Thursday, October 23, 2008

A long road to a brief encounter

My good friend Ben Fountain, author of the excellent short story collection Brief Encounters With Che Guevara, is the subject of an interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker this month on "late blooming" geniuses. I met Ben on the steps of the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince one day back in 2002, when I was the Reuters correspondent in Haiti. In another life, Ben had been a real estate lawyer in Dallas, but when I met him he was bursting into full flower as a writer of insightful, worldly short stories that would culminate with his collection's publication four years later, a book that would eventually go on to win the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award.

Though Ben's success didn't come in a big way until mid-life, I know how hard he worked to reach this first plateau and must say that I can't think of anyone who more richly deserves the recognition that he is now getting. With too much short fiction these days, in my view, of a particularly insular nature, Ben's stories are not afraid to venture out into the world, the real world with all of its political complexities and conflicted loyalties, that surrounds us. Well done.

It's a rainy day in Barcelona today, and, in only a few days, Japan, a country I have long wanted to visit, awaits.

No comments: