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Brownsville
Oscar Casares
Adult Fiction CASARES

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From Publishers' Weekly:

"I thought writing everything down on paper was a good way to defend myself," says the unnamed narrator of "RG," one of the nine stories in Casares's fine debut collection set in the Texas border town of Brownsville. "RG" is related by a Hispanic bread-truck driver whose Anglo neighbor borrowed his best hammer and didn't return it-for four years, which is how long the narrator, without knocking on his neighbor's door, has waited. In the funniest story in the collection, "Chango," an unemployed 31-year-old, Bony, living with his parents and subsisting on a steady diet of beers, finds a monkey head in his yard and begins to think of it as his buddy and mascot. Alas, his unsympathetic parents want him to throw it away. Bony's father, a police sergeant, is prone to sarcastic explosions: "(Estas loco o qu? You want to live with monkeys, I'll drive you to the zoo. Come on, get in the car, I'll take you right now." The barking of a neighbor's dog drives Marcelo Torres, an agricultural agent, to drastic and fantastic measures in "Charro." With skill and economy, Casares evokes the easygoing, plainspoken, yet slightly stagy voice of the guy on the neighboring bar stool-or the nearby cubicle-describing his weekend ("Here's a piece of advice for you: If a guy named Jerry Fuentes comes knocking at your front door trying to sell you something, tell him you're not interested and then lock the door," warns the opening line of "Jerry Fuentes"). Probing underneath the surface of Tex-Mex culture, Casares's stories, with their wisecracking, temperamental, obsessive middle-aged men and their dramas straight from neighborhood gossip are in the direct line of descent from Mark Twain and Ring Lardner. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Ostensibly set in Brownsville, TX, these nine stories could easily have been located in any border town; the characters may be specific to a precise locale, but the themes and situations are universal. Like the people inhabiting these stories, who hasn't been awakened in the middle of the night by a barking dog, conned into buying something not really wanted, victimized by a jealous spouse, or distraught at lending a tool to a neighbor only to have it broken or, worse, never returned? One of the best of the lot is "Big Jesse, Little Jesse," a story of a broken marriage and disagreements over raising a handicapped son that will have a familiar ring for many. The details of the daily lives of the inhabitants of this microcosm are exquisite and delicious; one is less taken, however, with the characters, many of whom, especially the fathers, are less than likable. Nothing spectacular or extraordinary, this collection is simply well written and down-to-earth, featuring authentic re-creations of the Mexican American experience. Recommended.-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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