October 13, at 7 pm at the Judy Hughes Studio @ Bayou Ringling College
When Josh Barkan walked along the sandy Hermitage path, he was seeing the sands of Mexico and hearing Spanish in his mind. Josh was the first of two writers in residence who wrote timely and important stories of the underworld of Mexico. As I read his stories I too was transported, with a new empathy for those across the Gulf from us. He befriended painter Michael Wyshock while at the Hermitage, so Wyshock invited him to read at the College. Reservations are not required for this reading.
Josh Barkan’s astonishing collection indelibly captures the beauty, strangeness and brutality of life in modern Mexico. The characters in these pages are everyday citizens—a chef, architect, nurse, high school teacher, painter, beauty queen, classical bass player, plastic surgeon, businessman, mime—simply trying to lead their lives and steer clear of violence. Yet inevitably, violence has a way of intruding on their lives. A surgeon finds himself forced into performing a risky procedure on a narco killer. A teacher struggles to protect lovestruck students whose forbidden romance has put them in mortal danger. A painter’s freewheeling ways land him in the back of a kidnapper’s car. Again and again, the lines between “ordinary life” and cartel violence are shown to be paper thin, with tragic results. Though the lives of Mexico’s characters are affected by the corrupt and dangerous subculture of their country, these are much more than simple “crime stories”. They are complicated and deeply moving tales that tap into universal and enduringly powerful themes: love and loss, religion, family relationships, government abuse, sexual identity, professional ambition, cancer; they introduce us to characters that feel fully realized in their humanity.