Jeff Waxman, 57th Street Books, Chicago
For all of us fed up with Paulo Coelho, Rubem Fonseca's forthcoming collection, The Taker & Other Stories [Univ. of Nebraska/Open Letter, Nov.], is a welcome addition to the body of translated Brazilian literature. Fonseca's characters are mad and sometimes manic, his prose can be compared favorably with Bret Easton Ellis or Norman Lock, but set in the weird and dangerous streets of Brazil. The title story is a standout—disturbingly violent, it lays bare the frustration of Brazil's lower classes in brutal detail. At the other end of the spectrum is my favorite story, “Angels of the Marquees,” which reads like some of Steven Millhauser's best. It perfectly captures the empty life of an older man seeking purpose after retirement. The author's prose is tight and strong—a testament to his years in law enforcement. The stories appear simple, but they're masterful scenes of the grotesque underbelly of human existence and I cannot recommend them enough.