The well-meaning protagonists of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara are caught—to both disastrous and hilarious effect—in the maelstrom of political and social upheaval surrounding them. Ben Fountain’s prize-winning debut speaks to the intimate connection between the foreign, the familiar, and the inescapably human.
Ben Fountain is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. He has received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and a Whiting Writers' Award, among other honors and awards. He and his family live in Dallas.
Place of Birth:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
B.A. in English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1980; J.D., Duke University School of Law, 1983
Brief Encounters with Che Guevara 4 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Mr. Fountain's prose is original and crystal-clear, with beautiful phrasings that contribute greatly to the impact of the writing. The first story in the collection--'Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera'--was my favorite, and one of the two or three best short stories I've ever read. The fact that the ending, which should have been a joyous outcome for the protagonist, was instead a source of infinite despair, not only for the character but for all of mankind, was a big part of the genius of the story. 'The Good Ones Are Already Taken' seemed weaker, and I thought perhaps Mr. Fountain is one of those male writers who cannot portray female characters with the same depth of character as the males, but he proved me wrong in 'The Lion's Mouth' and 'Fantasy for Eleven Fingers', which is written as a historical account and almost had me convinced that it had happened. The story that gives the collection its title also seemed weaker to me, perhaps because it lacked the moral confusion of most of the other stories, but all stories are written with an incredible adroitness, creating the 'orgasmic perfection' attributed to Tiger Woods in one of the stories.
More than 1 year ago
One hint that a writer of short stories or novellas or even full novels for that matter is the sense given to the reader that all of the information is so solidly shared that the writer must be speaking from autobiographical stance. Yet all we gather from the brief jacket bit about Ben Fountain is that he has won some impressive literary awards, is editor of Southwest Review, and lives in Texas with his little family! There is nothing to suggest a world traveler who has grown into the soil of the various parts of the world he molds into his stories. We are left with the conclusion that Fountain is simply a brilliant writer - and that is even more impressive. Eight stories are served with exquisite writing technique, fastidious attention to detail, and an endless imagination for bizarre events that serve as a stage for characters at once participating in the darker elements of the world's doings while finding some sense of exotica on a planet that has heretofore seemed so blasé. He takes us to Haiti, explores cocaine trafficking there by both the innocent poor folk observers and the corrupt police force he follows a devoted ornithologist in captivity in Colombia who gains insight into Revolution he examines a strange relationship between a young lady and her older diamond hunting mate in Sierra Leone ('Being an American these days, that's sort of like being a walking joke, right?') he follows a bumbling golf pro whose sad life catches up with him in Myanmar he takes us back to the turn of the 20th century to uncover a child piano prodigy who is able to play a Fantasy for piano written by a pianist who shared her deformity of having eleven fingers he deals with a couple who must cope with the husband's 'co-marriage' to a Haitian voodoo goddess and he obsesses on tales of encounters with the ever-popular Che Guevara. With each story he transports us wholly to the place of action and the interstices of the minds of the character he paints. Though this reader has not been to Haiti, Sierra Leone or Myanmar to check the reality of Fountain's prose descriptions there, the world of music for the piano is close enough to have profound respect for his writings about piano technique and music history and Vienna. Fountain MAKES us believe his stories, tales that are more like histories than fiction, so well drawn are they. Here is a writer of inordinate gifts. We can only hope he is busy at work crafting a novel to see how well his brief stories can be transported into extended form. Ben Fountain is most assuredly an author to watch! Highly recommended.
More than 1 year ago
Brief Encounters with Che Guevara by Ben Fountain This book is eight short stories yes, but there is so much in each story that they could stand alone and maintain a reader's interest. This book is about that which changes us when it is least expected and in the most unlikely of places. Each story involves a person that had gone to another country or and is touched by some part of that foreign land and absorbs the land and people into their own being. Some unexpected skills arise to survive the situation and in other ways instincts appear on the surface to be strange and unusual but absolutely imperative to the overall survival of the situation. John Blair In Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera a PhD candidate by the name of John Blair is searching for a bird and finds him trying to manipulate a revolution. In Bouki and the Cocaine Syto Charles tries to keep his respectability and basic morale base while fighting the temptation when he finds a drug stash. Each individual story describes a place that is impoverished or torn apart by war or surviving the brutal aftermath of war. The torment of the people involved and the survival skills they had developed to remain in their home and on their property. What happens in each story is how all of this effects the person who goes to this place for their individual reason and sees the desperation and fear but also the capitalism and greed that develops among those who are the strongest in the group to survive. The stories are not easy reading and do not involve Che Guevara in actuality except for one person's overall obsession with him. The stories however are about the basic elements of human nature some which are good, some which are dark. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the full spectrum of reading with a realistic flavor to the stories.
More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully written collection of short stories. Especially impressive is the author's ability to make the reader feel they are a part of the story too.
New York Times BestsellerNow a Major Motion Picture“Brilliantly done . . . grand, intimate, and
joyous.”—New York Times Book Review“Mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters: read this giant-hearted novel.”—MARIA SEMPLE, author of Where’d You Go, BernadetteThree minutes ...
One of America’s most acclaimed novelists boldly re-imagines one of America’s most enduring icons in
Blonde—the National Book Award-nominated bestseller by Joyce Carol Oates. The legend of Marilyn Monroe—aka Norma Jeane Baker—comes provocatively alive in this powerful tale of ...
With thrills, chills, and laughs on every page, this fourth book in the tween series
“sure to please young readers looking for a thrill” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) follows three monster-obsessed best friends on a trip to a haunted Mexican ...
This classic and award-winning picture book was written and illustrated by the celebrated Vera B.
Williams and was named a Caldecott Honor Book by the American Library Association. A tender knockout . . . it's rare to find much vitality, ...
Cy Parks is the Electric Michelangelo, an artist of extraordinary gifts whose medium happens to
be the pliant, shifting canvas of the human body. Fleeing his mother's legacy -- a consumptives' hotel in a fading English seaside resort -- Cy ...
Encounter is the latest addition to the acclaimed body of literary criticism from beloved author
Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting). Novelist Russell Banks writes, “Not since Henry James, perhaps, has a fiction ...
From Anne Roiphe, the critically acclaimed author of Fruitful, comes the New York Times bestselling
Epilogue, a beautiful memoir about death, life, and widowhood. Roiphe explores what happened when, at age 70, she lost her husband of 40 years. Moving ...
Nicola Upson blends biography and fiction, excitement and menace, and a touch of Alfred Hitchcock
in Fear in the Sunlight, a mystery starring real-life writer Josephine Tey.Summer, 1936: Josephine Tey joins her friends in the resort village of Portmeirion to ...