September 17, 2013
Seven Stories author, Luis Negrón, recently did an interview with The Short Form about his story collection, Mundo Cruel. During the interview, Negrón discusses his book, his writing style, how he spends his time, and his suggestions for readers and writers. Below are some excerpts from the interview:
Interviewer: Despite the title of the book, Mundo Cruel, there’s a lot of humor in your collection. “We’ve learned how to survive and be happy no matter what” is what you’ve said of the gay culture we find in your stories. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of cruelty in your essay “The Pain of Reading,” it’s almost like a prelude to your collection, would you agree?
Negrón: Yes, this essay probably is the background to Mundo Cruel. For the boy in the essay to survive he needs to adapt to his misery. That is why I say we have learned how to be happy no matter what. Some of us don’t have the option of running away from experiences like that. We can’t rely on the absence of homophobia in order to be happy, so we adapt for different reasons. Those are the kind of characters and stories that attract me.
Interviewer: Do you find that for you tragedy and comedy go hand in hand?
Negrón: Tragedy is not my thing, melodrama is. Marginalized communities tend to use humor as an armor against hate and they use it to make themselves stronger.
Interviewer: You seem to agree that to be a great writer you have to engage in living as much as you do in writing. It’s not surprising you studied journalism instead of creative writing. Do you find it dangerous to put too much emphasis on craft?
Negrón: Studying journalism makes you humble as a writer. The story has to be honest, credible, with no tricks. I have never taken a creative writing course, but I would suggest to be aware of too much emphasis on learned craft because writing needs risk, one has to confront the challenge of avoiding the ready-made tips. Reading is a better way of “learning” how to write. But, the most important element, at least for me, is life itself. There is no better school for writing than listening to people. I love to listen to people talk. They don’t have to be eloquent to have a great story in their conversation. Sometimes I’m truly amazed by how, with few words, people can retell a whole universe.
Interviewer: How did your stories find their way to New York?
Negrón: It is difficult for an unknown author to be published here in a Puerto Rico, more so in New York. Let me tell you the story of how it happened. A lady who owns a cafeteria bought a copy of Mundo Cruel in Spanish and gave it to her son. He, Gabriel Espinal, happens to have a job at Seven Stories and saw a potential in the book. Not only did he convince the editor to publish a book from the Spanish, but brought along one of the best translators in the field, Suzanne Jill Levine, who took the challenge to translate a book people thought was impossible to translate. But the translation is very loyal to the original, I dare say that whoever reads the English version is not missing much from the original.
The Short Form is a review and recommendation site for published short story collections and journals. Please see their site at www.TheShortForm.com for more information.