cover image Valleyesque: Stories

Valleyesque: Stories

Fernando A. Flores. MCD, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-374-60413-4

Flores takes to the elusive and dangerous borderland in his inventive debut collection (after the novel Tears of the Trufflepig). In “Queso,” a man interviews for a job at a fast food outlet, where he is rewarded for providing folksy details that testify to his authentic “Mexican” identity. The story sets the tone for the remarkable range on exhibit throughout, from surrealism to prescience. In “The Science Fair Protest,” gangsters take over a school, and biology teacher Ram calls on his neighbor, the narrator, for help navigating the new teaching methods mandated by the gangsters. Flores seamlessly blends high and low references as Ram and the narrator get drunk and commiserate about the changes at the school while also listening to records by “the Mexican Neil Diamond” and discussing Proust and the Dreyfuss Affair. In “Nocturne from a World Concave,” the composer Frédéric Chopin gets into a philosophical debate about the nature of reality in Ciudad Juárez. “Zapata Foots the Bill” involves a muralist attempting to accurately portray the legendary revolutionary, but viewers are disinterested or outright confused. The standout “The Oswald Variations” offers a hilarious and remarkable alternate history of a young Lee Harvey Oswald as an aspiring musician in Texas. Using a blend of experimentation and magical realism, this conveys the border’s many sociopolitical shades. The zany set pieces add up to a work with explosive substance. (May)