cover image This Is Not America

This Is Not America

Jordi Puntí, trans. from the Catalan by Julie Wark. Atria, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0471-9

This thoughtful collection of short stories from Catalonian writer and translator Puntí (Lost Luggage) is set primarily in Barcelona and largely features a cast of jaded male protagonists. Though the stories often blend together, one not particularly standing out from the other, memorable instances occur throughout, such as the somber twist at the end of “Kidney,” about a loner ignoring letters from his sick, estranged brother. In “My Best Friend’s Mother,” and “Consolation Prize,” men pursue fantasies of women they barely know, then realize their dream doesn’t match their reality. In “Seven Days on the Love Boat,” a disgruntled husband exchanges anniversary tickets to France for a solo trip on a Mediterranean cruise liner, where he meets a sage American pianist. In “The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes,” a Catalonian with a gambling problem moves to Las Vegas, where he manages to turn his addiction into an unexpected career. Although the collection lacks variety, the stories make for a consistently pleasant reading experience, especially when consumed in small doses. (July)