The book tour continues…

Boston
Last Tuesday night I read at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge. It was the same night president Bush delivered his State of the Union Address, so I wasn’t expecting many people. I’m happy to report that a good number of very smart people chose me over the president, which doesn’t surprise me: my tales, fantastic though they are, are much more credible than his. Also, I’m a much better story-teller. Thanks to Amanda Darling and the staff at Harvard Bookstore for doing such a great job organizing and promoting the event. Thanks also to Scott Van Der Meid, Director of Study Abroad at Brandeis University and friend of mine, who invited his colleagues to the reading and later on took me to an amazing Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood.
Audience Highlights: 1. Lovely Laura, my friend Rick Murphy’s mother, who had pre-ordered the book and sat on the first row. 2. A beautiful Colombian girl from Pereira, whose name I can’t spell (her mother made it up). She told me, in less than three minutes, a moving family story worth writing a novel. 3. A tall woman who smiled at me all throughout the reading, only each time from a different corner. She just kept moving across the room, like trying to find a better angle. When the moment came to buy the book, she disappeared. She had found the angle she was looking for: the exit door.

New England College
The largest audience I’ve seen so far came to hear me read at the Simon Center Great Room of New England College yesterday. I have no doubts that Douglas Haynes (poet, professor and friend) had a lot to do with that: he invited me to do the reading and was in charge of promoting it. Thanks, Douglas. This appearance was sort of an experiment for me, for it wasn’t just a reading but also a discussion focused on writing in a second language, and incorporating source material in your own work in creative ways. I’m hardly an authority on any of this (this is my first novel after all) but I was happy to share my own experiences with both students and faculty, and I trust they enjoyed the discussion as much as I did. After the reading, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with some of the faculty members who wanted to know more about the current social and political situation in Colombia, and how it receives little or no coverage in the mainstream media.
Audience Highlights: A Colombian guy (a graphic design student), also from Pereira, who showed up to the reading wearing the t-shirt of a popular Colombian soccer team… sweet!

» Posted by Santiago, on Thu, January 25, 2007
» category: News
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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
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Book Tour…

WASHINGTON, D.C.
My book tour began last week with a visit to Olsson’s Books and Records in Washington D.C. Though the audience was rather small (I blame the freezing weather for that), the reading went well. Thanks very much to Tony Ritchie and the staff at Olsson’s for their help. I hope they manage to sell all the copies I signed in advance. Hopefully the Washington Post review of Tales from the Town of Widows, which will run on the Sunday, February 4th edition, will give the book a boost.
Audience Highlights: An old man holding a copy of my book, searching for the passages I was reading, making sure I didn’t skip a single word. After the reading he left without buying the book. I guess I skipped a few lines and pissed him off.

RHINEBECK, NY
My second stop was at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, NY, on Saturday. Now that was a great audience, both in numbers and level of interest. After the reading, they posed many interesting questions and even asked me to read some more. The reading was filmed and it will soon be on YouTube.com. Thanks to Carrie Majer, Dick Hermans and the rest of the staff at Oblong for organizing the reading. Also, thanks to my friend Hillary Jordan who suggested I read at Oblong, and who together with Kathryn Windley publicized the event among their many friends.
Audience Highlights: Everyone. What a wonderful audience!

» Posted by Santiago, on Mon, January 22, 2007
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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
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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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I was in the Netherlands last week for…

...the release of my novel in Dutch. I had been once to Holland before, a number of years ago. This time, however, as a soon-to be-published author (one who doesn’t have to pay for his plane tickets, hotel or meals, Holland looked different: more charming. I didn’t see much of it, though. I spent my first day and a half in my hotel in Amsterdam, where all seven interviews my Dutch publicist (Esther Brandt) had arranged for me were conducted. Esther, by the way, is a lovely girl. She looks 22 though she assured me she’s much older. Just as lovely is my Dutch editor, Judith Uyterlinde. Both Esther and Judith are wonderful hostesses true to their Dutch strightforwardness reputation. They managed, in a matter of hours, to ask me a question that my mother only asked when I turned 33 and was still single. 
My “performance” (reading plus interview) at the Crossing Border Festival went well. It was pouring that night in The Hague, and so we got but a small crowd. My interviewer was Arjan Visser, a very nice Dutch writer who shamelessly asked me very personal questions in front of the audience. Arjan: if you read this—and I hope you do—you owe me one. After the event, I signed a few autographs at the festival’s improvised bookstore. The four-day festival was a complete hit. Among the authors were William Boyd, Vikram Chandra, Rick Moody, M.J. Hyland and Benjamin Kunkel. By the way, I shared a cab back to the airport with M.J. Hyland. What a sweet and genuine woman she is. I liked her immediately, and hope we can share more than a cab ride some time soon.

» Posted by Santiago, on Tue, November 21, 2006
» category: News
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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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“The Lost”

So I just finished reading Daniel Mendelsohn’s “The Lost: A search for Six in Six Million,” a unique book that’s not a novel, or a memoir, or a book of history, or a family saga, or Holocaust studies, but rather all of them, ingeniously crafted into a five-hundred-page excellent read. This is not just one more book about the Holocaust. For one thing, it’s very personal. Some details in it are so intimate and moving that you almost feel embarrassed to be in the same room, witnessing what Mendelsohn is seeing and narrating. But the book also has an international appeal. In order to get his story, all of it, Mendelsohn had to travel to Ukraine, Czech Republic, Austria, Israel, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, taking pictures here and there, gathering valuable (and sometimes ambiguous) information, interviewing people, piecing together a story that, though painful, in the end proves to be a wonderful journey to redemption. I highly recommend it.

“The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million” by Daniel Mendelsohn
New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. 1st ed.
Format: Hard Cover

» Posted by Santiago, on Tue, October 31, 2006
» category: News
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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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Upcoming review in Elle Magazine

Coming up in the January issue of Elle Magazine, Tales from the Town of Widows will be reviewed for the magazine’s book club!

» Posted by Santiago, on Fri, October 20, 2006
» category: Press
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What am I doing Here?

This is my first blog post. I don’t know much about these things, but I’ll give it a try. Stay tuned for more. You’ll find information about my book, Tales from the Town of Widows, forthcoming from Harper Collins on January 2, 2007.

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