Fountain’s works deal with life’s intricacies

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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He knew he wouldn’t have any peace in his life if he didn’t make a serious effort to become a writer.

Originally set on the path to a law career, Ben Fountain left the world of real-estate litigation to pen several award-winning pieces, including his most widely renowned work, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara. This came only days after his wife had made partner at her law firm.

The Chapel Hill, N.C., native will give a reading at 8 p.m. today in the Frank Conroy Reading Room. Admission is free.

Fountain, who lives in Dallas, shows great concern about the work he produces, and he is always set on making a story right to his own satisfaction — never worried about anybody else’s ideas or opinions. His short stories are the tales of what he is most passionate about: power, politics, ethnicity, history, economics, and “the things people do to each other.”

Though these terms and phrases may seem relatable to his experience in law, Fountain said, he had never quite thought of it that way.

“I think it maybe correlates, just thinking about the dynamics of any situation where something is at stake,” he said.

Brief Encounters With Che Guevara involves the tales of several Americans who experience the developing world for the first time, often in a sort of “dazed and confused” state just trying to figure out what is happening. In several of these characters, particularly with their American background, Fountain recognizes a slight extension of himself.

“I think that’s always the case to a greater or lesser degree,” he said. “You can probably find some characters in there who are, to one degree or another, alter egos of me.”

On one level, he would like readers to feel they’ve read a story in which something momentous happens, that they have “just been through something.” This approach involves his taking the kind of stories he likes to read most and producing a work that will have the same effect on his audience.

Ultimately, he aims to expose the complexities of life and the human experience.

“It’s rarely one thing — it’s rarely black and white,” Fountain said.

— by Rebecca Koons

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