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Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  2,170 Ratings  ·  350 Reviews
The well-intentioned 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. In "Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera," an ornithologist being held hostage in the Colombian rain forest finds that he respects his captors for their commitment to a ca ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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Will Byrnes
Jun 28, 2014 Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a 2006 collection of eight brilliant short stories by Ben Fountain, author of the wonderful novel, Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk. Brief Encounters established Fountain’s reputation as a writer to watch, earning him a PEN Award, a Whiting Writers Award, an O Henry, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Award. Must be good, right? Indeed it is.

Half the stories are set in Haiti. Others are in Sierra Leone, Colombia, Myanmar and there is even one in Europe. They tel
I picked this book off a shelf at our local library because of the title- and am so glad I didn’t pass it up! I was getting ready to put it back on the shelf (since I am generally not a fan of short stories- with a few exceptions) but couldn’t stop browsing it. I brought it to a nearby chair, read the first 2 chapters and checked it out- giddy with joy.

An eclectic mix of quirky and creative slice-of-life short stories set in such diverse geographical settings as Haiti, Columbia, Myanmar, Burma,
Dec 13, 2016 HBalikov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would have preferred the title: Most Everything You Care to Know about People You’ve Rarely Thought About but were Afraid to Ask……then again, it’s probably obvious why I don’t write titles for a living.

Mastering the short story is a talent few writers excel at. Ben Fountain is one of them.
Brief Encounters with Che Guevera is the title of one of the short stories in this book, but there is something about Guevera that applies in each case. Fountain writes with economy and precision. He writes w
Midu Hadi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew Breslin
While this was an entertaining and thought-provoking collection of stories, I've been scratching my head to try to figure out what in the name of holy hell the Boston Globe was thinking when it called it "downright funny" right there on the cover.

Fountain has done an impressive job of transporting us readers to various dark and ugly corners of the globe, usually in the context of war, genocide, greed, exploitation and textbook examples of man's inhumanity to man. And in spite of the claims made
Caveat: I didn't finish it, or even make it through the first story. Since I've lived in Colombia and my wife is from there, there's something deeply arrogant and even offensive to me about this guy attempting to discuss the FARC (oh excuse me -- MURC) situation from a privileged intellectual's perspective without ever having stepped foot in the country. I stopped reading when Fountain's young, white "enlightened" proxy began scolding the Marxists for mismanaging their revolution. I've spent alm ...more
Mark Wilkerson
Jun 03, 2014 Mark Wilkerson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part travelogue, part history textbook, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a nearly-flawless collection of historical-fiction short stories sharing a common subject; namely, the stories are centered around first-world expats and travelers (mostly Americans) experiencing life through the accounts of both the brazen and the broken citizens of the "third-world," chiefly Latin America, West Africa, and South Asia.

Read as these Americans observe and participate in the outer edges of societies on
May 23, 2013 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
These stories present some high quality storytelling, with a great sense of place and people, the author manages to get you in a place, amidst struggles and different lives. The writing flows well and there is possible strains of a Mark Twain like humour in the social, travel and moral writings here.
Excellent collection of short stories for reading, interesting encounters within the world that spins in and around Che Guevara and others.

Some of the eight stories briefly reviewed.

Near-Extinct Bird
”…I had no idea God and the Devil live so close together. They’re neighbors, in fact, their houses are right beside each other, and sometimes when they’re sitting around with nothing to do they play cards, just as a way to pass the time. But they never wager money—what good is money to them? No, it only souls they’re interested in…[Che Guevara]

Che Guevara never actually makes an appearance in these stories—just sightings of him—but his philosophy gets a workout. Sometimes events just have a way
David Abrams
Oct 22, 2013 David Abrams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Soon after finishing Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, I turned to Ben Fountain's first book, the 2007 collection of short stories Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. I was not surprised to find the same kind of finely-honed language which Fountain uses to dazzling effect--especially in his evocative and detailed descriptions of characters and settings. The phrases seem to be tossed effortlessly onto the page, but they struck me as so beautiful that I whipped out my highlighter pen. That pen nearl ...more
Aug 10, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I found this book in a used bookstore. I like birds. I also like Che Guevara. I thought the book would be a great whim, however, I was really put-off by the rave reviews. I was surprised that no one had anything critical to say. I was also disappointed to find that this book was sold in UO. I tend to shy away from hipster reads.

Despite my initial qualms, this collection of short stories really made me think. It certainly worked the old English major muscle

There's no denying that Ben Fountain has
Ally Shand
Oct 29, 2013 Ally Shand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book in the same way that I have discovered most of the books that mean the most to me: browsing a second-hand bookshop in an unfamiliar place. In this case it was a charity bookshop in Covent Garden, London.

The stories are original and superbly written. They reveal different facets of the human condition against the volatile backdrop of revolution. From the diamond mines of Sierra Leone to the Bolivian jungle the chosen settings, like the stories themselves, are rich and evoca
Aug 26, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fountain, Ben. BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVRA. (2006). *****. This collection of eight short stories previously published by the author in various magazines is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. He manages to write not just short stories, but novels compressed into short story form. Each story features a protagonist who is too idealistic, too naive, or too talented to survive in the surroundings in which they find themselves. The only exception to this is the title story, which is one p ...more
Sep 13, 2013 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ben Fountain writes of characters who are transformed by their strange love, wry melancholy, and remarkable passions, insights and self-deception. It is a pleasure to follow his characters as they escape, embrace and make sense of the worlds into which they have chosen to bravely and naively stumble. Fountain's protagonists face unfamiliar territories and transfigured loved ones. While their encounters are often difficult, dangerous, hellish, or unfathomable, who and what the protagonists encoun ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Gadi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These short stories follow people through situations where they find themselves out of their depths -- lost, afraid, the environment and the people around them strange, cynical, unforgiving in casual violence. And yet each and every one of the stories is a distinct gem. Rarely do I finish a book of short stories and can vividly remember the characters, plots and settings of each and every one.

If I were to name my favorite stories, it would be the majority of them: The first, of the kidnapped or
Jul 17, 2015 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Malcolm Gladwell led me to Ben Fountain's stories through an article published in the New Yorker titled, "Late Bloomers: Why do we Equate Genius with Precocity?" Fountain's work stands on its own pillars in terms of storytelling and underlying complexities. With an internationalist perspective, this book of stories thwarts stereotypes by taking its readers on a journey from the jungles of Colombia's rebel held territory through the eyes of an ornithologist, through the slums of Haiti in search o ...more
Cailin Deery
Mar 26, 2014 Cailin Deery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cailin by: Ally Shand
At first glance, I guessed this would either be similar to DFW’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men or the Motorcycle Diaries. Although it does have a slightly unfortunate name, my doubts end there. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is a set of eight rich stories – mostly featuring earnest American ‘protagonists’ in strange, abstractedly revolutionary circumstances. An ornithologist from Duke finds himself held captive in the jungles of Colombia; a Texan golfer scopes out new golf courses in the ...more
Sep 05, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book eagerly after Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which is one of the best novels I've ever read. So, my expectations were high - maybe too high. This felt like a competent collection of short stories, a warm-up to the real thing, the novel. A few of the stories stood out - the last one, about a pianist with 11 fingers, and a few others. The majority were fine, but not captivating. Not one in the whole collection used language with anything like the mastery Fountain showed in Billy ...more
Sep 08, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book late and through the back door. Late, because it was published in ’06, and through the back door by way of reading about Ben Fountain in the Malcolm Gladwell essay ‘Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity’ in his book ‘What the Dog Saw’. This is a terrific read - the characters, their problematic situations and the countries they inhabit have stayed with me. Haiti, Sierra Leone, Burma and 19th century Vienna (quite a departure) are vivid and complex and the ...more
Cinthia Ritchie
Aug 09, 2015 Cinthia Ritchie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an odd but wonderful group of short stories. The writing is lyrical, humorous, playful, serious. The best part of each story, though, is the accumulated depth, and how Fountain maintains an integrity of meaning even while describing the mundane (though, trust me, there is very little mundane in these selections).
Highly, highly recommend, especially "Near Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera" and "The Good Ones Are Already Taken."
(After reading this book I wanted to call Fountain up, inv
Jun 01, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really snappy collection of eight stories, spanning locales from Haiti to Sierra Leone. I really enjoy Fountain's writing. Some of the situations the characters encounter seem a bit unlikely, but it's in service of a theme that largely spans through the entire collection: the thin line between good actors and bad actors, and the way money can impact even seemingly pure motivations.

A good read after Billy Lynn's Long Halftime walk, which was one of my favorite books of the year so far.
Moshe Mikanovsky
A collection of short stories, where the thread going through them (with the exception of the last story) are people involved in 3rd world occurrences that are bigger then them, which they are ill equipped to handle, and like in many short stories, end with a non-climax that wants you for more. The prose is superb but I didn't have much interest in the stories.
Alison Smith
Aug 12, 2016 Alison Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My true rating is 4.5 : I just can't get half a star to show.
Collection of short stories lived up to the enthusiastic reviews. Fountain is good at stories with tropical backgrounds and corrupt dictators,corrupt revolutionaries, corrupt Haiitian politicians and policemen. He exposes tropical sleaze with gusto and yet manages to write gripping entertaining stories. Not to be missed.
Dec 05, 2008 Kristi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved it. super interesting, really well-written, and an easy read - a compilation of short stories, loosely tied together by their focus on countries in a state of revolution or war (haiti, sierra leone, columbia).
Miranda Penn
Oct 28, 2015 Miranda Penn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not a fan of short stories, but this collection is an exception. After Billy Lynn, I had to read more Ben Fountain and this did not disappoint. Looking forward to whatever he does next.
Jul 09, 2013 Ahf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually like short stories, but these are remarkable, themed on social action or at least social concience
Sian Griffiths
Lush prose in which characters rub shoulders with the temporarily-inhabited third world.
John Luiz
A collection that is very much in the Graham Greene genre of innocent and idealistic Americans caught up in the intricate corruption of third-world countries. Unlike Greene, though, who demonstrated that such naivete, combined with the standard American gung-ho, "get-it-done" mentality, can be dangerous, Fountain offers, in at least a couple of these stories, some hope that the little guy can occasionally score a small-scale victory against the grander forces that usually work against him -- or ...more
Dec 16, 2016 Marita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marita by: HBalikov
Utopia becomes Dystopia; Hell turns into Paradise in this collection of short stories. In each story the protagonist's life or view of life is changed by an event or a series of events. There is cynicism, irony, pathos and humour in these acutely observed vignettes about greed, drugs, corruption, exploitation and other seamy aspects of human nature. Fortunately there is a glimmer of hope in these tales as there are also those who say no to these vices.

Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordiller
Michael Sump
Jan 01, 2017 Michael Sump rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have not before read anything by Ben Fountain, though I’ve queued up his novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. This is a good collection of stories and, according to a couple reviews that I read, award winning.

Fountain takes us to various places around the globe: Haiti, Thailand, Columbia, Africa. He takes us into places of conflict of good people (men and women) standing up against tyranny.

For me, the stories were uneven. The titular story was probably the weakest and the last story, “Fanta
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review 1 17 Apr 14, 2009 05:25AM  
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Ben Fountain's fiction has appeared in Harper's, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All Story, and he has been awarded an O. Henry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dallas, Texas.
More about Ben Fountain...

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