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Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories Paperback – April 10, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Six of these eight debut short stories feature Americans abroad, on modified grand tours stopping in Colombia, Haiti, Myanmar and Sierra Leone. As aid workers, soldiers and hangers-on, they grapple with some of the darkest circumstances in the contemporary world, their struggles made absurd by the ease with which they can and do return home. A few are honorably conflicted, including the NGO worker who betrays her diamond-smuggling lover. Others, including an indolent golfer who sells his soul along with his game, and a writer nursing an obsession with Che Guevara, draw less sympathy. Fountain seems to see both travel and introspection as amoral indulgences, which means there's serious writerly self-hatred here, since those indulgences feed his tales. The stories that avoid moral writhings for postmodern fable are his most memorable. When a Haitian fisherman discovers a drug runners' drop-off and tries to alert the police, only to find them driving shiny new SUVs, he turns next to the village's voodoo revelers"who have better ideas about what to do with the dope. Lively work, with much to detest and much to enjoy. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Tales of Americans subsisting in the third world and discovering new ways to think and behave are commonplace. But Ben Fountain's lively, humorous treatment of his troubled characters earns generous praise. Instead of focusing his deft choices of words and inventive metaphors on a character's internal experience, the author uses his literary prowess to examine the uncomfortable complexities of life outside the United States. He also takes time to portray the "dunes of garbage so rich in colorful filth" on Haitian streets. That may be enough to prove, as the New York Times says, what a "heartbreaking, absurd, deftly drawn" collection this is.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Read as these Americans observe and participate in the outer edges of societies on the brink of revolution, war, and outright chaos. Though the protagonists of these stories are not particularly sympathetic (Fountain does not seem to be concerned with eliciting sympathy from readers), readers are afforded opportunities to understand the lives of common folks stuck in the middle of these revolutions, just trying to survive and, daresay, even thrive in the face of tyrannical rule in Haiti and Sri Lanka, or the roving armies of young and dangerous rebels in Sierra Leone.
The Americans in these stories are often granted reprieves and outs from the danger and choose to stay, learn, and grow somehow as a result of the building uncertainty. Certainly, I felt the same sense of growth in reading this collection. Not too often can writers blend urban renegade spirit with historical fiction, but Fountain succeeds. Standouts include "Asian Tiger," "The Lion's Mouth," and the Faulkner-esque "Fantasy for Eleven Fingers."
A must-read for contemporary short-story readers and writers alike.
Fountain's familarity with locales and cultures most of us in the North find exotic add another layer of richness to his writing and the characters he protrays, bringing back to me memories of my own forays into the developing world.
I tried to think of which of the eight stories is my favorite, but each had its own distinct flavor. He is definitely not a formulaic writer. It was worth the read for me, enough so that I am just now starting one of his novels.
Even the author's biography at the end is comprised of a series of compelling events. I don't often read these, but I read this one to the end.
Curiously, the Kindle edition ends with an unrelated story about two uniquely-gifted pianists.
The writing is so imaginative and believable. Really caught me up. I would love to meet the characters - they originated and no doubt returned to Ben Fountain's mind. Thus, I would very much enjoy meeting the author. This book is well worth reading twice - first as a re-introduction to story lines, places, and to listen again to the narrator, such a fascinating man I'd be glad to know him better. My mind would be in a dream of a story and another would so seamlessly make its appearance, before I knew it was there, I was curled up on the couch being transported into another place, meeting new people, I'd love to meet again... Fountain is a ringmaster of story telling. Find out for yourselves...