Synopses & Reviews
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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"For 25 years, American short stories have turned relentlessly inward; it's refreshing how Fountain's stories reach for a broader engagement." Boston Globe
"All Ben Fountain's stories move like great rivers, broad and calm on their surfaces, but in their depths full of darkness, undertows and invisible complications." Dallas Morning News
"Politics aside, Fountain should be read for his metaphors and similes....This is why we turn to quality fiction, not for information or ideology, but for a revealing view of the human condition." Miami Herald
"Eight powerful stories....An impeccable debut collection; if Fountain can keep it up, he's an heir to Paul Theroux." Kirkus Reviews
"The stories in Brief Encounters with Che Guevara
are poignant, empathetic, ironic, and, perhaps surprisingly, often funny....Fountain writes in gorgeous sentences that do much of their work with transparency but can also stop you in your tracks. He is a writer of impressive intelligence and range, writing convincingly on subjects from diamond mining to voodoo rituals, and this collection is held together by his unsparing, hopeful, but ultimately deeply sad vision..." Jill Owens, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
About the Author
Ben Fountain's fiction has appeared in Harper's Magazine, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All-Story, and he has been awarded an O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and other honors. He is the fiction editor of Southwest Review and lives with his wife and their two children in Dallas, Texas.