Sergio Troncoso demonstrates in the short-story collection “A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son” that he’s a master storyteller but with a special bent.
Troncoso, an El Paso-native, said in a phone interview that the 13 stories in this recent collection, as with most of his writings, are informed by German
philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the philosophy called Perspectivism. Nietzsche, he said, was probably the first important philosopher to write about Perspectivism.
The philosophy, Troncoso said, “is that our sense of truth depends on your perspective, your history, your language, your class, your race. Everything.”
The first 12 stories are organized in sets of two or three, with the final story a stand-alone reflective piece.
Each set contains its own narrator or central character whom the reader can understand from that character’s own angles or perspectives. At the same, Troncoso said he encourages the reader to be conscious of inserting his/her own perspectives when reading a particular story.
The two stories in the initial set are “Rosary on the Border” and “New Englander.” In “Rosary,” the unnamed narrator returns to his hometown of El Paso from his home in New England for his father’s funeral. He describes his shock at seeing his father in the casket: “…can that be my father, that shrunken, wax-like face? These idiots wouldn’t put just anyone’s body in there. …”
Troncoso shares with readers the male narrator’s unvarnished, detailed descriptions of the varied people (including himself) who show up at the funeral of his Mexican-born dad.
There’s the immediate and extended family members on both sides of the border; for example, his sister Linda, in her late 50s, who the narrator describes as “disorganized, wasteful with money, and still ‘taking classes.’ ” He refers to the “visitors from Chihuahua to Los Angeles.
“Los compadres y las comadres. Neighborhood hypocrites and hangers-on.”
The perspective in that opening story radically changes in the second story, “New Englander,” in which the narrator is identified as David Calderon. David, age 55, is breaking logs from a woodpile at home in Kent, Connecticut.
He’s thinking about his family, his years growing up in El Paso’s Ysleta barrio, later years attending Harvard. Those thoughts fly in his head before and after an armed intruder, a stranger, attacks him out of the blue. David eventually fights off the attacker with fateful consequences.
“Rosary on the Border” won the Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story from the Texas Institute of Letters, and last March Troncoso was elected president of the institute. He is a resident faculty member of the Yale Writers’ Workshop. The book’s title comes from a sentence in “Rosary.” At the conclusion of an introspective passage the narrator tells himself that “I was, I am, and I will be, a peculiar kind of immigrant’s son. I got old and that made everything better, including me.”
This is Troncoso’s second short-story collection. The first was “The Last Tortilla and other Stories,” published in 1999. It won the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize for best book by a new Chicano/a writer. He has also published novels and essays.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, Troncoso is tentatively scheduled to read from and discuss “A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son” (Cinco Puntos Press) in the Salón Ortega of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 Fourth SW. The event is free and open to the public.
Another recently published collection is “The Roads Around Perdido: Stories” (Sunstone Press) by Joseph M. Ferguson Jr. of Rio Rancho.
Ferguson, who grew up in Albuquerque, taught English Composition at a number of colleges and then became a traveling salesman for textbook publishers in the Mountain West.
In driving around the region, he became enamored with the llanos of northeast corner of New Mexico and its roads leading into southeast Colorado. “It is so lonely and beautiful, and you drive and not see another car. Then you realize – here was a ghost town of sorts! There are a lot of abandoned homesteads,” Ferguson said.
It is that area of New Mexico where he imagined the ghost town of Perdido, the subject of the title story in his linked 10-story collection. Human mortality is a constant theme throughout the collection.
At the back of the book is a Reader’s Guide, helpful for any reader, even those not taking an English Composition class nor in a book club discussing the related tales.
Ferguson’s short story “Report on the Hadleyburg Renaissance” won a Pleiades Prize for experimental fiction and “Gleanings” won a Glimmer Train prize for best short story. Both were previously published and are in the “Perdido” collection.
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