Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Before the End, After the Beginning: Stories Paperback – November 6, 2012
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
"Gilb's voice has an authenticity that's unimpeachable."San Antonio Express News
"Stark, realistic, and told in mostly gritty matter-of-fact prose . . . Gilb portrays his characters simply and powerfully, without apology; even his unnamed characters represent the plight of not only every working-class Mexicano but Everyman.” Boston Globe
"Dagoberto Gilb's mission in Before The End, After the Beginning is not to dazzle and amaze, but to implode myths and misconceptions, to expose us to forgotten and subterranean characters in constant transition and exile; characters inured to injury and pain, heartbreak and woeyet who never jettison hope for a better life, nor a future uncertain, yet still very much possible. These Chicano dreamers are lovelorn and love-tossed, broken-yet-healing, but most of all, on the road to recovery from an America that shuts its eyes and ears at their very existence. Gilb shows us that every man, woman and child is a citizen of hope, succors the birthright of love and freedom in their hearts, and sin fronteras, can, and will, emerge victorious. Make no mistake about it, by the end of Before The End, After the Beginning, you will be dazzled. And amazed."ZZ Packer
The situations [in these stories] are part of the everyday, normal struggle to keep one's head above water and one's heart sane. Dagoberto Gilb writes about these matters in a mature and subtle manner.” All Things Considered, NPR
Don’t don’t dare put Gilb’s writing in any category. He’s as fine at the lyrical as he is at the vernacular. And his subject is as universal as it can get: the mystery of existence . . . Triumphantly, Gilb built this book. It’s masterful, bottom to top.” Dallas Morning News
"Of their surfaces, these are quirky, confronting, intense, often darkly funny storiesworth it for that alone. But from underneath, Gilb unearths a sense of profound human longing and a dream of harmony which (the stories makes perfecly clear) could be reached no other way."Richard Ford
"Poignant . . . [with] a keen perception of human nature . . . Gilb writes masterfully, displaying his talent for powerful storytelling. One thing is for certain and that is readers will absorb these characters and empathize and remember them.Before the End, After the Beginning is a short book but will leave an impression for a long time."Zetta Brown, New York Journal of Books
"Demonstrates that the author has more power than ever in addressing the conditions and contradictions of being split across cultures, and reminds us that every American, native or immigrant, is the product of a society that must learn to share or risk losing its founding graces."Publishers Weekly
Where are we when we are before the end yet after the beginning? We are in the midst of life, where everything happens. Before the end and after the beginning, one celebrates a perfect sixth birthday, looks for a job, has an affair, remembers old girlfriends, suffers a stroke. These are the moments Dagoberto Gilb describes in his elegiac third story collection.” New York Times Book Review
[These stories] are about the real world, where things are complex and messy, where race and sex and age and social and economic status cannot be so cleanly disentangled from one another . . . Gilb’s characters are complex in real-to-life ways . . . [Before the End, After the Beginning] will stay with you long after you are done.” Washington Independent Book Review
"The latest collection from the master storyteller . . . There is so much substance to Gilb's tales . . . The terrible things that befall a man are not always his fault, Gilb seems to say with these stories, but neither, alas, are the blessings: the children who play at your feet, that girl who accepts your kiss, and that land you return to before you die."Texas Observer
"Like [Raymond] Carver, Gilb focuses his stories on working-class men who are slowly awakening to their ineptitude at relationships, who have a hard time shaking off old addictions, and who can’t quite move their careers out of neutral. What distinguishes Gilb is his deft handling of race: The heroes in these ten sharp stories are mostly Mexican-American men who weather plenty of prejudice. . . . Gilb gets excellent mileage from simple elements. Though the men in these stories have common concerns, each feels distinct and alive."Kirkus Reviews
"[Gilb] is in fine form . . . He's simply telling good stories: of men who are both Mexican and American, who are cultured and uncouth, who look at wealth from the outside and, occasionally, from within. A student may make something of himself; a poor young father might fall through the cracks; an older man might discover something new. They are formed outside themselves, but they are no finished yet."Los Angeles Times
Gilb’s voice has an authenticity that is unimpeachable.” San Antonio Express, Best books of 2011
"Written with compassion and grace . . . This is a collection that deserves conversation."The Feminist Texican blog
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In the first story of the collection, "please, thank you" the author gives us a narrow minded anti-hero Mr. Sanchez who, in addition to his illness, is drowning in bitterness and self pity, mostly over percieved slights by the hospital staff, and we begin to wonder if the politics of victimhood will overwhelm this spare intense story in which even the language is handicapped: sentences do not start with capital letters, indents are missing and personal pronouns are not capitalized in order to make the language conform to the main character's physical infirmity. It's a marvelous way of making form follow function. When Estrella, a janitor at the hospital, describes a shouting match she had at a local Walmart, where she was derided for speaking Spanish, we see another side of Sanchez as he consoles, and finally focuses on something other than his own discomfort. Our awareness that we are in the hands of a major literary talent increases accordingly.
Men may narrate the stories in this collection but women are the main characters, mostly because of their physical beauty. In "Willows Village", for example, Guillermo has aspirations as a car salesman and stays with his beautiful Aunt Maggy while job hunting. Billy, as he himself likes to be called, undergoes a moral dilemna when he confronts the source of bounty at Aunt Maggy's house. We may not approve morally of his choice, but it is Billy's decision and Billy's life, and his decision defines his character. We also learn something about Gilb from this story. He lets his characters lead the life they choose.
In "Uncle Rock", the hero Erick has a mother who is, once again, drop dead georgeous. The men in the story are pigs. Except one, Rocco, a down to earth guy we really like and respect. The more money the men make the more piglike they become. Which is contra to North American culture because with higher salaries, audiences assume a sauve, deboniar and cultured demeanor accruing to men. Not Gilb. The more money men make, the more piglike. The baseball players? The highest paid people in the story? The Phillies? The biggest pigs of all. Real cabrons. Which makes Gilb a subversive writer. And who is going to argue with him? It costs $500 to take your family to a baseball game today. Why so? To pay $25 million to a shortstop who hits .215. Gilb is right. Pigs.
"Cheap" is not a hot story. I could not find the story line despite ample trying, and unlike the language elsewhere, here the prose was clunky, cumbersome, and lacked a coherent flow. What I do in cases like this is to read the end of the story first. Endings in literary fiction are very important because a good author will always strive to leave you with a satisfying conclusion. It is where they put their individual stamp. But even this technique failed to make sense of the piece. In horseracing, there are races like this - on a nine race card, you may have one or two races that leave you completely frustrated. Perhaps the author is borrowing from horseracing and throwing in a clunker. From that perspective, it worked. The story is a clunker.
With the next story in the collection, "Blessing" we are back on track. The language has a georgeous flow as though Gilb knew he was experimenting in "Cheap" and so to make it up to us for suffering, he gives us his best writing in "Blessing". OK, that works. There are potholes even in the best roads. And don't expect to like the main character in "Blessing" He doesn't like himself, and even admits at one point that he is a scurrilous individual. Major league. But this is self awareness and this character is what we call in literature "redemptive". He can be saved. And he is saved, turning away from entrapment.
The most riveting story in the collection is The Last Time I Saw Junior. This Junior, he is beyond redemption and he cons our narrator into taking a ride with him. Because this narrator doesn't take a stand early on, he has to take a stand later, and you know what they say about late stands. They are hard to pull off because they can go in any direction, and you are not sure about the outcome, especially the way Gilb does it, with language so gritty this story could have been written on the back of sandpaper.
From the last entry in the book, Hacia Teotitlán, one gets the feeling this author wanted to keep this story to himself, that he kind of resents readers, especially gringo readers, from entering his private domain. But gringos have been into Latino culture for years and years. We knew about Luis Aparicio in 1958, and before that we knew about Mike Garcia of the Cleveland Indians and Chico Carrasquel of the White Sox. Then we read La Casa de Bernarda Alba in college and ate pinto beans and tomato sauce doing it. And everybody likes Ozzie Guillen. So really, who's kidding who here? Put the work out there and let people observe, comment, learn and enjoy.
If the elephant in the room is his stroke, Gilb acknowledges it head on in the first short story, "please, thank you". The main character, Mr. Sanchez, has suffered a stroke. Once a strong man, Mr. Sanchez is knocked down by his health. The reader sees him through the early days of disorientation and follows along as he makes small victories in his recovery over the next few months. The story is at turns humorous and touching. It is also typed by Mr. Sanchez, who only has limited movement in one hand; as such, there are no capital letters in the story because Mr. Sanchez can't reach the shift key. It's a beautiful story, and one of my favorites.
Another favorite was "Uncle Rock," about a young boy and his single mother. No matter who his mother dates, Erick refuses to warm up to them. It's no different when she begins dating Roque; Erick can see that Roque adores his mother, but no matter how much Roque tries to engage with Erick over, Erick remains indifferent. Knowing that Erick loves baseball, Roque takes them to see a game at Dodgers stadium. Still, Erick tries to look nonchalant. But then something happens at the game, and Erick can keep his composure no more. The end left me smiling.
The final story, "Hacia Teotitlán," is another one that stayed with me. As young children, the narrator and his siblings visited Coyoacán, Mexico on vacation; as adults, they always talked about going back but never did. Now an old man at the end of his life, his brother and sister dead, Ramiro returns to Mexico. He spends his days reflecting on life, walking around town and talking to local vendors. It's a quiet story, largely plotless, but one that I found myself drifting off to reflect on more than the other stories.
Whether the characters in these stories are exploring politics or racism, the bounds of friendship or the roots of one's culture, all of them are experiencing a profound period of transition in their lives. There is a distinctly Southwestern feel to the stories, and though not all of them are set along the U.S.-Mexico border, the concept of navigating borders-be they physical or figurative-presents a recurring theme. The situations in many of these stories are not easy, and some of the protagonists are downright self-contradictory, but Gilb has written them with compassion and grace. This is a collection that deserves conversation.