THE IMPORTANCE OF A PIECE OF PAPER: Stories

Jimmy Santiago Baca, Author . Grove $22 (225p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1765-6

The rural Southwest landscape of Baca's short stories is inhabited by outsiders: drug addicts and convicts, absentee mothers and runaways. Baca's first collection of fiction (he is the author of the memoir A Place to Stand and several books of poetry) paints a picture of Chicano life that is at once cruel and sweetly redemptive. In the best of these eight stories, gritty realism is deftly leavened by flights of lyricism. In "Enemies," a trio of newly released convicts find their hostilities giving way to fear and tenderness; in "Valentine's Day Card," an orphan becomes engrossed in a fantasy that his mother will come for a visit. Other stories are allegorical and softer around the edges. In the fairy tale–like "Matilda's Garden," an elderly farmer mourns the death of his beloved wife by working the land she cultivated. In the title story, the couple's three children—a lawyer, a cowboy and a former graduate student—fight over the farm they have inherited. Baca's characters are occasionally mired in overworked prose ("These were the absurd dreams of the foolish young boys they had been, dreams that were now eaten away like apple cores thrown out of a window for the crows of dawn to peck to pulp") and formulaic situations. Still, Baca has the ability to convey much in few words, and his precise use of detail delivers small, startling truths. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8021-4181-1
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-55584-891-0
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X