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Brief Encounters with the Enemy: Fiction Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993585
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #947,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Sayrafiezadeh follows his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free (2010), with an arresting fiction debut that chronicles modern, nameless cities crumbling in the shadows of war. These eight stories offer first-person accounts of alienated men seeking significance, who view war as an opportunity for escape or adventure. In some stories the unspecified conflict is mere speculation, while others explore the dark emotional aftermath of international battles; taken together, they criticize the disenchantments of war with dramatic, novel-like energy. Upon returning from combat, a sixth-grade history teacher struggles to reconnect with his students, who prefer the substitute. A Walmart manager sells stolen goods to his dream girl’s family-owned store to help a friend who enlists in the military to solve his financial woes. And in the scathing title story, a young soldier spends the final day of his yearlong deployment realizing war often instills fear and disappointment rather than heroism and machismo. With insightful humor and a keen eye for offbeat details, Sayrafiezadeh, entertaining and political without being heavy-handed, is a force to be reckoned with. --Jonathan Fullmer

Review

One of New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers as ranked by Flavorwire • One of TheMillions’s Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2013 • One of Paste’s 20 New Books to Read This Summer • A Los Angeles Times Summer Preview Pick

“With impressive guile and design, Mr. Sayrafiezadeh uses the arrival and escalation of that war as the through-line connecting each personal drama. . . . These calculated echoes work to unify [his] haunting book in a way that story collections rarely manage.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
 
“In his memoir, Sayrafiezadeh told the remarkable tale of a childhood steeped in doomed dogma. His stories . . . offer something more: a searing vision of his wayward homeland, delivered not in the clamoring rhetoric of a revolutionary, but in the droll monologues of young men who kill because they lack the moral imagination to do otherwise.”—Steve Almond, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
 
“Sayrafiezadeh’s eight interlinked stories are just as fulfilling as any novel you’re likely to read this summer.”The Boston Globe
 
“A tantalizing fiction debut . . . [that] menaces and mesmerizes.”Elle
 
“This is the domain of almost aggressively ordinary guys—guys who may be a tier or two up the ladder at their retail or call center jobs, but who don’t get there without incurring the envy of former classmates still working the mailroom. The recurring motifs include 99-cent American flags, putting in a word with the boss, idealistic Army recruitment brochures and unseasonable temperatures. Each time they recur they are more potent, and poignant. The collection is readable, and real, and hopefully a harbinger of more fiction to come from Sayrafiezadeh.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Funny and surprising . . . Sayrafiezadeh’s simple style can fool you into thinking that his struggling narrators are plain and unassuming. They are anything but. . . . Each story compels you to read the next, and no character escapes unscathed.”The Daily Beast

“Sayrafiezadeh’s genius is not only in the way he almost painfully keeps our attention on the powers at play in these peoples’ lives, but in his sentences themselves. His deceptively simple prose has a grip that gently pulls but never slackens. The words and images pour in and the reader is pulled in, on and through these stories effortlessly, stories that seem to get better with each read.”Washington Independent Review of Books

“Remarkable . . . Brief Encounters with the Enemy does something rare in that it contributes something new and ‘essentially different’ to the literature of war—our stories, about what it’s like over here. It’s discomfiting, and surprising, and illuminating to say the least. I’ve not read anything like it before.”—Scott Cheshire, The Millions
 
“An arresting fiction debut . . . With insightful humor and a keen eye for offbeat details, Sayrafiezadeh, entertaining and political without being heavy-handed, is a force to be reckoned with.”Booklist
 
“Accelerating through the curve with characters who are colossally misguided and still likable—reminiscent of Junot Díaz’s Yunior—this is an astounding first collection.”BookPage

“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is a masterly storyteller, working from deep in the American grain. This is a splendid fiction debut.”—Philip Gourevitch, author of The Ballad of Abu Ghraib
 
“In this beautiful collection, we see the wages of war, brought very close to home.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
 
“Bizarre and compelling and painfully funny, and something else, too: important.”—John Wray, author of Lowboy
 
“A vivid collection about the indignities and consolations of dead-end jobs, the joy of a stolen kiss, and the mysteries of friendship.”—Nathaniel Rich, author of Odds Against Tomorrow
 
“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is a slyly subversive absurdist whose true subject is the deeply serious matter of our obligations to one another as human beings.”—John Burnham Schwartz, author of Northwest Corner
 
“Fun, moving, and reads like the work of a master.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
 
“Gritty, compelling stories about our embattled working class. This is a thrilling report from the trenches.”—Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend
 
“Perfectly calibrated, laced with hard-earned moments of vulnerability, rendered in language that is at once plainspoken and lyrical.”—Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The characters in Saïd Sayrafiezadeh's stories live in a gloomy world. They are divided by race and religion. Business is bad. Factories have killed all the fish. A war is coming; the war has started; the war will never end. One day we are winning the war; the next day we are losing. It's too hot; it's too cold; it's always raining; cars are buried in snow. To returning soldiers, people say "thank you for your service" and "you're really special" and "you're our hero" because that's what everyone else says, even though they barely know the guy and don't honestly care about him. The young men who don't enlist, who stay stuck in their jobs, are jealous of the attention heaped on the returning veterans.

Sayrafiezadeh's best stories focus on the workplace. Most of his characters are stuck in lives that are going nowhere. In "Cartographer," a bus strike becomes a metaphor for the narrator's motionless life. The short order cook in "Appetite," feeling more machine than human, worries that he will never become an adult, that he'll always be burning grilled cheese sandwiches. While his friends go off to fight a war, the Walmart assistant manager in "Associates" fantasizes about the daughter of the fence to whom he sells merchandise he's stolen from his store. The one bright spot belongs to the disabled janitor in "Victory" who feels fortunate when he starts dating a kleptomaniac who steals from the store where he works.

Some stories are grounded in the surrealistic war that the United States is fighting against an unnamed country. A soldier in "A Brief Encounter With the Enemy" behaves unheroically.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on August 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author constructs eight moderate length short stories concerning the lives of typical blue collar workers who simply do the same job day after day with little real expectation of hope for a brighter future although they may mouth such things to others for appearance sake. These are basically stories of people who either never had much of chance or through a series of their own bad choices ruined whatever chances they had. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the main character, who acts as a narrator of each tale. Most of the stores have the undercurrent of some unnamed war running through them without the exact war ever being named.

The stories give a different if depressive viewpoint than most stories you read and because of their nihilism they really lack the resolution most people desire in reading fiction, even when it closely approximates real life events. I would like to offer a brief synopsis of the eight stories:

1. Cartography - Rex gets fired from his job as a cartographer for an internet design studio when he rejects the unwanted sexual advances of his male boss. Yet some time after being unemployed he accidentally runs into his old boss and ....
2. Paranoia - A white guy named Dean is walking through a rough black neighborhood, when three tough looking blacks call to him. What can this mean and should he run and run to where in this neighborhood.
3. Appetite - A short order cook named Ike tires to get a raise from his boss to take out a waitress and impress her more, but is shot down when the boss complains about several meals being sent back. Ike feels that this isn't the night to ask for a raise, but when WOULD BE a good time in his situation?
4.
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By A. Manuele on December 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As the title says - different, provocative. Well written short stories that almost coalesce into a novel. Keep an eye on this writer, I'm sure you'll hear more from him.
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By Andrew B on November 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this series.I'd read about how to chronicles the (apparently) aimless lives of some less-than-large characters, against the backdrop of the outbreak of war. This is the type of fiction that appeals to me. The quality of the writing was average, which is OK if there's some kind of tension or plot, but there wasn't. I didn't make it through the first story. It's probably great literature, but it just didn't do it for me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book paints rich portraits of characters with lives that are quiet to the point of emptiness.

The men of these stories are not heroes or noble. Yet they have inner lives and stories worth telling about their stark worlds and unsatisfying relationships. The author shows his skill by showing the meaning of lives we wouldn't think of as important.

The characters are compelling. Men in dead-end jobs and a seemingly pointless war find themselves needing to resolve conflicts with high stakes. The author shows his skill by taking lives that we wouldn't think of as interesting or full and making the reader turn the pages eagerly to see what the character is going to do about his dilemmas.

The humor, detailed descriptions and language the author expertly uses paint in few words people who look ordinary on the surface but who stand out in bold relief to their gray backgrounds. The main characters' observations of those around them create vivid portraits of people it would be easy to overlook.

This is a book I will re-read to catch new details each time.
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