Breakfast's boiled egg, the overhead hum of fluorescent lights, the midmorning coffee break-the reassurance of daily routine keeps the world running. But when pushed-by a coworker's taunt, a face-to-face encounter with a woman in free fall-cracks appear and reveal alienation, casual cruelty, madness, and above all a simultaneous hunger for and fear of the unknown. In this fantastically original debut collection, Daniel Orozco leads the reader through the secret lives and moral philosophies of bridge painters, men housebound by obesity, office temps, and warehouse workers. Orozco reveals the secret pleasures of late-night supermarket trips for cookie binges, exceptional data entry, and an exiled dictator's occasional piss on the U.S. embassy. The stories are formally inventive: a love affair blooms between two officers in the impartially worded pages of a police blotter; a new employee's first-day office tour includes descriptions of other workers' most private thoughts and actions; during an earthquake, the consciousness of the entire state of California shakes free for examination.
Veteran short-fiction journeyman Orozco makes a long-overdue book debut with a rewarding collection infused with wonderfully wrought landscapes and telling glimpses of alienation. In the much anthologized title story, an omniscient tour guide takes a new hire around the cubicles, identifying the employee who is also a serial killer, several one-sided love interests, and the resident ghost of the office. The haunting "Hunger Tales" comprised sketches of people who gorge, splurge on supermarket cookies, or, like a 600-pound Iraq War veteran, eat themselves into obesity, revealing the power of food to heal, connect, and hurt. In "I Run Every Day," a pathological long-distance runner deals with the hectoring of his fellow workers and the come-ons of the new secretary, who gets as close as anyone ever has and pays a price for it. Orozco displays considerable descriptive ability with an obsessive attention to banal details, spinning archetypes to complicate a cross-section of American society. The writer's gifts are particularly apparent in "Somoza's Dream," the tale of a South American dictator in exile and his assassin. This collection has been a long time coming, and it's been worth the wait. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Faber & Faber
May 23, 2011
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