Benjamin Mautner – ‘The Snow Queen’ Explores Life, Death and Hans Christian Andersen

Michael Cunningham might be writing the loveliest prose stylist in American letters today. In his new novel, ‘The Snow Queen’, the Pulitzer prize-winning author applies that exquisite gift to a tale of brothers dealing with failure and mortality in New York City.Benjamin Mautner

As The Daily Beast reports, Cunningham’s strength in capturing the ebb and flow of modern life in the big city. But ‘The Snow Queen’ is not content to simply reflect life as it is in the ever-gentrifying urban landscape, with Cunningham shooting his story with semi-supernatural elements – the book shares its title with a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

The novel’s protagonists, Tyler and Barrett, must contend with their complicated relationship, instilled in them by their now deceased mother, while also dealing with the personal and professional failures that have characterized their lives.  Tyler, at 43 years-old, is an unknown musician, while his younger brother is a brilliant, PhD program dropout working in a vintage store. Much of Tyler’s self-worth stems from his caring for his girlfriend who is suffering from cancer, distracting him from the music that has failed to bring him notoriety.

Barrett experiences one of the aforementioned supernatural elements, when he sees an apparition, “a pale aqua light, translucent, a swatch of veil, star-high.” He good portion of the novel attempting to ascribe this occurrences some sort of significance.

Fans of Cunningham and ‘The Hours’ understand that the author’s real preoccupation is with art and the artist. Tyler’s self-criticism over the wedding song he composes, as the article points out, is emblematic of Cunningham’s exploration of the purpose art serves in the lives of artists. It can be a source of salvation or destruction.

To read more about ‘The Snow Queen,’ head over to original article at The Daily Beast.

Benjamin Mautner Princeton – McSweeney’s 46 Showcases Latin American Crime Writing

For fiction readers in the US, Latin American fiction normally boils down to a few high-profile names like Borges, García Márquez, or Bolaño. In terms of subject matter, stories about struggle against dictatorial regimes shot through a dose of magical-realism is what a popular reader has come to expect. But as Daniel Galera, guest editor of McSweeney’s 46, puts it, “it’s not so simple anymore.” This month,McSweeney’s Quarterly, one of country’s most popular outlets for literary fiction, has chosen to devote their entire issue to the Latin American crime story.Benjamin Mautner Princeton

As an article in the Los Angeles Times points out, there is a logic to the decision. Crime writing has a way of straddling the line between “genre and literary.” The best crime writing uses the concept of crime as a gateway to tackle larger social and literary questions without necessarily resorting the ‘whodunit’ formula. And it appears as though formula was not the order of the day with this collection, with stories ranging from the relatively straight-forward “The Dirty Kid” by Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez, to Brazilian Bernardo Carvalho’s look into the mind a strange government official in his 11 page paragraph, “Jealousy.”

The latest issue of McSweeney’s contains 13 pieces from all over Latin-America, showcasing great diversity as well as some unexpected similarities, which Galara ascribes to the “anxiety of influence.” The collection works both as an introduction to writers that may not be that well-known in the states, as well as a celebration of a not often observed genre of Latin-American writing.

For more indepth discussion of the McSweeney’s 46, check out this article at the Los Angeles Times.  For interviews with authors represented in McSweeney’s Latin-American Crime issue visit here.