The well-intentioned protagonists of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara are caught -- to both disastrous and hilarious effect -- in the maelstrom of political and social upheaval surrounding them. In "Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera," an ornithologist being held hostage in the Colombian rain forest finds that he respects his captors for their commitment to a cause, until he realizes that the Revolution looks a lot like big business. In "The Good Ones Are Already Taken," the wife of a Special Forces officer battles a Haitian voodoo goddess with whom her husband is carrying on a not-entirely-spiritual relationship. And in "The Lion's Mouth," a disillusioned aid worker makes a Faustian bargain to become a diamond smuggler for the greater good. With masterful pacing and a robust sense of the absurd, each story in Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a self-contained adventure, steeped in the heady mix of tragedy and danger, excitement and hope, that characterizes countries in transition.
Through Fountain's rounded and novelistic prose, these intelligent and keenly observed stories are painted in provocative and vibrant detail across a global canvas. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara marks the arrival of a striking and resonant new voice that speaks adeptly to the intimate connection between the foreign, the familiar, and the inescapably human.
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 (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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1 . Great short stories
Posted April 15, 2010 by Jim , HoustonThis is one of the best written and engaging slection of short stories that I have read in a long time. Ben Foutain is masterful and insightful in his story telling. His readers leave this book entertained and with more questions, understanding and wonder about life on the planet.
April 10, 2007
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