"In this exuberantly strange story collection, Flores asks: Whose reality? What rules?" —Jean Chen Ho, author of The New York Times Book Review
"These are marvelously unpredictable stories, anchored by Fernando A. Flores’s deadpan prose and his surefooted navigation of those overlapping territories, the real and the fantastic, where so much of the best contemporary fiction now lives." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
Psychedelic, dazzling stories set in the cracks of the Texas-Mexico borderland, from an iconoclastic storyteller and the author of Tears of the Trufflepig.
No one captures the border—its history and imagination, its danger, contradiction, and redemption—like Fernando A. Flores, whose stories reimagine and reinterpret the region’s existence with peerless style. In his immersive, uncanny borderland, things are never what they seem: a world where the sun is both rising and setting, and where conniving possums efficiently take over an entire town and rewrite its history.
The stories in Valleyesque dance between the fantastical and the hyperreal with dexterous, often hilarious flair. A dying Frédéric Chopin stumbles through Ciudad Juárez in the aftermath of his mother’s death, attempting to recover his beloved piano that was seized at the border, while a muralist is taken on a psychedelic journey by an airbrushed Emiliano Zapata T-shirt. A woman is engulfed by a used-clothing warehouse with a life of its own, and a grieving mother breathlessly chronicles the demise of a town decimated by violence. In two separate stories, queso dip and musical rhythms are bottled up and sold for mass consumption. And in the final tale, Flores pieces together the adventures of a young Lee Harvey Oswald as he starts a music career in Texas.
Swinging between satire and surrealism, grief and joy, Valleyesque is a boundary- and border-pushing collection from a one-of-a-kind stylist and voice. With the visceral imagination that made his debut novel, Tears of the Trufflepig, a cult classic, Flores brings his vision of the border to life—and beyond.
Flores takes to the elusive and dangerous borderland in his inventive debut collection (after the novel Tears of the Trufflepig). In "Queso," a man interviews for a job at a fast food outlet, where he is rewarded for providing folksy details that testify to his authentic "Mexican" identity. The story sets the tone for the remarkable range on exhibit throughout, from surrealism to prescience. In "The Science Fair Protest," gangsters take over a school, and biology teacher Ram calls on his neighbor, the narrator, for help navigating the new teaching methods mandated by the gangsters. Flores seamlessly blends high and low references as Ram and the narrator get drunk and commiserate about the changes at the school while also listening to records by "the Mexican Neil Diamond" and discussing Proust and the Dreyfuss Affair. In "Nocturne from a World Concave," the composer Fr d ric Chopin gets into a philosophical debate about the nature of reality in Ciudad Ju rez. "Zapata Foots the Bill" involves a muralist attempting to accurately portray the legendary revolutionary, but viewers are disinterested or outright confused. The standout "The Oswald Variations" offers a hilarious and remarkable alternate history of a young Lee Harvey Oswald as an aspiring musician in Texas. Using a blend of experimentation and magical realism, this conveys the border's many sociopolitical shades. The zany set pieces add up to a work with explosive substance.