Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fawzy Zablah: Ciao! Miami

Reviewed by: Christopher Robin

Available on Lulu (, $9.18 paperback/$2.53 download. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other sources.

Christopher Robin is a member of the ULA. He does not know, to the best of my limited knowledge, Fawzy Zablah (who has a fabulous name). It goes without saying that Fawzy, therefore, does not know Christopher--but should we make such assumptions? And, if it goes without saying, why am I saying it? And, have you noticed, I have not said anything, I am writing? Is this any way to end 2006?

Ciao Miami is a book of short stories set in the late 90’s about Miami’s marginalized population. The characters include immigrants, prostitutes, and transsexuals. The writing is strong, well developed and full of surprises, while the dialogue is realistic and believable.

There is so much intrigue in this book, in even the most simple of premises, I found myself lingering so as not to finish them too fast.

My favorite was a long piece called “The Women’s Army” about a mentally ill man who think he’s an angel and is obsessed with a Cuban boy who was “saved by a dolphin” (Elian Gonzales). Some other stories include: an Egyptian busboy mistaken for an Afghan after September 2001, (“The Existence of Nabil”), a man who falls for a crack whore who he is determined to save; but instead nearly destroys his own life in the process, (“Darling, It Was An Uphill Battle Loving You),” and a young man dying of Aids who tries to fulfill the wish of a former high school ugly duckling, (“Post Bug Billy Flint.”)

I found myself drawn to the characters who were sometimes not the least bit likeable but who had a certain sad appeal. There is also humor in the dreadful lives they inhabit, whether the author intends it to be so or not. These are portraits of many different types of people who are all at their wit’s end, against a backdrop of the headlines and popular concerns of the 1990’s.

These are examples of what happens when people break, either trying to do good, or deluded into thinking they are doing so. Folks who are holding on to what’s left of their humanity, and those that have given it up. These stories are every bit as good as what you would find in Charles Bukowski’s very early short stories. I highly recommend it.

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