The Surf Guru

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A book of brilliant, adventurous stories from the award-winning Doug Dorst.

With the publication of his debut novel, Alive in Necropolis, Doug Dorst was widely celebrated as one of the most creative, original literary voices of his generation-an heir to T.C. Boyle and Denis Johnson, a northern California Haruki Murakami. Now, in his second book, The Surf Guru, his full talent is on display, revealing an ability to explore worlds and capture ...

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The Surf Guru

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A book of brilliant, adventurous stories from the award-winning Doug Dorst.

With the publication of his debut novel, Alive in Necropolis, Doug Dorst was widely celebrated as one of the most creative, original literary voices of his generation-an heir to T.C. Boyle and Denis Johnson, a northern California Haruki Murakami. Now, in his second book, The Surf Guru, his full talent is on display, revealing an ability to explore worlds and capture characters that other writers have not yet discovered.

In the title story, an old surfing-champion-turned-surfwear- entrepreneur sits on his ocean-front balcony watching a new generation of surfers come of age on the waves, all but one of whom wear wet suits emblazoned with the Surf Guru's name. An acid-tongued, pioneering botanist who has been exiled from the academy composes a series of scurrilous (and hilarious) biographical sketches of his colleagues and rivals, inadvertently telling his own story. A pair of twenty-first- century drifters course through a series of unusual adventures in their dilapidated car, chased west out of one town and into the next, dreaming of hitting the Pacific.

Dorst's characters have all successfully cultivated a particular expertise, and yet they remain intent on moving toward the horizon, seeking hope in something new. Likewise, each of Dorst's stories is a virtuoso performance balancing humor and insight, achieving a perfect pitch, pulsing with a gritty and punchy, distinctly American realism- and yet always pushing on into the unexpected, taking us some place new.

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Editorial Reviews

Robin Romm
All of Dorst's stories brim with gumption. They're fun-loving, testosterone-rich yarns. And while his book is an amalgam of voices, moods, styles and forms…the stories speak to an important literary pursuit: that of pushing limits, of embracing challenge, no matter the gharials at your toes.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Dorst's acclaimed debut, Alive in Necropolis, folded sci-fi, horror, and noir elements into a layered coming-of-age story, and a similar mix of lively imagination and love of craft are on display in this excellent collection. "Splitters" hilariously recreates a scholarly treatise, replete with bloated footnotes and period photographs, by a biologist unloading personal grudges upon colleagues. In the title story, dozens of short vignettes have the effect of snapshots or glimpses that the reader is challenged to piece together. A similar method is used, but to a grander effect, in "Twelve Portraits of Dr. Gauchet," which borrows its title from a Van Gogh painting and depicts the life of the famous artist's physician. The narrative in the poignant and surprisingly suspenseful "Dinaburg's Cake" coils in the obsessive mind of its protagonist, a cake maker in pursuit of a lost client with whom she imagines a significant connection. Whether it's the campaign adviser shackled to a loser in "The Candidate in Bloom" or the hapless dreamers in "Vikings" and "What Is Mine Will Know My Face," the humanity in Dorst's characters can break a reader's heart. (July)
Kirkus Reviews

Dorst's second book, following his debut novel Alive in Necropolis (2008),is a varied,inventivecollection of stories.

The title tale, told in fragments, is equal parts rueful and playful, and features a surfing legend turned surfwear king who sits alone on hisbluffside deck watchinghiscustomers (or, seen another way, his congregants)in the swells below—he's keeping an eye on his legacy, and maybe even rooting for it to unravel. A radically differentstory-in-snapshots, "Twelve Portraits of Dr. Gachet," follows Van Gogh's decline through the eyes ofa personal physician who's part quack and part groupie. In "Vikings," two drifters on thelamstumble intoa desert town where they find themselves out of money, out of time, out of patience...and in possession, suddenly and inexplicably, of a baby abandoned by a stranger. Rarely in debut story collections does a writer succeed in showing versatilityand range without the book devolving into a miscellany, but Dorst expertly manages the feat. He attempts a Nabokovian trick of unreliable narration in "Splitters," a vengeful botanist's field guide to all the fellow botanists who screwed him over in life. In "Dinaburg's Cake," a baker grows dangerously obsessed with a lost wedding-cake commission, and meanwhile grapples with how to helpher teen daughter, who's ripping out her own hair one strand at a time. Some stories—for instance, the magnificently odd meditation on war called"The Monkeys Howl, the Hagfish Feast" and the contemporary-campaign riff "The Candidate in Bloom"—offer a brand of magical realism. "Jumping Jacks," about a childhood accident involving fireworks,is abrief, lyrical, bittersweetreflection onthe moment where a lifewent wrong (but oh man, was it beautiful). Still others ("Astronauts") havethe humor, tragicomedyand slightly giddydownbeat feel of Denis Johnson's short fiction.

In this funny, poignant, risk-taking and mostly splendid collection, Dorst confirms the promise of his acclaimed first novel.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594485220
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 591,696
  • Product dimensions: 7.76 (w) x 5.14 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Doug Dorst

Doug Dorst is the author of three books, most recently the novel S, which he co-authored with J. J. Abrams. He is the author of the novel Alive in Necropolis, which was honored as San Francisco’s 2009 One City One Book selection and as a runner-up for the 2009 PEN/Hemingway, Shirley Jackson, and IAFA/Crawford Awards, and a short story collection, The Surf Guru. His stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, ZYZZYVA, and other journals. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a three-time Jeopardy! champion, Dorst lives in Austin and teaches writing at Texas State University in San Marcos.

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Customer Reviews

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( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 27, 2011

    Very versatile writer know how you are hungry and you keep eating and getting fuller but just aren't satisfied? You just end up bloated and angry? This is how "The Surf Guru", reads. Each story seems like a fragment of something bigger that never satisfies. Maybe that was Doug Dorst's intention. To give us just a taste. Hmmm...well...

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    Posted August 3, 2011

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    Posted October 21, 2010

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    Posted December 29, 2010

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