Manuel Muñoz’s “The Consequences” captures Central Valley

Fall Preview Books

The Consequences: Tales

By Manuel Munöz
Graywolf: 224 pages, $16

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It’s the sunny seashores and the Golden Gate that make it onto the postcards. However have a look at a topographic map of California and also you’ll see that considered one of its defining options is the Central Valley, a 450-mile-long basin of agricultural heartland, supply of almonds and fruit sure for distant states, that will get little airtime within the in style tradition.

The valley has made notable appearances in literature: within the fiction of John Steinbeck, the essays of Joan Didion, in addition to Leonard Gardner‘s 1969 boxing novel “Fat City,” set in Stockton, which later inspired a movie directed by John Huston. But in the work of Manuel Muñoz, the Central Valley is a recurring character of enigmatic presence.

Muñoz was born and raised in Dinuba, a town of 25,000 about 30 minutes outside of Fresno, in an area rich with grapes, peaches and plums. Now 50, the author lives in Tucson, where he teaches at the University of Arizona. But the Central Valley still dominates his work, including two collections of short stories — “Zigzagger” (2003) and “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue” (2007) — as well as a 2011 novel, “What You See in the Dark,” set in 1950s Bakersfield.

His early work drew the attention of critics as well as a slew of prizes, among them a Whiting Writer’s Award and three O’Henrys. But it surely’s been greater than a decade for the reason that creator printed a group, a niche induced by a disaster of confidence that was cured when an Italian writer reached out after studying his quick story, “Susto,” within the literary journal Freeman’s in 2019.

“That,” says Muñoz, “snapped me out of it.”

He spent the early pandemic revisiting and revising tales. The result’s a brand new assortment, “The Consequences,” out in October.

(Carlos Esparza / Graywolf Press)

It was well worth the wait.

Lucid and elegantly written, “The Consequences” tells the tales of characters who ache for each other or for ephemeral moments of launch; who ache — bodily — from a life spent harvesting the sweetness that may grace different tables.

Muñoz’s dad and mom labored within the fields, as have he and his 4 siblings. These experiences discover their approach into the tales within the type of wracked our bodies and foremen who vanish come payday.

“Susto,” the story that precipitated the gathering, interprets to “fright” in English, however within the Mexican context (the creator is Chicano) it implies a larger religious trauma. Muñoz relays the story of a useless man who materializes in a discipline one morning, adopted by the shudders of disquiet the invention sends by means of the lifetime of the foreman who stumbles into the physique.

In these tales, homosexual male need is acted upon however hardly ever articulated. The smallness of small city life means secrets and techniques have a approach of spilling out into the open. “There was no place I could think of in town,” states Bea in “What Kind of Fool Am I?”, “where I could be out and not be seen by someone.”

Central to the motion is the Central Valley, a spot the place people appear to rework into shadow, the place a backyard is dressed solely by a skinny layer of “scalped yellow grass,” the place the daylight has “gone milky” and the Sierras “steeled themselves purple.”

A valley is destructive house. Muñoz offers it palpable texture. “When I grew up it was the space everyone wanted to leave,” he says. “It was easy to believe that there was nothing there. It was only when I started to do my own writing that I started to learn how much is in our space.”