I learned earlier this year that Paul Roth’s The Bitter Oleander will publish my short story, Ortega’s Circuit, in their fall edition. The magazine arrived last week. Bitter Oleander is a journal of poetry mainly, some short fiction. Contributors for this issue hale from Spain, Philippines, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, France, Switzerland, and many US states. Non-English work appears with original and translation juxtaposed. I spent most of this morning reading beautifully crafted poetry.
Roth talks about his preferences when selecting poetry and fiction for Bitter Oleander in Inside Bitter Oleander, his interview with Andrew Tobia.
Fiction should have a great sense of mystery where things are not always solved but rather act as springboards to the imagination…I’d rather be confronted with the unknown and then allowed to find my own way. I really want the writer to build a reality for me to live in without any preconceived rules, that way I’m always surprised, delighted and inspired.
The story, Ortega’s Circuit is in a style I call Mexican Gothic – desert location, opaque time period, short, clean sentences, plenty of symbolism, characters faced with moral dilemmas. I picked up the Mexican Gothic bug riding in a bus from Oaxaca to Mexico City, across the magnificent Mexican desert, reading Eduardo Galeano’s Walking Words, (with woodcuts by Jose Francisco Borges), a beautiful little book of fables told with humor and sensitivity. The proprietor of the bed and breakfast where we stayed in Oaxaca traded Walking Words for a novel I happened to have with me (might have been Passing through Paradise). I found Galeano’s style infectious, and fell into writing that way occasionally. Several of the stories in Double Exposures are Mexican Gothic. Sometimes, perhaps when I remember Oaxaca, or Mexico City, or the desert in between, the infection returns and I write something in that style – so came to be Ortega’s Circuit. It’s like Montezuma’s Revenge, except, an infection of the head, not the stomach, and delightfully benign.