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Brief Encounters with Che Guevara


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About the Author

Ben Fountain was born in Chapel Hill and grew up in the tobacco country of eastern North Carolina. A former practicing attorney, he is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Billy Lynn was adapted into a feature film directed by three-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. His series of essays published in The Guardian on the 2016 U.S. presidential election was subsequently nominated by the editors of The Guardian for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife of 32 years, Sharon Fountain.


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 2006 Reed Business Information.

Many a protagonist in this solid, aptly titled debut collection from Fountain (fiction editor, Southwest Review) seems to carry a deep guilt about privilege. Whether a graduate student kidnapped by guerrillas while doing fieldwork on a rare species of bird in Colombia or a relief worker in Sierra Leone caught up with a diamond smuggler, these characters navigate the moral minefield of doing good deeds while being very human. Fountain quietly builds a story so that the cultural reality of its setting seeps into the most mundane love affairs, golf tournaments, or fishing trips (the excellent "Bouki and the Cocaine"). Despite their various international settings and plots, the stories are not overweeningly ambitious and are rarely emotional or enlightening. If anything, they fall away from conclusions or epiphanies, which may be their most potent aspect. Only one story, the anomalous and well-paced "Fantasy for Eleven Fingers," about a piano prodigy in fin-de-siecle Vienna, strives for a Roald Dahl finale. Recommended for most fiction collections.-Prudence Peiffer, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Brilliant..."--Seattle Times
"... Fountain['s]excursions into foreign infernos have an innocence all their own."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"...Fountain's stories reach for a broader engagement...This book is a step in the right direction."--Boston Sunday Globe
"Fountain ... gets his message across without forsaking characterization and vivid descriptiveness. . .a revealing view of the human condition."--Miami Herald
"He imbues each narrative with an understanding of international politics and conflicts, and the sticky moral complexities involved."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"In this first collection the author brings the virtuosity of Greene and le Carre to tales of foreign adventures."--Boston Globe
"Short-story collections don't come much better than this. Brief Encounters With Che Guevara offers pointed prose, nimble revelation..."--Philadelphia Inquirer
" ... Fountain chooses just the right details, metaphors, similes and descriptions...life rendered in sentences seem[s] as life lived."--San Francisco Chronicle
"...exceptional story collection..."--New York Times Book Review
"An exceptional story collection. . . Heartbreaking, absurd, deftly drawn. . ."--New York Times Book Review

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