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Dogfight, A Love Story
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Dogfight, A Love Story

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  488 ratings  ·  92 reviews
What Jonathan Lethem did for Brooklyn, Matt Burgess does for Queens in this exuberant and brilliant debut novel about a young drug dealer having a very bad weekend.

Alfredo Batista has some worries. Okay, a lot of worries. His older brother, Jose—sorry, Tariq—is returning from a stretch in prison after an unsuccessful robbery, a burglary that Alfredo was supposed to be par
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 21st 2010 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2010)
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Dogfight, A Love Story by Matt Burgess, in my opinion was “OK.” I say that because, overall, I have mixed feelings about the novel. On one hand, I think “Matt Burgess is a great writer. He sure knows how to keep a reader’s attention.” Then on the other hand, I think “Can I have a better story, please?” The story has potential. I just believe it needs to be rewritten. With that it often comes off to me as a homage. A homage to many things. I ‘m not quite sure if that wa
Great premise and the book started off with promise. Alfredo Batista, from Queens, NYC, is in a bit of a conundrum. Because although he is happy that his brother José is returning home from doing time upstate, he also has some major worries. One being that he has to figure out a way to get a pit bull for Jose's homecoming dogfight, and the other is that he's heard rumors his brother (who has converted to Islam while inside and changed his name to Tariq) might think that Alfredo is responsible fo ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Aug 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, loc-usa-ny
This is advertised as the first real Queens Novel, set in that Borough with its large immigrant population coexisting side by side, imparting an international alphabet soup quality to the story and the characters. Nobody writes so well about New York as her inhabitants, and Burgess is a welcome addition to this group. Yes, Jonathan Letham writes knowingly and lovingly about Brooklyn, but this novel seems to owe as much to Richard Price's Lush Life as to anything else, or any of Pete Hammill's ev ...more
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
this book gave me some Junot Diaz and Raising Victor Vargas vibes. the second half of the book is a bit darker and the ending falls a little flat but this book was a nice little surprise.
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nyc, fiction
This guy really nails Queens.
Matt Trowbridge
Dogfight, A Love Story is an interestingly-told, focused story with characters the author clearly cares about. Burgess gives his characters unique and empathetic voices, as well as endearing and, at times, unsettling traits that engender both affection and dismay in the reader, which, I think, are both emotions a writer would like evoked in his/her audience. Burgess slightly loses track of his plot in focusing more closely on how it affects the two main characters, leaving one too many loose end ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book I've ever read. The vivid imagery, the unique and well-detailed characters, the intense atmosphere, and most of all the humor make this one of the most enjoyable, memorable, and worthwhile reads.
Trudy Ackerblade
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
What an unusual but captivating story.
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Matt Burgess's debut novel, Dogfight, A Love Story (published last September), is a helluva first novel. It takes place over the course of a single weekend in Jackson Heights, Queens, in the summer of 2002. While the plot isn't overly complex or complicated, though it is well crafted, a lot happens in this novel. I'll leave off giving a complete plot summary (I probably couldn't do it justice), but it involves nineteen year-old Alfredo Bautista, a small-time independent drug dealer. Alfredo is a ...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Oct 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, nook
It seems as though I’ve fallen into a cycle of reading very well written books that offer up only mildly interesting stories in exchange for the time I’ve spent consuming them. Dogfight isn’t horrible by any stretch, as a matter of fact, the first third of the book is surprisingly wonderful, but after that it quickly tapers off and becomes something far less enjoyable. Add to the mix an ending that feels tacked on and unbelievable given the first three hundred pages and what you’re left with is ...more
Kara Jorges
Dec 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
I can imagine literary critics everywhere gushing and blubbering as they turn the pages of this book because, quite frankly, I hated it. I was hoping for an entertaining crime novel with some humor between its pages, and got mired in a literary snoozefest instead. I’m sure there are readers out there who love this sort of thing, but I’m not one of them.

Alfredo Batista is worried, now that his brother Jose Jr., who renamed himself Tariq after he turned Muslim in prison, is coming home. Rumors hav
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Matt Burgess nails his first novel, this book is great. While he plays up stereotypes and cliches, he does it in a creative way and with an electric story. Dogfight, a Love Story is reminiscent of the Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - it has a Latin flavor, with vulgar undertones, and a look into the streets of Queens. Burgess is witty, clever, and has a unique writing style. I read this book in a weekend, I was wrapped up in the characters and the story and really had no idea how it would ...more
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I pre-ordered this book because it was written by a friend, and I wanted to support his work. Although I didn't know what to expect, I know that I did not expect to be totally blown away by Burgess's talent. The fast-paced, cleverly-plotted novel is told in the visceral and vivid present tense by an at-first disjunctive-but-ultimately-appropriate third-person limited (and at times omniscient, if that's possible) narrator. While the plot takes place in Queens, the outer borough is less a backdrop ...more
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Full Disclosure: This writer is a friend of mine, and I may be influenced by the fact that he has purchased beer for me on occasion. Though, I'm pretty sure whether or not someone has bought me a beer has little influence on how much I like their book. But still, it's nice when someone buys you beer, isn't it?

Anyway, this is a damn good book. It occupies a nice slice of real estate between the occasionally-warring nations of literary fiction and the crime novel. I realize these distinctions are
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Matt was in my MFA program: he was a third year when I was a first and we were in poetry workshop together. I really enjoy his poetic sensibility and look forward to watching his career rocket. I likely would not have picked up this story if I didn't know Matt--I'm not quite the audience for a drug-dealing tough-guy-in-the-city narrative (though I am a fairly catholic reader), and I'm glad I did. I managed to completely forget the fact of knowing the author and fell into the world of this book. ...more
Dec 29, 2010 added it
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved it. I loved the setting (Jackson Heights, Queens), and I felt it was portrayed very realistically. I also loved the characters. Alfredo, Tariq, Isabel, and all of the lesser characters were so vivid in my mind.

But. I had two major problems. The first is the subtitle, cover, and general tone of the descriptive copy of the book. None of that is necessarily the author's fault, but I felt like the book was portrayed as a madcap, picare
Ryan Trattles
Dec 19, 2010 rated it liked it
With an aggressively playful and meandering voice, Burgess takes us through a sweeping view of a neighborhood in Queens. We start with Alfredo, a skinny and anxious drug dealer, but are quickly thrust into a wide cast of characters that ranges from russian immigrants, to a newly released inmate, to Alfredo's pregnant girlfriend, and beyond. Alfredo's must deal with his brother Tariq's (formerly Jose Jr. before a prison conversion to Islam) release from prison. Isabell, Alfredo's now pregnant gir ...more
Todd Kashdan
Many authors miss the nuances of the world they create. The tension of whats unsaid between two lovers. The witty, playful banter that captures the strength of the relationship of two brothers. The physical gestures that demonstrate the dominance of one person over another. Matt Burgess captures dialogue with the best of them. His characters are complex. In relationships between father and son, brothers, and lovers, he alternates between moments of fear, moments of trust, and moments of love. It ...more
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a "West Side Story" set in 2011, "Dogfight: A Love Story" takes place in New York City against a backdrop of mixed ethnicities, and is driven by youth rivalries and a high-risk love affair. But while WSS was the dramatic vision of mature artists distantly fascinated by youth gangs of New York, DLS is by a 28-year-old who grew up, one might say, on location.

The story unfolds over a weekend in Queens, during which 19-year-old Alfredo Batista, a small-time drug dealer, stages a welcome-home f
Aug 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anyone familiar with Queens or Manhattan will smile at the mention of botegas, pizzerias, and other things strictly "New York". The book centers around two brothers, Alfredo and Jose (aka Tariq - his Muslim name he acquired in prison). Alfredo is about to be a teen father with his girlfriend Isabel, who was Tariq's girlfriend before he went off to prison. Alfredo's feelings towards his brother are complex; while he is not looking forward to his arrival and wants to protect Isabel from him, he st ...more
Abraham Thunderwolf
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Man, I've been really lucky with and have been reading some great novels recently. Dogfight centers around a few harrowing days in the life of Alfredo Batista, a small time drug dealer with worries, lots of worries. His brother is about to get out of jail, some russians might be after him, his girlfriend is about to have a baby, his best friend is a drug addicted weirdo, and he needs to beg/borrow/steal a goddamn pitbull. Within all of this madness is an ode to New York. Dogfight is electrically ...more
Ferdinand E.
Jan 31, 2011 rated it liked it
I agree with the proponents of this book that the language hummed.

I picked up the book based on the following byline: "Drug dealer welcomes home jailed brother whose girlfriend he impregnated."

I expected a book about a drug dealer whose brother went to jail and who impregnated his brother's girlfriend while his brother was in jail.

In a nutshell, that's what I got. The first hundred pages or so had the drug dealer worrying and preparing for his brother's release from jail. And that was good.

Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alfredo is a small time drug dealer living with his pregnant girlfriend in his parent’s house in Queens. He is trying to score some drugs and organize a dogfight to honor his brother Jose’s release from prison and also to soften him up since Alfredo stole Jose’s girlfriend and may or may not have set him up. Jose who converted to Islam and changed his name to Tariq has a list of things that he would like to do upon his release, such as eating two slices of Gianni’s pizza and watching the Met’s g ...more
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The story is gritty without being gratuitous, literary without being pretentious--much like the borough in which it is set. Matt Burgess offers believable characters, each with his or her own unique voice--even the background characters are intriguing (but never cartoonish). I think what I like best about it was the way it reflects, rather than explores, life in this specific corner of Queens in the early 2000s: issues of race are acknowledged but never pontificated o ...more
Karen Linder
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
The heart of this novel is the complexity of human relationships and the ties that bind. Alfredo's relationships are complex: with his brother's girlfriend, his father, friends Winston and Max, with his brother Tariq, and with himself. I found myself feeling sympathetic for Alfredo and the chaos of his life. Regret and worry are a constant voice nipping at Alfredo's heels. The supporting cast adds color and reads believable, true voices and vignettes of human behavior. The complexity of feelings ...more
May 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LOVED IT! Burgess did a fine job all around. The characters are quirky, flawed, believable, and lovable. The setting, Queens NY, brought back a ton of nostalgia for me-the author perfectly describes a New York pizza. Yet it doesn't take over the plot. And the writing at times was laugh out loud funny. I especially enjoyed the metaphor Burgess uses for Alfredo's thoughts-a file cabinet in the department of regret-very closely situated next to the department of worry. The themes of fratricide and ...more
Marisa Gonzalez
Oct 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I love stories set in the outer boroughs of NYC. This takes place in Jackson Heights, Queens about a small time drug dealer who gets his brother's girlfriend pregnant while his brother is in jail. The story takes place in two days on the eve and the day the brother is released and the eventual outcome. The story started out very strongly but I started to lose some interest in the last part when the storyline veered toward a character that played a smaller role in the story. I had mixed reviews a ...more
John Luiz
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This first-time author proves to be a powerful talent. This is the kind of book that makes you marvel on every page at the writer's talent. The story focuses on a low-level drug dealer, Alfredo, who lives in a small apartment in Queens with his crippled father, mother and pregnant girlfriend. The complication is that his girlfriend use to be his brother's lover. He started the relationship when his brother went to prison, and now the brother is about to be released. A great comic tale and magnif ...more
Oct 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
I ended up hating this book - wish I'd never picked it up. The story idea wasn't bad - all of the characters have tragic lives - abuse, bullying, disability, drug problems, violence, and on and on. But wit and humor kept the tragedy and hardship company ... for awhile. As a reader, I had high hopes that the characters would persevere, would rise above all the crap in their lives and have a different kind of ending. But the "resolution" which sure didn't evoke feelings of anything at all being re ...more
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, library-book, nook
I missed this book when it came out last fall, but it showed up in several end-of-year Best of 2010 lists. I thought it was phenomenal. It was darkly funny and overtly tragic and just overall very real. The action was very grounded in a specific place and time with cultural reminders (such as the Clemens/Piazza grudge) throughout, but they didn't feel heavy or gimicky.

The main character, Alfredo, was quite a star. Even as he made completely wrong, frustrating choices, he was entirely sympathetic
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Before graduating from Dartmouth College and the University of Minnesota’s MFA program, Matt Burgess grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. His hometown has served as the location for both his first novel, Dogfight, A Love Story, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and his second novel, Uncle Janice.