Mandorla subtitles itself “New Writings from the Americas” and also identifies itself in Spanish as: “Nueva Escritura de las Américas.” The magazine is a bilingual collection of essays, poetry, short stories, and excerpts published mostly in untranslated English and Spanish. If you are uncomfortable with the conventions of Spanish-language literature, the fast switches from one style to another may require you to adjust your expectations. You’ll need to embrace some confusion.
If this warning does not dissuade you, certainly give Mandorla – particularly this volume – a try. The overall theme appears to be mystery and weirdness, and no time is wasted jumping straight to it. You’ll move through a disjointed interview with a made-up Los Angeles celebrity concerning AIDS to an essay about an infamous Latin American transvestite and the difficulties that come with writing about trans individuals to multiple poems about toothaches, gemstones, runny eggs, and the orbits of planets. Pieces run throughout this publication about subjects that probably would never occur to most people to think deeply about, much less write about and show a wider audience, but each is provoking and even edifying.
Best of all, the majority of these pieces are written beautifully – even I, who does not speak Spanish fluently – can recognize the gorgeous cadence and choice of words in, for example, Jessica Díaz’s poem “Puchero” (“Ese pez de cara triste / mueve su boca de / puchero de arriba / a abajo / parece preguntarse / ¿qué hago aqui?”).
There are also a few photographs included (and an essay by one of the photographers, explaining his inspirations and creative process), which are always sparse and strange and never in color. But they efficiently add to the eeriness and oddity of the journal overall.
And at nearly 400 pages for only $10, Mandorla is certainly worth a read, and the price.