September 10, 2013

Literary Pick (****)

Kaddish for Saddam Hussein
Stories by Fawzy Zablah

This is the second collection of work I've read by this author, and I want to first state that out of all the short stories books I've ever read, and there have been plenty, I can vouch that every single story in this collection is spectacularly independent of one another. Typically, in my opinion, when you read short stories they all somehow seem redundant and laborious after the first 3 or so, but not with this collection... each story is oddly, yet refreshingly gripping. Some are funny, others sad, and even shocking. What i like the most about them all is how unpredictable they are. They are all stories that have not been told in any way before.

-The first story "Kaddish for Saddam Hussein" is about a man by the name of Hassan Al-Hazeem, who is a rapist for hire under the dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He was promoted to the Super Secret Rape Squad after being caught with the mistress of an army captain. He's sent out to rape all kind of victims. Some of the victims unappealing and over-weight. In the process he meets a woman by the name of Ludmilla, who is also a hired rapist for the SSRS. She's hired to sodomize men. Hassan ends up falling in love with Ludmilla, and they begin clandestine affair.
One of the reasons I particularly enjoyed this story is because despite it's dark theme, it was actually quite light-hearted and even a bit funny. Hassan's character was energetic and endearing. He reminded me so much of Rinaldi from Hemingway's "Farewell to Arms".

-This story is about Habib Al-Fulan who seems to have terrifying recurring dreams of Miami being invaded by bombs falling from the sky. After one of these nightmares he has made up his mind to move to Oslo, where his friend John Voorten lives, whom he met while on a trip to NYC. His friend John has offered him a place to stay and even offers him a job at his fathers gallery. There's so much more to the story, but I won't go into all that because what I'd like to discuss about it is something that resonated with me, and that was his life-living goal of getting to Oslo, a place he's never visited before. For some reason I was able to relate to that throughout the entire story. When you get this idea in your head about a place you've never been to before, in a culture you've never experienced, yet you somehow believe and are certain you can start a whole new life there and everything will be perfect, your dream life begins. Can't tell you how disappointed I've been by such expectations. I felt like that about Paris once, until I visited. Although, I could still see myself living there now that the initial culture shock has worn off, but it's funny how we put certain places on a pedestal and they are just as good or bad as any place else. I also for a while felt like that about Spain, which I have not visited yet, but will this coming December. I don't know why but for a while (not anymore) I thought i could solve the worlds problems if I could just move to Spain. It's just stupid crazy shit. Why people get fixated on locations beats me, but that's what this story signified for me.

This Modern Man is Beat
-My absolute favorite of all the stories. In this one Habib bin Habib al Fulan reappears again, but this time down and out. What blew me away about this particular story is how well the author was able to paint a clear picture of the environment and surroundings, the whole scene around the His N' Hers" motel. I could just picture exactly what the motel looked like, I envision the one in Breaking Bad where Jessie meets with that old lady crack-whore. Picturing him walking block after block with his guitar in hand, desperately trying to get the best deal on it possible. It reminds me of something in my childhood, but i don't know what exactly...but the end is surprisingly pitiful and depressing. I enjoy endings like that very much. It makes a story worth while for me.

Leaving for Paris
-Pyotr Rublyov is half Cuban, half Russian guy that goes by the nickname Doofy.
The story begins with him making a call to a prostitute by the name of Virginia, whom he goes to meet at the wrong Lindon motel address, there are two, but then later meets up with her in the correct one.
Two weeks later he goes on a second date, this time with a regular girl by the name of Klarissa, who sort of dumps him at a party to be with this other dude. Klarissa and Doofy still leave together though, but they never stay in touch after that.
Doofy then gets into a discussion with his friend Gabriel who tells him he's "doofy", that his whife says he's doofy, a combination of duffud and goofy, and Doofy is like wtf?

Later he falls alssep, dreams of this girl in Paris, wakes up to the sound of coughing, and it's his mom who is short of breath, so he rushes her to the hospital, and the story ends.

This was a simple story, but like with all Zablah's works it's all in the craft of writing and
being able to master proper character interactions. His stories are honest, unpretentious, and at times sobering.

This story is about conjoined twins, Fawzi and Habib, who both get beaten rather severely in a night club of dancers, and wind up hospitalized with a parade of exotic visitors, including a dancer by the name of Marchessa, whom they decide they want to ask out on a date to watch a movie, of which they can't agree on. They invite their old professor from community college whose name is Merkel, to help decide which genre type film to take her to. Habib wants to just get in her pants, Fawzy is looking for a deeper more meaningful relationship...
How does the author come up with stories like this? they are wholey bizarre, but they work!
The Dialogue that goes on between Fawzi and Habib in the presence of the professor is  brilliantly entertaining. I actually read this story twice.

La Femme-
In this one Habib once again reappears, this time as a jilted husband whose wife leaves him for another man. They both have a daughter together by the name of Tessa. He seems to have subconscious fantasies about her death because he often comes across images of her dead corpse as he's out and about with his daughter. His neighbor Miguel Torres is also having marital issues...they talk a bit about it out in the front.
This is another story that has a lot of intrigue and provokes many interesting thoughts. I read this one twice as well.

A Brief History of my Parents Union
-This was my second favorite story because a lot of it hit close to home for me. It brought me back to the time I remember my grandma still being somewhat young. The tumultuous relationship of my own mother and father. I love stories like this because even though they are kind of sad and unfortunate, they are also nostalgic and leave you feeling melancholy. I think that's exactly why I love all this authors stories, they bring me back to a time before it became the end of an era.

The two of us in a raft in the middle of the universe
-This one rocked my socks off. I feel like I can't even write a word about it without giving it away, but it's about these two guys, one whose name is Montes, and they sit in diners listening to people's conversations. That's all i can say about it, but trust me it gets good. This premise would be a good movie. Guys that go into places like that just to hear people's conversations for that purpose.

The United States of America Circa 2003
-One Paragraph but funny.

Liberty City
-This one is about a young boy (13 years old) whose name I'm not 100% certain is mentioned but is often referred to as "primo" which means "cousin" in Spanish. He hangs out with his older cousin Phillip who is a Vietnam veteran drug addict hoodlum (age 28). "Primito" idolizes Phillip, because he wants to be a badass too. He accompanies Phillip in a lot of his shenanigans, like when Phillip went to beat a guy up at a bar, then letting primo hold guns and do drugs.  Phillip is obviously a very violent person, and enjoys killing innocent animals too, is obviously twisted and disturbed, and very intimidating. I felt afraid for primito throughout the entire story, especially when he told primo he was going to take him target practicing, like wtf, where is his mother. Anyway, every time Phillip causes violence or death two soldiers seem to appear out of no where, and only primito sees them. He recognizes them from old war pictures Phillip showed him when they fought in Vietnam, except that Phillip claims they are dead. i don't know what it's suppose to symbolized but I liked it. It adds a creepiness to it.

All in all these were a great collection of short stories, and I had a lot of fun reading them. Looking forward to the authors new book coming out in this fall 2013 called Rarity of the Century.


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