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Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,705 ratings  ·  300 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
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,
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
Mark Wilkerson
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
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
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
David Abrams
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
Ally Shand
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
Cailin Deery
Mar 26, 2014 Cailin Deery rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Michael Lieberman
Ben Fountain, a Dallas-based writer, has written a remarkable collection of stories. This is slightly old news—the book was published in 2007 (HarperCollins)—but the fiction is so compelling I thought I would give it a plug here. The stories with a significant exception find Americans abroad in murky circumstances that challenge their principles and force them to make uncomfortable choices: an ornithology graduate student is taken prisoner by guerillas in the mountains of Colombia; an aide worke ...more
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
”…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
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
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
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
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
Barbara Rhine
Each well-wrought tale–and many are about Haiti–explores the love that guides the personal revolutionary act. And whenever someone acts, whether Haitian or foreign, in a country so on the edge, there is risk. So the stories have tension.

First comes “Reve Haitien,” with its haunting inner-city dokte fey, “a kind of roving leaf doctor and cut-rate houngan who happened to have a grounding in Western medical science.” This guy imposes a dangerous task on our do-gooder American narrator, who so loves
Russell Bittner
“I want the hardest place – she’d actually said that when she signed her contract. She’d spent two years in Guatemala with the Peace Corps, then three years in Haiti with Save the Children, and after that she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but the very worst. I want the hardest place – on any given day that was usually Sierra Leone, “the mountain of the lion,” a small, obscure West African country known mainly for its top-quality kimberlite diamonds and the breathtaking cruelty of its civil ...more
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.
Very interesting book of short stories involving Haiti and Central America. Tells of Americans in these countries and their interaction with voodoo and the natives. Drugs, sex and comedy all ensue. Fascinating and beautifully written.
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).
There's a reason this book received critical acclaim as well as bestseller status. The stories herein span diverse settings (from Sierra Leone to Colombia to Haiti, and everything in between) and present a wide range of characters: an ornithologist trapped by Colombian drug rebels; a soldier returned from Haiti and haunted by voodoo goddesses; a burned out wreck of an aid worker suffering through the throes of a West African civil war.

If there's a common thread it's in the characters actively c
I had really enjoyed Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and was not disappointed by this collection of short stories. Politically acute and always a tinge sad, many of the stories possess a visceral quality that have stayed with me in a very tangible way. I particularly enjoyed "Near-Extinct Birds" and "Asian Tiger," stories of relatively ordinary men - a doctoral student researcher and a professional golfer - who find themselves enmeshed in political corruption, wartime violence, and international ...more
I don't usually like short stories, but these are remarkable, themed on social action or at least social concience
Greg Zimmerman
If you read and enjoyed Fountain's National Book Award finalist Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which I certainly did, you'll most likely dig this 2009 collection. The stories take you all over the world, from Haiti, to Malaysia, Columbia, 19th century Austria, and...wait for it...Sierra Leone. The stories are mostly about normal people rubbing up against corrupt, violent power in corrupt, violent countries. A fisherman in Haiti tries to report drug dealers to the police. A down-on-his-luck pro ...more
Fountain makes one feel like they’re actually in the exotic places he sets these short stories in, but also lays moral ambiguities and absurd situations on top of the vicarious base.

Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera was my favourite from this collection, partly because of the absurdity of the protagonist’s situation and partly because the protagonist himself acts absurdly (but never requiring more than a slight suspension of disbelief). It is one of the few stories I have ever read th
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
2 stars
I really wanted to like this book but unfortunately it didn't work for me - probably because I chose a book by its cover. Yes, the birds swayed me, but only one of the short stories was about birds and it was one of the two stories I liked. In Near Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera, a student on a ornithological research trip is captured as a spy. I enjoyed the dark humor and the clever twist to the ending. The other was Reve Haitien, where an outsider befriends the locals by playin
"Everyone was raked toward the microphone..." (21).
"...the realization of how dumb, how utterly clueless you were to think you might control anything about your life" ((67).
"It seemed, rather, that reality itself had gone made, and she was riding her own little scrap of sanity through the cosmic whirlwind" (76).
"...Melissa had softened the package as best she could with azaleas and flower beds planted along its length like piles of oversized throw pillows" (77).
"...she reflected on the therapeut
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review 1 16 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...
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from "Ecotone"'s First Decade The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils, and Humiliations of Fatherhood The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Twentieth Annual Collection

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