Faber & Faber, 2011
Less is better - it can be said of the collection of short stories Orientation by Daniel Orozco. Nine short stories, collected under the book cover for the first time, were published in magazines throughout the decade and a half. It happens sometimes that a writer for years publishes his short pieces in magazines and anthologies, these stories are quietly praised, but the author goes unnoticed because there is no book. Orozco has a book now, and at last we can say that we are now able to introduce to ourselves a great writer.
There is not one story here that is a bad one, among the nine of them (which is rare for the author's collection, where there are always a fly in the ointment). Orozco is not a prolific storyteller, though a skilful one. The author writes stories in the first, second and third person, playing out of genres and patterns and buys you over with humanity.
Orozco has his special relationship with humanity. His stories often do not suffer, but abound in this feature, which is usually called detachment. Orozco makes a hero of the story always outsiders. The author keeps his character from a distance, and it would have made the prose cold and inaccessible. But it does not matter how much the author is far from the character is more important how the character is close to the reader.
Orozco with detachment gains the love for the heroes of his stories. Here in «Officers Weep», written in police report style, a couple of officers, a man and a woman, ride all day responding to requests and make records, detain suspects. Orozco experiments with form and with the protocol prose (and it is in itself ridiculously funny) seeks the visible extent of the situation. But when the reports are interrupted with the emotions of officers, these emotions and feelings are at times more powerful than usually, because they are emotions in the restricted area.
«Officer [Shield # 325] approaches vehicle. Her stride longer than her legs can accommodate, she leans too much into each step, coming down hard on her heels, as if trudging through sand. As she returns to Patrol Unit, a lock of her hair - thin and drab, a lusterless, mousy brown - slips down and swings timidly across her left eye, across the left lens of her mirrored wraparounds. Officer tucks errant lock behind ear, secures it in a place with a readjustment of duty cap. Her gestures are brisk and empathic, as if she were quelling a desire to linger in the touch of her own hair. Officer [Shield # 647] observes entire intimate sequence from his position behind wheel of Patrol Unit. Officer enthralled. Officer ascertains the potential encroachment of love, maybe, into his cautious and lonely life. Officer swallows hard.»
Many of the characters in Orozco’s stories do not have names, only nicknames - Baby, the Presidente-in-Exile, Officer # - if not only "he" or "she," but even those that have names could very well be without them. The reality in Orozco’s stories is not really our reality, with seemingly recognizable signs. And the author is attentive to detail. Only in one story Orozco makes a logical error: in «Only Connect» action of the story runs into the future, which for some reason still remains present.
This Daniel Orozco has a right orientation, he should be read.