Three early stories of myth, regime, and harlotry by the acclaimed author of The Flamethrowers.
An explorer’s whereabouts keeps a queen in waiting; a faith healer’s illegal radio broadcasts give hope to an oppressed people; a president’s offer of ice cream surprises a prostitute expecting to cooperate fully — the three short fictions gathered in The Great Exception build into a vision of Cuba that is black-humored, brutal, and beautiful. Written prior to the publication of Rachel Kushner’s first acclaimed novel Telex From Cuba, these stories, like Roberto Bolano’s Antwerp, burst forth with the genesis of her fictional universe as though fired from a cannon. From the mythical title story, to the ominous “Debouchment” — originally published in her too short-lived journal Soft Targets — to the sexy and noirish “Strange Case of Rachel K,” this is Kushner saddling up for a journey into the wilds of the modern novel.
Kushner (The Flamethrowers) imagines Cuban history in this small collection of strong prose. In The Great Exception," a Portuguese admiral reminiscent of Christopher Columbus in 1492 discovers Cuba. Hundreds of years later, a woman named Aloha moves from Colorado to Havana where she discovers a new life with Ferdinand K, a Frenchman who sells fake war footage of naval battles between American and Spanish fleets. In Debouchment," a conversation among patrons at a nightclub, and an illegal radio broadcast by a man known as the faith healer" delve into violent political conflicts that shaped Cuba in the 20th century. And, in the title story, Christian de la Mazi re, the fictionalized French Nazi from Kushner's novel, Telex from Cuba, shares an intimate talk with cabaret dancer Rachel K about her origins and her relationships with both President Carlos Pr o Socarr s and the dictator Fulgencio Batista. These narratives are bridged by characters, place, and resurfacing imagery. Kushner's writing is fluid and clear and possesses a rhythm as determined as an ocean current. She navigates the limits of language, seeking new or uncommon words like batiking" and flumed" to fit the descriptions of the world she maps. In this slim book, readers will encounter three stories of terrific depth.