Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Morning Reading: Dagoberto Gilb in The New Yorker

In the May 2010 issue of The New Yorker, a short story by Dagoberto Gilb titled "Uncle Rock":

In the morning, at his favorite restaurant, Erick got to order his favorite American food, sausage and eggs and hash-brown papitas fried crunchy on top. He’d be sitting there, eating with his mother, not bothering anybody, and life was good, when a man started changing it all. Most of the time it was just a man staring too much—but then one would come over. Friendly, he’d put his thick hands on the table as if he were touching water, and squat low, so that he was at sitting level, as though he were being so polite, and he’d smile, with coffee-and-tobacco-stained teeth. He might wear a bolo tie and speak in a drawl. Or he might have a tan uniform on, a company logo on the back, an oval name patch on the front. Or he’d be in a nothing-special work shirt, white or striped, with a couple of pens clipped onto the left side pocket, tucked into a pair of jeans or chinos that were morning-clean still, with a pair of scuffed work boots that laced up higher than regular shoes. He’d say something about her earrings, or her bracelet, or her hair, or her eyes, and if she had on her white uniform how nice it looked on her. Or he’d come right out with it and tell her how pretty she was, how he couldn’t keep himself from walking up, speaking to her directly, and could they talk again? Then he’d wink at Erick. Such a fine-looking boy! How old is he, eight or nine? Erick wasn’t even small for an eleven-year-old. He tightened his jaw then, slanted his eyes up from his plate at his mom and not the man, definitely not this man he did not care for. Erick drove a fork into a goopy American egg yolk and bled it into his American potatoes. She wouldn’t offer the man Erick’s correct age, either, saying only that he was growing too fast.

To read the rest, click here.

To read The New Yorker's follow-up interview with Gilb, click here.

Interview excerpt:

This week’s story is set in Los Angeles. It’s not clear in what era it’s taking place until the young protagonist, Erick, goes to a baseball game and it becomes apparent that the players are from the Dodgers’ line-up of the early eighties. Why did you decide to set the story then? How important were the Dodgers’ players in that decision?

Stories are mosaics to me: Broken chunks and shards of time, experience, imagination, invention, learning, that I turn into a new image. I used the years when my own sons were Erick's age, when we used to go to Dodger games, the bleachers, and hang around for autographs. I myself caught a batting-practice home-run ball at Dodger Stadium. I was so very pleased, and then I lost it almost instantly. A note comparable to the one Erick got once came to me to give to my own mom (nope, don't remember what it said, just that it flipped me). I had a lot of trouble trying to think of Roque's name. A lot of the hold-up on the story was not knowing what to call his character. Then, a few months ago, I was in Kenedy, Texas, and I met a man an Anglo woman told me was named Rocky—that's how she pronounced it anyway. There it was. And, finally, it had to be that Fernando Valenzuela period! Those were the best Mexican years ever in L.A. Pride was everywhere, everybody dug Fernando. And though we never got one of Pedro Guerrero's homers those years, he hit 'em near us, and we tried.



madness rivera said...

The interviews are as good as the stories.

Robbi said...

I love that story.

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