Saturday, July 03, 2010

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, by Ben Fountain

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara (Stories), by Ben Fountain

This is a really intriguing group of short stories. Ordinary people in unique situations is a common theme here, and put to good use. My favorite was The Lion’s Mouth, set in Sierra Leone where a humanitarian becomes a diamond smuggler and a reluctant savior. Other good ones include Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera which follows a bird-watcher taken hostage by Colombian revolutionaries, Bouki and the Cocaine describes a fisherman-turned-Robin Hood stealing cocaine from drug-smugglers, and in The Good Ones Are Already Taken we meet a Special Forces officer that takes a second wife (without leaving the first): a Haitian voodoo sex goddess. Fantasy for Eleven Fingers was the only one that sounded a bit forced to me, telling a tale of antisemitism and hypocrisy in fascist Germany via an eleven-fingered pianist. All in all, this is a collection of well-crafted adventures that is worth your time.

First Sentence (From Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera):
No way Blair insisted to anyone who asked, no self-respecting bunch of extortionist rebels would ever want to kidnap him.

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