How to Shake the Other Man is Nouvella’s fourth title and a benchmark for the press—it’s the first title we’ve pulled out of the slush, and I wasn’t familiar with Derek’s writing prior to reading his submission. And unless you subscribe to the Kenyon Review and happened to have read his phenomenal story “Sugarcane” (which will be appearing in the 2013 O. Henry Prize Stories) or Puerto Del Sol, which published his contest winner, “A History of Civility,” you wouldn’t have read any of his work either. Derek is not on Facebook or Twitter; he is kind of difficult to Google. A recent graduate of the MFA program at Ohio State, Derek found Nouvella by way of Duotrope—his submission was as cold as it gets.
The manuscript initially passed through one our readers, and our online submission tracker shows that he flagged it, then unflagged it, then reflagged it weeks later. It is a challenging piece. I understand, objectively, why the reader gave pause. There is little lightheartedness in this novella; it is violent and unrelenting. This story is going to be off-putting to some people. Many people. But it’s one of the most affecting stories I’ve read in a while; it bruises you, burdens you with love that is cut short and left with no place to go. Below, a summary and illustrious recommendations to support my own:
Seven years after leaving his father’s home, Javier is growing increasingly restless as he works the streets of New York. But when he is taken in by Marcel, a boisterous, charismatic Cuban with a legion of street coffee vendors, their relationship evolves rapidly into something vital and sustaining.
Determined to keep Javi around, Marcel implores his younger brother, a former boxer turned trainer, to turn Javier into a fighter. Oscar eventually gives in, and pushes the flighty young man towards his debut.
But days before the match, Marcel is murdered.
Bound together by tragedy and circumstance, Javier and Oscar must decide what they owe and want from each other in Marcel’s absence. Raw and unrelenting, How to Shake the Other Man is a bruising portrait of brotherhood and the void of love lost.
“A gorgeous vividness inhabits every line of Derek Palacio’s seductive new novella. He depicts the life of the body—sometimes languorous, sometimes ravenous—in molten language that shows the tight braid between violence and desire. Reading How to Shake the Other Man is like diving into a ravishing pool from which the reader might not ever want to surface.”
-Erin McGraw, The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard
“I’ve been thinking about Palacio’s novella for days: maybe it’s the café carts populating its corners and the buzz from the super-charged prose, or maybe it’s the unflinching portrayal of the way we bob and weave between intense love and intense pain. Or perhaps it’s the wisdom we find in Palacio’s rendering of a truly complicated inheritance. Like a great fight, there’s an elegance and a brutality here you can’t help but admire.”
-Jennine Capó Crucet, How to Leave Hialeah
“Derek Palacio’s novella is as bracing as Cuban coffee, as tough and tender as the boxing coach who wonders what debt he owes to the brother he’s lost, and the young man his brother loved. These are men hungry for success, but also for understanding, and Palacio makes their ambition, joy, and sorrow shout from every page. This story is both electrifying and haunting.”
-Caitlin Horrocks, This is Not Your City
A good book is often the result of several serendipitous events coming together at an opportune moment, and this is most certainly the case with How to Shake the Other Man. Through May 14th, we are releasing 200 launch packages, each of which includes a signed and numbered first-edition copy of the novella, an e-book file in the format of your choice, and a handwritten thank-you note from the author for $16.00 plus $4.00 shipping and handling (within the U.S.; sadly, we’re not able to ship overseas at this time). After the 14th, the book will be available on the site and through select booksellers across the country, but I wouldn’t wait if I were you; I’ve had the opportunity to read portions of Derek’s story collection and novel in progress, and can tell you this much: he won’t be able to keep a low profile for very much longer.
Thank you for your support and for contributing to the novella revival (it’s happening, we insist).
Launch ended May 21st. Buy a regular copy of the book here.