I can remember liking some of his other story collections and the recent story I read in the New Yorker recently. As such the review in the LA Times makes me a little less interested in his work. Since I’ve been spending so much time of late thinking about short stories, his sound like so many well told stories that fit convention, but go no father. I’m not sure everyone ca break convention, but the conventional can get a little tedious from time to time.
From the review:
“Before the End, After the Beginning” is a collection of stories written mostly after the stroke, and it serves as a reckoning. The first, “please, thank you,” is a gateway into the new status quo: Written from the point of view of Mr. Sanchez, a recent stroke victim, we see a tough guy in a diminished state. He’s obstinate, funny, slowly improving, but he’s lost the use of one hand; the story has no capital letters because he cannot reach the shift key. This also happened to Gilb himself, but autobiographical details don’t say much about how these stories work. They work well.
Gilb, who was raised in Los Angeles and now makes his home in Texas, is known for writing stories of men and masculinity. This book continues that tradition — almost all of these stories are told from the point of view of boys or men — while moving that tradition into a place of transition. Over and over, the characters are in-between. We see Mr. Sanchez only from the time he wakes up from the stroke to when he checks out of the hospital.
A couple of stories are compact exercises in character and voice, a few intense pages of joy that begin on L.A.’s freeways, or a story in which misfortune is seen third-hand. But even with these and the first story’s lack of capitalization, Gilb is not pushing stylistic boundaries. He’s simply telling good stories: of men who are both Mexican and American, who are cultured and uncouth, who look at wealth from the outside and, occasionally, from within. A student may make something of himself; a poor young father might fall through the cracks; an older man might discover something new. They are formed by forces outside themselves, but they are not finished yet.