Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club
By Benjamin Alire Saenz
(Cinco Puntos Press, Paperback, 9781935955320, 180pp.)
Publication Date: August 2012
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Sometimes the border is a mirror, sometimes an escape, and sometimes it’s just the bridge you cross to go home.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in Old Picacho, a small farming village outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, forty-two miles north of the U.S. / Mexico border. He was the fourth of seven children and was brought up in a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family. He entered the seminary in 1972, a decision that was as much political as it was religious. After concluding his theological studies at the University of Louvain, he was ordained a Catholic priest. Three and a half years later, he left the priesthood.
At the age of 30, he entered the University of Texas at El Paso. He later received a fellowship at the University of Iowa. In 1988, he received a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship in poetry from Stanford University. In 1993, he returned to the border to teach in the bilingual MFA program at UTEP.
Sáenz is the author of a previous book of poetry, Calendar of Dust, which won an American Book Award. Cinco Puntos published two of his other books of poetry called Elegies in Blue and the now out of print, Dark and Perfect Angels. His most recent book of poetry, The Book of What Remains, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2010.
He is the author of numerous novels, books for children and young adults as well as a previous collection of short stories. His award winning young adult novels are Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, and Last Night I Sang to the Monster. His adult novels include Carry Me Like Water, The House of Forgetting, In Perfect Light, and Names on a Map.
Benjamin Alire Saenz won this year's PEN/Faulkner award for his latest collection of short stories, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club. The real-life Kentucky Club is just south of the U.S.-Mexico border, and Saenz joined a reporter there to talk about life in two countries. More at NPR.org
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"Sáenz's moving collection of short stories hinges on the intergenerational clientele of the titular borderland watering hole just south of the U.S.-Mexican divide on Avenida Juárez
there's much to enjoy in these gritty, heartfelt stories. Publishers Weekly
"Seven excellent stories [by] a versatile writer Sàenz writes prose that is tender, occasionally fierce, and always engaging. Read every word of his stories lest you miss some clever twist, some subtle irony, some gentle nuance of poetic imagery that he has labored to create." Booklist
"Though the prolific Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been writing books in every genre for the past two decades, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club is only his second short-story collection. But the wait was definitely worth it [The story "He Has Gone to Be with the Women"] is nothing short of a masterpiece In one story, a school counselor says the following about his troubled charges: "They came to me with a thirst in their eyes, a thirst, such a thirst and I knew that I could never give them the rain they deserved, the rain they so desperately needed." That might as well be The Kentucky Club speaking, since every protagonist in this heartbreaking collection of stories finds his way to a confession stool at the bar. They find no solutions to their ills, just a sensitive ear that has heard it all before but is willing to listen once again." Rigoberto González, former president of the executive board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, special to the El Paso Times