The Surf Guru

The Surf Guru

Austinite DOUG DORST follows up his darkly comic 2008 debut novel, Alive in Necropolis, with THE SURF GURU , a freewheeling fiction collection that ranges from a story about the neuroses of an Austin baker to a portrait of Vincent van Gogh’s bitterly jealous physician. Dorst draws inspiration from odd sources. “Little Reptiles” assigns unlikely characteristics to various scaly creatures, such as the gharial (an actual crocodilian from India), which he imagines biting the toes off writers whenever they complete a story. And he broadly lampoons academia in “Splitters,” in which a botanist dredges the depths of his thesaurus for ever-viler insults to apply to the “backbiters, bullies, dullards, and thieves” who were his professional rivals. Dorst doesn’t simply rely on his knack for quirkiness, though. He can turn a nice phrase; in “La Fiesta de San Humberto el Menor” he observes that in this impoverished village “the heat lingers into the evening like a rude guest.” The Surf Guru is great fun, a showpiece that manages to seem worldly and unpretentious at once. Riverhead, $25.95

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