Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Orientation by Daniel Orozco

Among the many delights in this collection of short stories is Orozco's experiments with form, all of which work in my opinion. For example, the title story is an unnamed supervisor orienting a new employee: "Those are the offices and these are the cubicles. That's my cubicle there, and this is your cubicle. This is your phone. Never answer your phone. Let the Voicemail System answer it. This is your Voicemail System Manual. There are no personal phone calls allowed..." The supervisor also talks about the other people in the office, the man who occasionally uses the ladies toilet, the man who is hopelessly in love with the woman who ignores him but who plasters the walls of her cubical with pictures drawn by her autistic son, the woman whose left palm began to bleed during a meeting.... By the end of the story we have a picture of a soulless office and the shades doomed to work in it.

Another story reads like an police Incident Report: "...400 Block, Sycamore Circle. Barking dog complaint. Attempts to shush dog unsuccessful. Citation left in owner's mailbox. Animal Control notified. 1300 Block, Harvest Avenue. Suspicious odor—a gas lead or "the smell of death." Officers investigate. Odor ascertained to be emanating from a neighbor's mimosa tree in unseasonal bloom. "The smell of life," officer [Shield #647] ponders aloud. Officers nod. Homeowner rolls eyes, nods politely...." Gradually the entries become more and more personally revealing and human.

Orozco has a story about a painter working on the Bay Bridge, about a warehouse clerk, about a temp, about the grossly obese (and food obsessed), and about an earthquake. The settings change, the points of view change, but I found all the stories powerful and convincing. Moreover, not only did I find the stories engaging, they suggest possibilities in fiction I've never considered. What more could one want from a book?

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