Synopses & Reviews
Ranging from the 17th century to the present and crossing multiple continents, Counternarrative's novellas and stories draw upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, interrogation transcripts, and speculative fiction to create new and strange perspectives on our past and present. In "Rivers," a free Jim meets up decades later with his former raftmate Huckleberry Finn; "An Outtake" chronicles an escaped slave's fate in the American Revolution; "On Brazil, or Dénouement" burrows deep into slavery and sorcery in early colonial South America; and in "Blues" the great poets Langston Hughes and Xavier Villaurrutia meet in Depression-era New York and share more than secrets.
" is an extraordinary work of literature. John Keene is a dense, intricate, and magnificent writer.
"Suspenseful, thought provoking, mystical, and haunting. Keene's confident writing doesn't aim for easy description or evaluation; it approaches (and defies) literature on its own terms." Christine Smallwood Harper's
"Only a few, John Keene among them, in our age, authentically test the physics of fiction as both provocation and mastery. Continuing what reads like the story collection as freedom project, in , Keene opens swaths of history for readers to more than imagine but to manifest and live in the passionate language of conjure and ritual." Publishers Weekly
"Keene finds inspiration in newspaper clippings, memoirs, and history, and anchors them in the eternal, universal, and mystical." Major Jackson
"In , John Keene undertakes a kind of literary counterarchaeology, a series of fictions that challenge our notion of what constitutes "real" or "accurate" history. His writing is at turns playful and erudite, lyric and coldly diagnostic, but always completely absorbing. Counternarratives could easily be compared to Borges or Bolano, Calvino or Kiš, but at the same time it is a deeply American, resolutely contemporary book, that asks us to reconsider our own perspectives on the past--and the future." Vanity Fair
"Keene exerts superb control over his stories, costuming them in the style of Jorge Luis Borges...Yet he preserves the undercurrent of excitement and pathos that accompanies his characters' persecution and their groping toward freedom." Sam Sacks
Conjuring slavery and witchcraft, and with bewitching powers all its own, Counternarratives continually spins history--and storytelling--on its head
About the Author
John Keene is a former member of the Dark Room Writers Collective, a graduate fellow of Cave Canem, and the recipient of many awards and fellowships--including a Whiting Foundation Prize for fiction. Keene teaches at Rutgers.