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Dogfight, A Love Story Hardcover – September 21, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532983
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,308,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Alfredo Batista of Queens wants to welcome his older brother, José, home from a 28-month stretch in prison for a burglary in which Alfredo was supposed to take part. So Alfredo acquires some Ecstasy for his brother (thereby seriously alienating a Russian drug kingpin) and plans a dogfight to mark the occasion. But there’s still the problem of Isabel, the girlfriend of José (who turned Muslim in prison and now calls himself Tariq); she fell in love with Alfredo and is pregnant with their child. Not to mention the fact that Alfredo and his best friend, Winston, are one dog short of participants for their fight. First-novelist Burgess has created full-bodied characters with on-the-mark dialogue, and he evokes his hometown of Queens (which, he notes, has the most efficiently run drug trade of the five boroughs) in a story that is alternately antic and drop-dead serious. Death is always just around the corner, as Alfredo fears, and several characters do die violently, but in the end, it’s life that is celebrated. An impressive debut, bristling with energy, from an author to watch. --Michele Leber

Review

"With an acute ear for dialogue and the poetry of the street.....a cliche-free depiction of gritty urban reality, reminiscent of Richard Price. But Burgess's city novel is less 'Clockers' than 'Portrait of the Artist as an Ambivalent Drug Dealer.....bursts of narrative bravado....DOGFIGHT burns through this explosive weekend like a lighted fuse.....takes a mighty swing at this streetwise drama about loyalty and betrayal"--New York Times Book Review

"Arresting and vibrant....electrifying"--Vanity Fair

"Every once in a while you come across a book that completely captures a place. Even if you've never been there yourself, it's like you can see it, smell it, taste it. Theres a new novel out that does that for New York. Specifically: the borough of Queens. Author Matt Burgess nails the places."--NPR's Weekend Edition

"The hilarious, harrowing story of an extremely bad weekend in the life of 19-year-old Alfredo Batista, a very small-time drug dealer with some very big problems, including the Mob, a seven-months-pregnant girlfriend, and an ex-con older brother who just might want to bash Alfredo’s head in.  Oh, and there’s the small matter of the pit bull Alfredo needs to steal, for the Homecoming dogfight.  Poor dog.  Poor Alfredo.  I couldn’t stop laughing."--Ben Fountain, bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

"Matt Burgess' "Dogfight, A Love Story" was my most memorable read of 2010. As the title implies, the novel mixes everyday urban conflict with slice-of-life tenderness and momentary grace. Burgess captures the bass-heavy symphony of the neighborhood and gets the voices just right. Mixing the comedic and dramatic is a tricky thing to pull off, but the author does so with astonishing success. Most surprisingly, this is his literary debut. I can hardly wait to see what he comes up with next."--George Pelacanos

"[A] talent to watch. He possesses an ear for dialogue that rivals Richard Price and a pacy sense of plot reminiscent of another fantastic recent debut, Josh Bazell's "Beat the Reaper". His style is strikingly visual—Mr Burgess doesn't sketch scenes so much as paint them as big and bright as a playground mural.....Burgess is an energetic and disciplined writer. Most importantly, "Dogfight" is tremendously fun to read."--The Economist

"Absorbing....rich....Like those before him, Burgess lives and dies by the credibility of his dialogue and details, and his portrayal is clearly the product of much close study."--Time Out New York 

"Matt Burgess serves up a savory dish with his new novel, but the meat of the story is his writing....[an]exciting and really-tough-to-put-down novel....The plot is fun, original, addictive....The landscape Burgess paints (setting: Jackson Heights, Queens) has the alluring exoticism of a Gauguin....not merely funny or incisive but also feel true, and intimately so, as if revealing to us hidden parts of a world we already know....There's something more expansive at play here, as we watch Alfredo grapple with his conscience and fall deeper into an unknown yet eerily familiar world."--Minneapolis Star Tribune




"Sharp wit and enormous heart fill the pages of Dogfight, A Love Story.....intense, emotional and funny....a dazzling debut"--MetroMag


PRAISE FOR DOGFIGHT, A LOVE STORY


“Matt Burgess’s debut novel is a beautifully made, street-smart novel that is both funny and disturbing. Written with an almost furious energy, Dogfight has an amazingly well-rounded cast of characters and a plot that leads up to a violent and probably inevitable climax. This is the best first novel I have read in years.”
—Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love and The Soul Thief


Dogfight takes you on a gritty tour of a city exploding with diversity, violence, and love. Matt Burgess is a major talent, blessed with a unique voice full of humor and an attitude that’s ready to elbow its way into American letters.”
—Ernesto Quiñonez, author of Bodega Dreams

More About the Author

Matt Burgess, a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota's MFA program, grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. He is the author of the critically acclaimed DOGFIGHT, A LOVE STORY, a New York Times Editors' Choice and Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. His second novel, UNCLE JANICE, is forthcoming from Doubleday.

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By K. Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on September 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Matt Burgess, in the perfectly titled "Dogfight, A Love Story," has crafted a delicately balanced novel with both bite and heart. Set in the post 9/11 era borough of Queens, "Dogfight" introduces us to a low-level criminal type named Alfredo Batista. Alfredo has a big day ahead--his brother Tariq is getting out of prison! Whether that is good or not remains to be seen. You see, some think that Alfredo turned his brother in. While that may be up for debate, the one thing that is undeniable is that Alfredo is now living with Tariq's ex-girlfriend and is fathering a child with her. What's a good brother to do for this homecoming event? Why, of course, he needs to steal some drugs as a present and set up a dogfight for a party! It only makes sense!

But lest you think that "Dogfight" is a brutal story about the mean streets--let me just interject that the novel is genuinely funny as well. Burgess's principle success is his characterization of Alfredo. A hero, a villain, a lover, a fighter--Alfredo is mostly a mixed up kid with good intentions that is surviving anyway he knows how. Unfortunately, the thing he seems to do best is to get over his head. With real dreams and even bigger worries, Alfredo's trying to step up and be a responsible man. It's a dynamic and fully realized character--and I absolutely loved Alfredo as much as I wanted to throttle him.

Interactions between Alfredo and Tariq are suitably complex. Alfredo's relationships are all well formed, in fact. His parents, his best friend, his surrogate father figure, his girl and even his unborn baby all figure prominently in Alfredo's decisions. There is a real underlying sweetness, despite the unpleasantness, that keeps you really rooting for things to work out!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

The year is 2002, and Alfredo Batista is 19 years old. He and his pregnant girlfriend Isabel live with his parents at their small home in Queens. Alfredo is a high school dropout who makes little money dealing drugs along with his best friend Winston. Alfredo's most pressing concern however is the return of his brother Jose (now going by the name Tariq.) Tariq is being paroled from prison for a burglary committed 2 years earlier. And Tariq might not be very happy because Isabel used to be his girlfriend, and word on the street is that Alfredo ratted Tariq out.

The story is told from various character's point of view. We hear from Alfredo who is understandably stressed about his brother's return and is also apprehensive about his own bleak economic future. We hear from Isabel, and learn about her own upbringing and her concern for her unborn child. And we hear from Tariq, newly converted to Islam, who is struggling with his own demons and inner conflicts.

Alfredo, in an effort to win over Tariq plans to give him some Ecstasy when he gets home. He also plans to stage a dogfight with the same purpose. The problem is that when getting the drugs off of a school drug dealer, Alfredo and Winston end up getting the unwanted and unintended attention and ire of the Russian mob. And their plans for the dogfight have a hitch too - they don't have a dog.

There's a cast of colorful characters, including a 300 pound drug dealer with Cushing's Disease named Baka, an old feisty Jewish shop owner named Max, and a Chevy Impala full of not-so-undercover policemen. To name a few.

This is an astonishingly good book. As you read on and on, there is a palpable sense of tension and dread.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on September 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Matt Burgess' debut novel, "Dogfight, A Love Story," is set in Queens NY. I picked it up because I grew up in Queens and my family was part of the great #7 train migration that took us westward from apartments in Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst and finally to Flushing. I grew up going to places that come up in the book and Burgess gets Queens, dead solid perfect. The story would hit Corona, and there it was, the Lemon Ice King of Corona where it seemed the entire Borough would congregate on hot summer nights. The story moved to a bowling alley and there it was, the Whitestone Lanes: where I snuck my first cigarette and bummed my first sips of Colt 45 Malt Liquor and where the bowling shoes apparently still reek and where a lot of `business' still gets done in the parking lot. The description of the denizens of a local park (an asphalt playground really) seemed lifted as much from my own memory as from the author's imagination.

So even before getting to the story itself I was already grabbed by the atmospherics. Now, the question is, if you aren't from Queens and those atmospherics alone won't grab you - will you still like this book? I think the answer is a definite yes, a very definite yes. Burgess has created a number of characters that are funny and compelling. The three main characters are Alfredo Batista, his older brother Tariq, and Alfredo's very pregnant girl friend (and Tariq's former girlfriend) Isabel. These aren't perfect people, far from it. Alfredo is a small time pill and weed pusher, Isabel's been around the block a few times, and the story opens just as Tariq is released from a two-year stretch in an upstate prison. But they are real, or they certainly seemed real to me.
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