This Is Not America is a collection of nine short stories mostly taking place in Barcelona, but also with Catalans traveling abroad. The first and last stories are the strangest. In the first, “Vertical”, a man is waking the ‘I’ in Mai, memorializing his late wife by walking her name on the streets of Barcelona. His description of grief is vivid and authentic, though the story meanders through its own streets. Frankly, I nearly quit reading during the first story, but the rest were far more to my taste.
“Kidney” is a story of estranged brothers and a weak story that seems more like a long joke told late into the night on a drunken bender. “Consolation Prize” is a strange story of a man falling into infatuation with a girl because he learns she shares an admiration for a band he likes. To me he seemed a bit stalkerish and unpleasant, but I think Puntí’s stories are far more expressive of the male worldview. You really see that in “My Best Friend’s Mother” which has a middle-age man trying to replay an adolescent wish fulfillment fantasy.
I think “Seven Days on the Loveboat” is my favorite, a man had planned a trip to Paris with his wife but they separated right before their anniversary, so he trades his trip in for a Mediterranean cruise on one of the hookup type cruise ships where things don’t go as planned.
This Is Not America is strange collection of stories. Some of them I really liked and others were just strange and a couple I just did not like. I thought the final story was too cute by half, going all meta by writing about a writer writing a short story on commission who goes to a party where Jordi Puntí happens to be a guest. On the other hand, except for “Kidney” every story seemed truly new, unlike anything I have read before. That excites me, so on the whole, it’s a good anthology with a mix of hits and misses.
I received an e-galley ofThis Is Not America from the publisher through NetGalley