Painted Cities

Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski. McSweeney's, $24 (192p) ISBN 978-1-938073-80-9
The stories in Galaviz-Budziszewski's debut collection are all set in the neighborhood of Pilsen, located in the heart of Chicago, sometimes known as "Eighteenth Street and Throop." While one male protagonist, sometimes called Jesse and sometimes unnamed, appears throughout, it is the neighborhood, more so that its inhabitants, that holds the author's focus. Throughout the collection, Galaviz-Budziszewski creates and re-creates place, defines and re-defines its boundaries. His Pilsen is a "marooned" place, "a fairy land of low-riders, loud radios, sexy women with long dark hair, short-shorts, and deep, red lips," where "the smell of burning hickory" from the kielbasa factory mingles with the garlic and onion smell of "all of Pilsen…making their frijoles for the week." But Pilsen is also a place where you can see "drunken men brawling to the death," "wives get beat by their husbands," "children get hit by cars" and "those cars get[ting] chased down by neighbors and the drivers [beaten] into bloody pulps." Standout stories include "God's Country," in which Chuey, the son of gangbangers discovers he can raise the dead, and "Sacrifice," in which an older version of the narrator decides to kill his wife's ex-lover and the father of her child. "I am a desperate man," says this jaded, adult Jesse, "and my only wish is to come home to a family." While many stories don't stray far from what can be expected of the inner-city bildungsroman, Galaviz-Budziszewski strong ear for language and careful craft make an assured debut from an author worth watching. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/17/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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