One might suspect that gremlins erased all the peaceful democracies from BEN FOUNTAIN’s office globe, so fascinated is the Dallasite with the world’s trouble spots in BRIEF ENCOUNTERS WITH CHE GUEVARA, a collection of eight finely crafted short stories. Touching only quickly on the revolutions and coups of his settings (Myanmar, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and others), Fountain instead conjures intimate looks at those coping in the aftermath. There is ornithologist John Blair, held for ransom by Colombian-rebels-turned-petty-bureaucrats, whose discovery of a rare-parrot colony complicates the rebels’ schemes (“Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera”). And fisherman Syto Charles, whose frustration with corrupt officials in Haiti leads him to steal three duffel bags of coke from a smugglers’ beach drop and play Caribbean Robin Hood (“Bouki and the Cocaine”). Irony abounds in Fountain’s mini-theaters of the absurd, where Kafka would feel right at home.
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