The funeral of a bachelor uncle A story about success and wealth and heirs and airs and udgements and disappointments Extinct Anatomies a rather strange tale of flights of fancy under the dental drill Emotional element here is the man in the chair is the cousin of the dentist While in the chair under the drill and anesthesia the man fantasizes about his cousin s wifeRepublica and Grau Interesting tale of the rather cynical ways of a blind beggar and a young boy discovers his red line moral limitations For me this was the best story in the book Powerful Mean people profit off of a 10 year old boy helping a blind man beg His father put him there for half of the take When they prove to be pulling in less money because the boy is too kempt the blind man orchestrates a beating from the father that makes him sympathetic The boy catches on and upends the entire deal in a dramatic way Emotional elements are the callous nature and the desperation of some peopleThe Bridge story about a blind couple who work as interpreters Really strange All the characters are creating their own reality about the couple who had recently died by walking off a bridge The brother of the blind male interpreter thinks the wife could see and killed the hubby Another interpreter thinks he killed his wife The brother is in an asylum and the nephew reader must put the pieces together and discern the truth The Lord Rides a Swift Cloud A strange one Grappling with loneliness a visitor to the city gets muggedor does he The Auroras bit of a parable of a lost soul Man abandons his family and stumbles upon a village where through his ego he is duped into sexual slavery hide spoiler I rarely read short story collections and I d not heard of Daniel Alarcon prior to checking this book out of the library Was it the cover The title It s certainly not that I don t have plenty of books to read that I m excited to read And still The wonder of librariesI knew in the first seventy five pages that this would be on my top 10 reads of 2018 list no matter what the rest of the year holds because of passages like this Geography is an accident he said The place you are born is simply the first place you flee And then the people you meet the ones you fall for and the paths you make together the entirety of one s life a series of mere accidents And these too are accidents the creeks you stumble upon in a dense wood the stones you gather the number of times each skips across the bright surface of the water and everything you feel in that moment the graceless passage of time the possibility of stillnessand this This town brought up bad memories for my father who was in those days entering a pensive late middle age That was how it seemed to me at the time but what does a twenty two year old know about a grown man s life and worries Very little of course I was too young to recognize what would later seem than obvious that I was the greatest source of my old man s concern That if he was growing old too soon I was at least partly to blame This would ve been clear had I been paying attention We hadn t come to see about Raul or his house or his things We d come to see about meand then this The registrar was a small very round man named Juan with dark skin and a raspy voice He d been my father s best friend in third grade or so he claimed My old man didn t bother to contradict him only smiled in such a way that I understood it to be untrue or if not untrue exactly then one of those statements that time had rendered unverifiable and about which there was no longer any use debatingand finally this The town itself was interesting enough with crumbling houses and narrow streets full of people who seemed not to know how to hurry I learned to walk slowly and so this pace was not difficult for me That day was absurdly sunny In the afternoon I rode one of the funiculars to the top of a hill an outcropping of rock high above the sea where the wind blew so hard it forced my eyes to shut and dusted my face with a fine film From there between gusts I could see the port its gleaming metal claws its workers scurrying between acres of containers stacked one on top of the other Beyond it was the ocean a beautiful roiling sheet of silverOf course the real work of the day was pretending I wasn t lonelyAlarcon s protagonists are men going places Something happened They are returning home for a funeral or have left home some time ago and are still in the process of determining what comes next They are in their 20s 40s and a little bit lost Things haven t worked out as they might have thought Family is difficult So is marriage They seek freedom A new set of options The ability to escape the past To fit within a community but not be locked in by it To be free of lonelinessAlarc n is 40 but he notices tells and the nuances of behavior and relationships as if he was born an old soul Originally from Peru he was raised in suburban Birmingham Alabama Somewhere along the way he became a wicked observer of human behavior with writing talent to spare His stories will appeal to anyone who is a fan of Mohsin Hamid and also to the many who find Hamid s writing too lightweight The standouts were The Thousands Abraham Lincoln Has Been Shot Republica and Grau The Bridge and The Lord Rides a Swift Cloud If you only have time for a single story read Abraham Lincoln Has Been Shot You re welcom. Rocky Rontal And in the tour de force novella The Auroras a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman Richly drawn full of unforgettable characters The King is Always Above the People reveals experiences both unsettling and unknown and yet eerily familiar in this new wor.
As I read these stories about men and boys doing fucked up things I kept wondering are these stories about toxic masculinity or an embodiment of toxic masculinity I don t know that I found the answer exactly but I wasn t into it This was Making India Work just ok The writing itself is exceptional and overreaching It demanded of myself than I could invest it was like the style itself wanted to prevent the stories from really being known There were several moments where I lost the thread of what was going on and didn t care to pick it up again life has a way of punishing brave boys like you life has a way of making brave boys like you punish themselves particularly here where you live you already know that daniel alarc n s writing seems to become tighter and focused with each passing book always a gifted storyteller a notable poise or confidence now permeates his pages whereas before it came but in passing phases the first story collection since his penhemingway nominated debut war by candlelight his new one the king is always above the people features 10 stories 9 and a novella 8 and 2 each tinged with a certain yearning or desperatedespairing reality to them the collections longest pieces the auroras the provincials and the title story stand the tallestof the original bogot 39 list a new one was celebrated earlier this year onlyunot d az has enjoyed greater stateside success than alarc n though both are in otherwise exceptional company melding the political and the personal or at least acknowledging that the twain seldom exist separately the peruvian american s sweet spot seems to be the place where his characters seek to transcend the limits of one while forever being encumbered by the other the king is always above the people is a solid collection with nary a weak story to be found but still hern n didn t leave people far better than him in every way have skated to their graves stuck in bad relationships such is the coercive power of intertia dayum this book daniel alarc n is my new bff One assumes from the title that the king spoken of is revered and placed in a position of honor Very shortly we learn that the king is actually hanging by his neck above the central suare the people looking up at him swinging there Many things are different from the perspective of those on the flip side of northAlarc n is Peruvian American and his voice is strong having seen poverty male having known brutality and distinctive not being North American His biography is fascinating He is an investigative Everwar (Cal Leandros, journalist he teaches both broadcastournalism and writes novels He collaborated with partners to establish a Spanish language podcast Radio Ambulante telling Latin American stories for NPR This collection of stories may be a perfect way to be introduced to his work Some stories have a knife hidden somewhere in the folds We are reading along interested and engaged and suddenly we remember the world is not kind We might have moments of carefree pleasure but it is not too long before the reality comes flooding back Until then however there is a sense of release most intense The Provincials is the longest story and it is something altogether new A father and his son return to the town the father had fled some years before He is now working at a The Red Hat Society Cookbook job unimaginable to those people in the town Head Librarian of the Rare and Antiuarian Manuscripts division of the National Library and has one son in America The son traveling with him is an actor Because the townspeople mistake him for his cross border brother he accedes to this role He discovers there is in fact something of value here in this tired town they ve left Rep blica and Grau may be my favorite story a story of a wily blind man begging for coins He is accompanied by a ten year old who is being pimped by his father to bring home half the take Life is hard The begging blind man seems happy to share his income such as it is with the neatly dressed boy One day after his father beats the boy for such a small take home the boy s bruised bloody face and uncaring demeanor earns the two beggars The second longest story in the bunch The Bridge is as filling as a novel There is so much to think about so much alluded to so much desire and despair in it that one has to pause and pull in the oars Let sust think about what he is saying if you don t mind It won t hurt you to know the story ends with a recording of an audience roaring back at an opera performer who left them momentarily speechlessIn the best of all possible worlds I would read this collection slowly allowing time between stories as though each were a suare of bitter chocolate But I am a traveler too and fear I will lose the opportunity to share in this strongly South American flavored story telling so must finish it uickly All the way through we sense the movement of individuals tied in some mysterious psychic way to the mother country but mostly adrift seeking rest The North when it is perceived at all is other The final story The Auroras couldn t have come at a opportune moment considering the state of discussion around the world on the subject of sexual relations and exploitation The story pained me While we experience a curious role reversal in the sexual arena we also have a ueer example of the effect of social groups on attitudessomething like the Facebook effect The main character was influenced to find his A slyly political collection of stories about immigration broken dreams Los Angeles gang members Latin American families and other tales of high stakes ourneys from the award winning author of War by Candlelight and At Night We Walk in Circles Migration Betrayal Family secrets Doomed love Uncertain futures In Daniel Alarcon's hands these are transformed into deeply hum.
Nner malice and express it only later understanding how thoroughly he d been manipulated It was a distressing story to end onAlarc n is interesting enough that I set out immediately to see if this set of stories is representative of his work He has two earlier novels his debut called Lost City Radio 2007 about a radio show that recounts for families the status of victims of a war in a nameless South American country and At Night We Walk in Circles 2013 featuring people with names and backgrounds the same as those in his story mentioned above called The Provincials But there is Alarc n collaborated on a graphic novel and several story collections He is a ournalist and Sequins and Spurs just kind of endlessly fascinating He appears to write in English no translator is listed He also teaches or has taught at several universities in the United States You must sample his work if only because South American writers are too scarce for whatever reason in North America and I presume in Europe South America is simply too often overlooked in our hurry to discover larger targets or exotica There are some decent as well as funny stories in this collection Unfortunately I listened to the audiobook and Dos Santos became so excited so often that his voice started becoming background noise and I would tune out I owe it to this author to read the hard copy of this book and write another review in the future I don t usually read short story collections I feel that as soon as I get to know a character the story is over and I feel vaguely unsatisfiedBut a couple of these stories were brilliant I chose this book because much of it took place in Peru part of a World Cup reading challenge read 32 books representing the 32 countries competing in the World Cup I was not disappointed I can t say I learned all that much about Peru but these stories explore the human heart and relationships lovers fathers and sons with intimacy and graceWell worth the time especially the final longer story The Auroras It left me breathless And very sad It is unfortunate that these stories are collected Individually some show promise but there is a sameness to many of them and so they are less powerful gathered together Here are four opening linesIt was the year I left my parents a few useless friends and a girl who liked to tell everyone we were married and moved two hundred kilometers downstream to the capitolI d been out of the conservatory for about a year when my great uncle Raul diedI d been in Lima for the first half of the yearIt s early March when Hernan arrives in the port cityHo hum All are solid sentences and perfectly good ways to start a short story but taken in succession they become formulaic and workaday The same is true for the stories themselves with their common themes similar settings and overlapping tones And so I found this to be a thoroughly mediocre undertaking SoDaniel Alarcon This young man has taken the literary world by storm with this collection of stories I have become a huge fan short story collections These stories are fascinating well crafted interesting and odd This is my wheelhouse and Alarcon is very talented writer with a new and different perspective Alarcon writes about men of color of Latin descent I don t read often enough about how men of color view the world and themselves That said it seems as if the collection only has one voice Honestly each story could have been about the same person at different points in his life The circumstances varied but the emotional resonances were very similar Basically these are stories of men who are disillusioned with their place in the world And they are all dissatisfied or restless or uncomfortable about something in their lives It s kind of an open spicket of discontent and missed opportunity The dice have been rolled and they came up snake eyes I need to believe that there is for these men than the bitterness and melancholy presented here view spoilerThe Thousands Very short story of the growth of a town from nothing The Ballad of Rocky Rontal story of a young man s growth in the American criminal element Shows that it starts how the children startpoverty Identifies that environment is a large part of the euation in gang warfare The emotional element here is a young man with a good heart is forced to do bad things to survive isailed and comes out wanting to walk the straight and narrow The prognosis isn t good Adapt to survive The King is always above the People title story Young man from a rural town moves to the capital of an unnamed country to improve his fortunes The capital has a brutality to it that is unnerving There is no avenue for success for someone from a rural town A story of a young man in search of a good narrative country boy does good in the city Didn t work out so well Emotional element here is a near do well goes to the city to make his fortune leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend She follows him and he realizes he can t stay in the city and raise his family Moves back home to crushed dreams and a uestionable futureAbraham Lincoln Has Been Shot A strange story about the deterioration of a gay relationship interspersed with a fantasy revolving around Abraham Lincoln Though interesting I m not sure I understood it completely The Provincials a great story of the posturing that families and the community do when they return to their home villages for. An stories with high stakes In The Thousands people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives' mysterious deaths and his father's mental breakdown and incarceration in The Bridge A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in The Ballad of.
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Daniel Alarcón’s fiction and nonfiction have been published in The New Yorker Harper's Virginia uarterly Review Salon Eyeshot and elsewhere He is Associate Editor of Etiueta Negra an award winning monthly magazine based in his native Lima Peru His story collection War by Candlelight was a finalist for the 2006 PENHemingway Foundation Award and the British journal Granta recently name