Tales of the New World

Sabrina Murray. Grove/Black Cat, $14.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-7083-5
Most of PEN/Faulkner Award–winner Murray's new story collection (after her 2007 novel Forgery) delves into the psyches of historical explorers and adventurers, affording rare glimpses of vulnerability in those who appear invulnerable. In "Translation," wealthy 15th-century translator Antonio Pigafetta befriends Ferdinand Magellan on an expedition to the Indies and records sailors' atrocities; after reading his journal, Magellan asks him to embellish the truth and alter the course of history. "The Solace of Monsters" imagines the chance meeting of Zimri Coffin, captain of the Dauphin, and Capts. Pollard and Ramsdell of the Essex, who Coffin rescues after their ship is "stove in by a whale." "Balboa" concerns the discovery and naming of the South Sea by the famous Spanish conquistador ("Vasco Nunez de Balboa ascends the mountain alone. His one thousand Indians and two hundred Spaniards wait at the foot of the mountain as if they are Israelites and Balboa alone is off to speak with God"); standing on the side of a mountain with just his dog Leoncico for company, Balboa has a rare, and humorous, defenseless moment despite his ruthless reputation. Murray's spirited writing is rooted in humanity and creates a fine sense of the real behind the lore. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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