The Cowboy Bible and Other Stories


The Cowboy Bible and Other Stories


by Carlos Velázquez

Translated from the Spanish by Achy Obejas

"The Cowboy Bible will challenge readers to push beyond cultural stereotypes and rethink everything they know about northern Mexico and their homes."

—NBC News

“Playful and clever, inventive but familiar, this brief book is deeply satisfying, and warrants multiple readings.… In her translation, Obejas superbly amplifies Velázquez's style.”

Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

Book Details

Paperback List Price: $14.99 • ISBN: 9781632060228 • Publication: 1/26/16 • 5” x 7-1/8” • 160 pages • Fiction: Short Stories / Mexican Literature • Territory: World English • eBook ISBN: 9781632060426

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About the Book

The English-language debut of “one of the most original and entertaining voices in contemporary Mexican literature” (Revista Gatopardo): a collection of surreal, ironic, and madcap stories about the comedy and brutality of life in Mexico.

The provocateur and cult sensation Carlos Velázquez has earned comparisons to Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and William S. Burroughs, and has been called “a grand storyteller” (Diario Jornada) and “an icon” (Frente). In these seven surreal and unsettling tales, he portrays the comedy and brutality of a region that has captivated the North American imagination.

Akin to Márquez’s Macondo or Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Velázquez’s PopSTock! is a fictional territory in a familiar but strange northern Mexico. Throughout the stories is woven the Cowboy Bible—a mystical and protean object that first appears as the talisman of a Santería-practicing luchador, DJ, and art critic, then later morphs into an unbeatable marathon drinker, a scion of a fried-chicken vendor dynasty who becomes a Communist guerilla freedom fighter, and the leather for a pair of boots so coveted that it leads a man to grant the devil a night with his wife. With such otherworldly scenarios, pop-culture panache, and Velázquez’s linguistic inventiveness, The Cowboy Bible is a brazen commentary on modern Mexican reality.



“Playful and clever, inventive but familiar, this brief book is deeply satisfying, and warrants multiple readings.… In her translation, Obejas superbly amplifies Velázquez's style.”

Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

"he Cowboy Bible will challenge readers to push beyond cultural stereotypes and rethink everything they know about northern Mexico and their homes."

—Arturo Conde, NBC News Latino

"A mix of such otherworldly scenarios, pop culture references and linguistic inventiveness comes remarkably together for a brazen social and political commentary on modern Mexican reality."

—Juan Vidal, NPR Books

"It is too cute to call [Velázquez] a prankster. He is La Diva. In English we grapple for a comparison: he is a sex-obsessed Mexican iteration of Mark Leyner. He is the post-postmodern Bukowski of his own bar in PopSTock!—the region he, of course, invented. His stories are the hard-drinking Spanglish cousins of Faulkner, Houllebecq, and Terry Southern. He piles on absurdity and zany asides to make a slapstick literary encounter par excellence. It’s Trout Fishing in America set in a telenovela only imagined in the machismo mind. Obviously it’s pointless to keep grappling for a comparison since true artists have none.… Velázquez picks up the raw material of colloquial Spanish and twists it together with Norteño aphorisms, pop culture portmanteaus, and his own slang nicknames for everything to create a wholly original Joycean method of expressing himself.… Velázquez personifies the escritor who experiences life not just so he can write about it, but whose writing lives in service to the experience of being alive in a body. He doesn’t just live, he turns life back into a relivable experience of imagination and pleasure. Carlos Velázquez is a fiery innovator, a zeugmatic radical. His stories are brief but they pack a walloping dose of genuine courage. He is a rockstar cabron who coins verbs (humangenomemap), spawns nouns (punkospine), lives on and off the page and the stage—and his musical instrument is The Cowboy Bible.”

—Matt Bucher, Mexico City Lit

“Inside, you’ll find–as the ominous, delirious cover suggests–a host of strange, unsettling short stories, which share the shifting object alluded to in the title at their center.”

Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“With powerful prose, Carlos Velázquez collection, The Cowboy Bible and Other Stories, paints a picture of a place where corruption and violence reign supreme.... Similar to Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, the stories deal with revelatory, intensely human themes. However, thanks to Velázquez’s inventiveness and ability to amend the ordinary, he creates a somewhat lighthearted world where serious topics are tackled with humor.... Call it modern magical realism or call it surrealistic, either way it is a small feat indeed.… Velázquez’s prose jumps off the page. Whether he is casting judgment on 21st century ills of corporatism or highlighting the lack of agency of individuals, his writing grabs readers’ attention. The Cowboy Bible and Other Stories is a testament to modern magical realism that will delight the inner skeptic in all of us.”

—Alexandra Talty, Electric Literature

The Cowboy Bible is a punch in the face from a wrestler who is also a DJ, a dealer, or a mezcal drinker; a punch that makes you lose your ground. It knocks you out only to bring you back into reality—the Mexican modern reality.… In her translation, Achy Obejas preserves the smoothness of the text.… Obejas brilliantly manages to transmit the blunt succinctness of Velazquez’ narrative without losing the Mexican folklore.”

—Selina Aragón, Asymptote Journal

“Funny… [Velázquez] is compared to authors like Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, and William S. Burroughs, which I can definitely see. If those are your kind of guys, Velázquez's work will resonate with you.… The Cowboy Bible is the kind of short story collection you return to, reading some of the stories more than once to really sift through Velázquez's clever quips and cultural references.… What makes these stories wonderful is the pacing of each character's journey. There is a great balance of action and reaction as their lives grow (or shrink) and change.… Masterful storytelling… Achy Obejas's translation presents a language with stark poeticism that flows through the entire collection.… [Velázquez has] an outstandingly original voice. When his next work is translated into English I will definitely be picking it up.”

—Christine J. Schmidt, LitReactor


About the Author

Born in Coahuila, Mexico in 1978, Carlos Velázquez is the author of story collections Cuco Sánchez blues (2004), La biblia vaquera (named one of the books of the year by Reforma in 2009), and La marrana negra de la literatura rosa (2010). He received the Premio Nacional de Cuento Magdalena Mondragón and has been anthologized in el Fondo de Cultura Económica’s Anuario de poesia mexicana 2007.


About the Translator

Born in Havana, Cuba, Achy Obejas has written fiction, poetry, and journalism. She is the author of five books, including three novels: Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, and Ruins. Her poetry chapbook, This is What Happened in Our Other Life, was both a critical favorite and a bestseller. She is trained as a journalist and has worked in the alternative press, including In These Times, where she writes a monthly column, and The Chicago Tribune. A translator between Spanish and English, she translated into Spanish Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her and into English such contemporary Latin American writers as Rita Indiana, F. G. Haghenbeck ,and Wendy Guerra. She is the recipient of a USA Ford Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellowship, a team Pulitzer Prize for the series “Gateway to Gridlock” while at the Tribune, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, the Studs Terkel Journalism Award, and a Cintas Foundation Fellowship. She is currently the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, California.