I've been spelling "Guevara" wrong all week. Comment embarrassant (translation courtesy of BabelFish). Oh, well, just ignore previous posts with misspellings, if you please.
I'm about to gush about this book, so if you don't like glowing adjectives, cover your eyes and duck.
In Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, Ben Fountain tackles moral dilemmas and third-world settings with a literary flair seldom seen in short form. I was particularly blown away by the first of the eight stories, Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillara, in which a struggling doctoral candidate travels to Colombia to study the region's parrots and ends up the kidnap victim of MURC, the "extortionist rebels" known for ransoming foreigners in order to pay for arms to protect their cocaine plantations. Not only did the story pack the excitement level of Proof of Life (an excellent movie that apparently 50 people viewed and the 2 of us who don't care what Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe do in their off-screen lives purchased), but it was also told with brilliant detail and richness to the point of making me wonder, "Gosh, has he been there?"
And, in that question lies the foundation of Fountain's storytelling success. He doesn't just pose a moral dilemma and express political sentiments via the storytelling medium. Rather, he shoots the arrow of his message into the heart of the reader via the strongest of human foundations: truth. The senses evoked, the detail of historical fact and physical surroundings, even the dialogue are all so utterly believable that if the facts upon which Fountain's stories lie are in any way inaccurate, the reader will likely find such discrepancies hard to conceive when the truth comes to light. At some points, I had to remind myself, "This is fiction." Fantasy for Eleven Fingers, for example, may be based upon the life of a real pianist or it may not. I don't know my musical history well enough to discern the fact from the fiction. But, the story reads like journalistic feature writing and it's hard to believe, once ended, that the eleven-fingered musicians described didn't exist.
Brief Encounters is definitely a book worth buying, savoring, discussing, and rereading. Even the gorgeous cover makes it a book worthy of the "good shelves". Again, since this is an advanced reader, not due to be released till August of 2006, I have no image to post. But, trust me, the cover is really pretty. You'll wish your curtains looked that nice.
Other reads of the moment:
*Remember Me by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, an advanced reader that I've stolen from my husband. He'll get it back; I promise.
*Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan, a book that I spent too much on and therefore must finish, which is finally capturing my interest at around page 100.
*Whatever happens to be next to me when seated: cereal boxes, old notes and lists I should throw away, you name it.
Reading is my oxygen,
Bookfool in constant search of more air