Read two of the books bought at AWP. The Affliction by C. Dale Young is a set of intricately interlinked stories, narrated by the same person whose identity we only discover at the end. What I like most about the book is the use of the trope of disappearance for being gay, for exile from family and community, and finally, for death. The magic realism of the plot does not color the style much. The language is workmanlike. Better known as a poet, Young's prose is, well, rather prosaic. Here's the opening paragraph:
No one would have believed Ricardo Blanco if he had tried to explain that Javier Castillo could disappear. What was the point in trying to explain it to someone, explain how he had seen it himself, how he had watched as Javier Castillo stared deeply as if he were concentrating and then, slowly, disappeared. Ricardo always began the explanation in the same way, by stating that it wasn't a sudden thing, that no, no, it was gradual thing that took sometimes as long as three minutes.
Too many iterations of "explain." Overly familiar language such as "stared deeply" and "always began the explanation in the same way." Vagueness in "someone," "a sudden thing," "a gradual thing." Should the verb "stating" have any place in a novel if the character is not making a police statement? A human who can disappear and reappear somewhere else is a miracle, but the language fails to convey the miraculous.
The other book was a short novel Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono, translated by Angus Turvil. Published by the independent press Two Lines, it is also about abandonment by a parent, but Ono brings the reader right into the experience of the trauma. The language, as translated, is spare, and so gives lots of room for breathing and imagining. Not much happens, but what happens is elemental. The betrayal of loved ones. The kindness of strangers. And the enormous hope one can invest in a healing dolphin.