, are capable of committing rape, mayhem and murder against the people they claim to serve: “You see the two boys over there, just to the right of the burro?” one of the widows asks a newcomer. “The taller one’s Trotsky, and the other one’s Vietnam. The poor things were forced to witness the killing of their fathers at the hands of the guerrillas.”
Male violence rather than magic realism, in fact, is the unsettling subtext of Tales From the Town of Widows, and the occasional moments of atrocity go off like land mines among the more frequent moments of sexual adventure and sexual ambiguity that decorate this otherwise comic account of the rise and fall of a gynocratic utopia. “If not having men around meant that Mariquita had to end with the present generation,” argue the widows who condemn the Procreation Creation campaign in favor of bedding down with each other, “perhaps an entire generation of harmony, tolerance and love would be preferable to an eternity of misery and despair—not to mention war.” ?
Jonathan Kirsch is the author, most recently, of “A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization.”
The Washington Post Book World Review

» Posted by Santiago, on Sat, February 17, 2007
» category: Press
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Bookslut on “Tales from the Town of Widows”

Bookslut, a monthly web magazine for book-lovers, recently reviewed Tales from the Town of Widows.
Read the review here.

» Posted by Santiago, on Sun, February 11, 2007
» category: Press
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“Tales…” Reviewed in Chronogram Magazine

By Pauline Uchmanowicz
“Colombian-born-and-raised writer James Cañón spent the past five years working on his lyrically satisfying debut novel, Tales from the Town of Widows & Chronicles from the Land of Men. Cañón sets his story against the backdrop of his native country’s prolonged civil war, focusing on recent atrocities in the annals of its “disappeared” (more than 3,500 people vanished between 1996 and 2000, and the toll continues to mount). The author derived his evocative premise from a Colombian newspaper article about two mountain villages where Communist guerillas had taken away most of the men. Imaginatively chronicling what might happen to the women left behind, Cañón envisions the emergence of an equality-based society…”
Read the full review here.

» Posted by Santiago, on Sun, February 11, 2007
» category: Press
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Canon-ized

The following article appeared recently in The Brooklyn Paper
Canon-ized
By John Varmus
“Name another author who moved to New York at age 26 to learn English and started his writing career with a grammar course at NYU. It doesn’t happen too often — but neither do novels like “Tales from the Town of Widows,” the debut by James Canon, a former Williamsburg resident who will return to the borough for a reading next week. “Brooklyn has the largest, most vibrant community of artists in the New York area,” Canon told GO Brooklyn. “I’m very excited to do a reading where it’s at.” Set in a fictional Colombian town, the book follows the lives of men who are all killed or “recruited” by guerillas, and the women who are left to fend for themselves. Along the way, Canon introduces us to colorful characters, including an ample-bottomed magistrate, a stern schoolmistress and a cow named Perestroika.”

» Posted by Santiago, on Sun, February 11, 2007
» category: Press
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More from Kirkus

Kirkus Reviews has selected Tales from the Town of Widows to be featured in an upcoming special edition on “The Best Books for Reading Groups.”
More to come.

» Posted by Santiago, on Wed, January 24, 2007
» category: Press
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Washington Post…poned until the 18th!

The Washington Post Book World review of Tales From the Town of Widows will now run on their Sunday, Feb. 18th edition.

» Posted by Santiago, on Tue, January 23, 2007
» category: Press
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Tales from the Town of Widows, “Highly Recommended” by Library Journal

Here is the full review:
“Get ready for a refreshing dip into the waters of a rich imagination with this debut novel, which centers on the lives of 100 contemporary women living in a remote Colombian village called Mariquita. After the village’s men are killed or forced to join a guerrilla group, the women eke out a squalid existence, enduring drought, food shortages, and a flu epidemic. Faced with a hopeless future, they reject the traditional male concept of governance and rebuild an independent, caring community closely connected with nature. Contrasting with the humorous if sometimes disturbing events in the lives of these uncommon women is the hostile world of the village men, who are involved in gruesome warfare and torture. The story of these women touches our deepest emotions and reveals fundamental needs and concerns, such as the vulnerability felt by Rosalba, the town’s new magistrate, after she accepts the love of another woman. This exciting book confirms the idea that our world would be far better off in the caring hands of women—especially the women from Mariquita. Highly recommended. “
Library Journal

» Posted by Santiago, on Mon, December 18, 2006
» category: Press
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Tales from the Town of Widows shortlisted by Elle Magazine!

The following review will appear in the January issue of Elle Magazine under their “Shortlist” section:
“From its bravura opening, in which the men of a fictional Colombian mountain town have been marched off to fight in a decades-long guerrilla war, leaving the womenfolk to form a new social order, James Cañón’s brilliant Tales from the Town of Widows has an imaginative reach that encompasses political, philosophical, sexual, religious, and magical realms while it also explores the deeper conflicts between tradition and freedom that underlie this mesmerizing debut novel.”
Lisa Shea, Elle Magazine

» Posted by Santiago, on Thu, December 14, 2006
» category: Press
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My Booklist Review is here:

“Start with a broth of magic realism à la Gabriel García Márquez, toss in a soupçon of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, add a twist of the musical play Brigadoon and even some ingredients from the Book of Genesis, and then top off with some borrowings from post-revolutionary France, and you have a first novel that is not a derivative pot of unintegrated elements but an inventively rich stew. The author envisions a village in Colombia as the sad, even tragic victim of civil war when the isolated community is invaded one day by partisan troops, who march off all the men and boys, leaving the women to fend for themselves. As man-less weeks turn into months, a utopian society emerges; the women find roles suitable to their tastes and talents. But, alas, the new society begins to mirror all societies: pettiness and disagreements and out-and-out fights rend the new fabric. The characterizations are drawn as compellingly as the storyline itself, which simply gets increasingly delicious as the pages turn.”
Booklist

» Posted by Santiago, on Tue, December 05, 2006
» category: Press
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My Kirkus review has arrived!

“Slyly pushing the envelope Aristophanes opened with Lysistrata, debut novelist Cañón exultantly sets up the sage of Colombian women on top.
It’s a humdrum 1990s Sunday in Mariquita when—poof!—all the men are gone. Yet another gang of Marx-lite rebels and Che-wannabes is fomenting yet another Colombian revolution, shanghaiing anyone with testicles into its motley ranks. Stealing off with every woman’s husband, all the rice and the town’s single Commie true believer (a schoolteacher who’d coaxed the citizenry into naming kids Hochiminh and Trotsky), the pistoleros depart. The women who remain are marvelous. Matriarch Doña Victoria has three daughters with weird, fairy-tale attributes. Orquidea boasts chin warts that “looked like golden raisins.” Gardenia gives off a “carrion-like stench.” Those two are virgins; their roguish sister Magnolia has “the legs of a man, hairy and muscular.” Doña Victoria saves her only son, Julio César, by dressing him in his sisters’ first communion dress; after the danger has passed, he decides he digs the new look and opts for permanent curls and skirts. Other vivid personalities include Rosalba, the police sergeant’s widow, who takes over as magistrate and tries to toughen up the women mourning the loss of their men. (She plans an edict: “Prohibit the use of the word ‘help.’ ”) Joining with Rosalba, sage/crone/schoolteacher Cleotilde hopes to rewrite history and usher in a new era, complete with time told by the menstrual cycle and months renamed after Mariquita’s strongest women. At first, this fresh HerLand falters. The power goes out; famine threatens. Just as the ladies are moving from baby steps to great strides, a shocking development unfolds. After nearly 20 years, four men return. Paradise lost? Or Paradise regained?
Prime Magic realism à la Márquez, Cortázar and Vargas Llosa, updated with a pop-culture twist.”
Kirkus Reviews

» Posted by Santiago, on Tue, November 21, 2006
» category: Press
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Dutch edition of Tales from the Town of Widows has just been released.

Het Dorp van de Weduwen (The village of widows) was released on Thursday, November 16th, during the prestigious Crossing Border Festival in The Hague. The novel, published by Meulenhoff, is part of a Dutch series called Literatura Latina, which includes world-known authors like García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes and Juan Rulfo.

» Posted by Santiago, on Sat, November 18, 2006
» category: Press
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Tales from the Town of Widows, a “Promising Debut” in Pages Magazine.

Pages Magazine will feature Tales from the Town of Widows in their “Promising Debuts” section of their January/February issue.

» Posted by Santiago, on Fri, October 20, 2006
» category: Press
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