Book Review: ‘I Am My Country,’ by Kenan Orhan; ‘Dona Cleanwell Leaves Home,’ by Ana Castillo; ‘The Disappeared,’ by Andrew Porter
Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan Is Big On President Kenan Orhan I AM MY COUNTRY: And Other Stories (Random House, 227 pages, $27)a strong and provocative debut collection with a vivid sense of place.. “The Ankara Lost” tells the story of a woman who trains her dog to be a suicide bomber and assassinates an authoritarian ruler before he causes further damage to the country’s government, environment and civil society. . In “Soma”, President Erdogan visits a devastating post-collapse mining town and tries to console the crowd that the price of coal production has dropped significantly since the coal industry was privatized. (They respond, yelling “Murderer Erdogan.”) At the Beyoğlu Municipal Waste Management Orchestra, a wave of anti-Western sentiment and government crackdowns force people to clear their homes of contraband. The Garbage Girl hoards the junk she finds in her collection, including sheet music, musical instruments, and even musicians. She collects enough of each to make good use of the story’s title and its conceit of magical realism.
The same cannot be said for the longest tale, The Morality of the Bird Keeper, which looks at half a century of Turkish history through the lens of an astral romance. This smart and heartfelt tale is drawn in by a talking bird who sympathetically debates ethics with aspiring keepers. Also worthy of note are two surprising border tales. In a “mule brigade” Turkish troops are dispatched just over the Iraqi border with instructions to execute all the mules in a town. The narrator comes to suspect that the lieutenant’s real purpose is neither to stop the spread of disease nor to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, but to commit atrocities for its own sake. In Smuggler, set in the Syrian civil war, a Syrian man must bring a pregnant 15-year-old Kurdish girl across the border to Turkey, pretending to be her husband. He fears he is being unwittingly made an accomplice to sex trafficking and separatist terrorism. On the other hand, she claims the girl was not only politically innocent, but that her pregnancy was innocent. This is Orhan’s real ability. It discovers comedy lurking on the fringes of tragedy and revels in the inherent absurdity of the all too real.
Seven Dense and Derailing Stories from Ana Castillo Dore Cleanwell Leaving Home: A Story (HarperVia, 245 Pages, $27.99) Injecting similar vibrancy into Chicago and Mexico City. The background of the story is from the 1960s to the 2010s, and the closer you get to the present, the more you feel the past. “Cuernacaba” is a pseudo-ghost story in which a man from Chicago retraces his father’s trip to Mexico in the 1960s and uncovers long-buried secrets along the way. In “Ven,” a gay man in Chicago begins reading his late sister’s diary, which leads him to reclaim himself. she He walks through Mexico and uncovers long-buried secrets there as well. In “Ada and Pablo,” a woman comes to suspect that her husband of 30 years is gay, but instead reveals another fact.
Castillo’s tone and syntax are chatty and colloquial, but oddly arched and can be surprisingly difficult to parse for basic meaning. “There was an unexpected infusion of new information into both hemispheres of his brain,” she writes of one protagonist. Describing her adolescent “inseparable” friendship in “A Night at Nonna’s House,” she writes: If known, either or both could be doomed. ‘ On ‘Tango Smoke’, ’emotional eruptions occurred, like a crustal plate about to be depressurized by an eruption’.
Still, ‘Tango Smoke’ continues to be the best story in the series. It tells the story of a divorced Martyr moving in with a much younger cannabis dealer who shares the same love of dancing. The Chicago she lives in really feels as complicated and hopeless as her character does. Castillo is to be commended for training her gaze on those who work without being sentimental and head-on. This is the world of factories and diners, beauty schools and swing shifts. The characters struggle to earn rent and find ways to feel half-human, despite all economic and cultural forces turning against them.
Head to Texas, especially Austin and San Antonio, Andrew Porter’s prime locales. THE DISAPPEARED: Stories (Knopf, 218 pages, $28). Simple but not strictly minimalist, these stories are like votive candles lined up in the dark recesses of a church, empowered and lucid enough to carry out their assigned tasks. It is simple and no-frills. Each of these 15 stories is told by a man in his 40s, as if he doesn’t need to be patient with his depressed wife or girlfriend. This repetition is complemented by clever variations on Porter’s theme and snapshot-like flash fiction that unfolds at intervals to change the pace. In one song, “Chili,” a man recalls his late neighbor who used to grow peppers. One night she gave him a chili pepper that was too hot to touch, let alone eat, but the shape was so perfect that she couldn’t help but show it off. , this little beautiful thing is so hot it could die. ”
“The Dislapsed” is a quietly amazing collection. These are stories about a middle-aged man and woman looking at their lives, their love, and their loss. They worry about money, illness, parenting, tenure, and all the other fickle destinies. The most powerful tales of “Austin,” “The Vines,” “Rhinebeck,” and “Silhouette,” are permeated with almost subconscious weirdness, built toward eerie decaying endings and written by Raymond Carver. It has a suitable ending for the late elegiac mode of . When his married best friends ask him to move from the Hudson Valley to Austin with them, the narrator of “Rhinebeck” says: Realize that you may have taken the wrong train at some point in your life and somehow ended up in a place you didn’t expect, didn’t want, or even knew about when you were younger. I think it’s akin to waking up from a dream and realizing that you weren’t the dreamer. ”
Justin Taylor’s next novel, Reboot, will be published in 2024.