Brief Encounters with the Enemy

By Said Sayrafiezadeh
(Dial Press, Hardcover, 9780812993585, 223pp.)

Publication Date: August 13, 2013

List Price: $25.00*
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Description
The first short story collection from a writer who calls to mind such luminaries as Denis Johnson, George Saunders, and Nathan Englander
FINALIST FOR THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE - NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY "BOOKPAGE" AND "BOOKISH"
When "The New Yorker" published a short story by Said Sayrafiezadeh in 2010, it marked the emergence of a startling new voice in fiction. In this astonishing book, Sayrafiezadeh conjures up a nameless American city and its unmoored denizens: a call-center employee jealous of the attention lavished on a co-worker newly returned from a foreign war; a history teacher dealing with a classroom of maliciously indifferent students; a grocery store janitor caught up in a romantic relationship with a kleptomaniac customer. These men's struggles and fleeting triumphs--with women, with cruel bosses, with the morning commute--are transformed into storytelling that is both universally resonant and wonderfully strange. Sometimes the effect is hilarious, as when a would-be suitor tries to take his sheltered, religious date on a tunnel of love carnival ride. Other times it's devastating, as in the unforgettable story that gives the book its title: A soldier on his last routine patrol on a deserted mountain path finally encounters "the enemy" he's long sought a glimpse of.
Upon giving the author the Whiting Writers' Award for his memoir, "When Skateboards Will Be Free, " the judges hailed his writing as "intelligent, funny, utterly unsmug and unpreening." These fiercely original stories show their author employing his considerable gifts to offer a lens on our collective dreams and anxieties, casting them in a revelatory new light.
Praise for "Brief Encounters with the Enemy"
"With impressive guile and design, Mr. Sayrafiezadeh uses the arrival and escalation of that war as the through-line connecting each personal drama. . . . These calculated echoes work to unify his] haunting book in a way that story collections rarely manage."--Sam Sacks, "The Wall Street Journal"
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"In his memoir, Sayrafiezadeh told the remarkable tale of a childhood steeped in doomed dogma. His stories . . . offer something more: a searing vision of his wayward homeland, delivered not in the clamoring rhetoric of a revolutionary, but in the droll monologues of young men who kill because they lack the moral imagination to do otherwise."--Steve Almond, "The New York Times Book Review "(Editors' Choice)
"Sayrafiezadeh's eight interlinked stories are just as fulfilling as any novel you're likely to read this summer."--"The Boston Globe"
"A tantalizing fiction debut . . . that] menaces and mesmerizes."--"Elle"
"The recurring motifs include 99-cent American flags, putting in a word with the boss, idealistic Army recruitment brochures and unseasonable temperatures. Each time they recur they are more potent, and poignant. The collection is readable, and real, and hopefully a harbinger of more fiction to come from Sayrafiezadeh."--Minneapolis "Star Tribune"
"Funny and surprising . . . Sayrafiezadeh's simple style can fool you into thinking that his struggling narrators are plain and unassuming. They are anything but. . . . Each story compels you to read the next, and no character escapes unscathed."--"The Daily Beast.
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