“On their surfaces, these are quirky, confronting, intense, often darkly funny stories—worth it for that alone. But from underneath, Gilb unearths a sense of profound human longing and a dream of harmony which (the stories make perfectly clear) could be reached no other way.”
A raw, honest, and personal new collection of stories, BEFORE THE END, AFTER THE BEGINNING is the latest from acclaimed storyteller Dagoberto Gilb, described by Annie Proulx as “an important voice in American fiction.”
The pieces in BEFORE THE END, AFTER THE BEGINNING come in the wake of a stroke Gilb suffered at his home in Austin, Texas, in 2009, and a majority of the stories were written over many months of recovery. The result is a powerful and triumphant collection that tackles common themes of mortality and identity and describes the American experience in a raw, authentic vernacular unique to Gilb.
These ten stories take readers throughout the American West and Southwest, from Los Angeles and Albuquerque to El Paso and Austin. Gilb covers territory familiar to some of his earlier work—a mother and son’s relationship in Southern California in the story “Uncle Rock” or a character looking to shed his mixed-up past in “The Last Time I Saw Junior”—while dealing with themes of mortality and limitation that have arisen during his own illness. The collection’s most personal story, “please thank you,” focuses on a man who has been hospitalized with a stroke, and paints in detail the protagonist’s relationship with his children and the nurses who care for him. The collection’s final story, “Hacia Teotitlán,” looks at a man, now old, returning to Mexico and considering his life and imminent death.
The stories in BEFORE THE END, AFTER THE BEGINNING have appeared previously in such publications as The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine. The collection proves that, despite what he has gone through, Gilb has lost none of his immense gifts. Indeed, this may be his most extraordinary achievement to date.