The winner of the 2016 Quarterly West novella contest was Juan Carlos Reyes. You can now buy his novella A Summer’s Lynching: a Novella in Thirteen Loops here.
About A Summer’s Lynching, judge Kate Bernheimer writes:
“A Summer’s Lynching: A Novella in Thirteen Loops has the affect of the saddest symphonies that I have heard. Folkloric, rhythmic, and spare, its form is quite simply haunting. The procession begins with the title, and each dignified phrase carries us — hard and sad — to the end. A collective novella about us — and about you — A Summer’s Lynching is an important and very cool book.”
How to do justice in a few words to the beauty and elegance and strangeness and sadness at play in A Summer’s Lynching by Juan Carlos Reyes? Evoke extraordinary images? “The room was the portrait of a sandstorm from which time had been stripped and heat had eradicated even the rain.” Draw apt comparisons? Jeffrey Eugenides meets Dumitru Tsepeneag meets Magdalena Tully (channeling Italo Calvino). Remark on the form? Something bloomed from the mind of Georges Perec or William Basinski or Clarice Lispector. All this, yes, but better, I think, to just “Get into the stairwell” with Reyes and his narrator and experience it first hand: you won’t be disappointed.
–Laird Hunt, author of The Kind One and Ray of the Star
Juan Reyes’s dazzling novella A Summer’s Lynching begins with a single death. But that death carries little of the typical mysteries of why and how. Instead, we soon discover the right question is what: What happens afterward when the streets fill with watchers, wonderers? What theories pass between them there and as they return to their apartments and libraries and police stations and church? What do they expect once the body is removed, the room cleaned, the electricity restored, the paperwork filed, the soapboxes stepped upon and left empty again? In Reyes’s vision, the answer is that the grief of not knowing equals story, and story equals hallucination, and hallucination becomes atmosphere. Throughout, Reyes’s deft hand keeps track of all these fringes, all the cords and coils, and in the end he suggests a world that is not quite ours, an unraveling that is almost recognizable, a we that veers dangerously close to an us.
–Lucas Southworth, author of Everyone Here Has a Gun
“I will tell this story. Everyone here will tell this story…and I will tell it the way they told each other and then told me so that I can tell you.” So begins this mind-bending account of a mysterious death by hanging, a novella written by a promising young talent that hails from Ecuador. Instead of calling them chapters, Reyes refers to them as loops, and it takes thirteen of them to wind around and around an inquiry into the identity of the victim whose story becomes less clear as more people step forward. What does come into focus is the unsettling climate of disconnection and isolation that permeates the town in which physical spaces are more prominent than the people who inhabit them. Reyes delivers the existential battle between function versus imagination with striking elegance and skill. –Rigoberto González at NBC News