I think I’m just tired of this kind of narrator, the angry male adolescent with his gloss of youth wearing thin, by which I mean he’s already cynical, but not truly cynical because in the process of this story he’s going to show you that he can still be hurt, even if it’s in his stoic, male way. You see, he has some childish wisdom, but he’s telling you this story because he’s about to learn something about Life. Sprinkle in some local Puerto Rican color, a few Spanish words, casual remarks about the subtleties of race relations, and you’ve got a guaranteed “Best of X” kind of story.
Here’s where González lost me (at the end of the third paragraph):
I don’t like him living with that woman. Nothing about her apartment made me care. And right then, those flames held so many possibilities for us; it seemed like the start of an adventure.
It just seems to be reaching too hard. “Nothing about her apartment made me care.” What does that mean? It’s so jaded, but without the earnestness that can make jadedness charming in youth.
Here’s another sentence I don’t particularly like because it’s kind of cheap:
All through the holidays, they stand by the traffic lights and sing aguinaldos, begging for quarters, their eyes all tripped out, their rhythm so fucked it’s not even funny.
All in all, it just feels like stories I’ve read many times before–the same kind of narrative arc, the same kind of narrator, the same kind of narration. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se. I might have even liked it if it were my first exposure to that kind of story. The dialogue is decent. It flows. The inter-generational family dynamics are interesting, the way behavior passes on from father to son, etc., or doesn’t pass on. The pitiless way a grandson might view his grandparents. The bits with the girlfriends, though: eh.
I’m not surprised it’s in Narrative Magazine. It’s exactly the sort of story that Narrative editors and readers like. Superficially poignant, polished, with a dash of the exotic. It’s just that I’m a little tired of these pieces. My fault, I’m sure.
Read “Christmas Eve” on Narrative‘s website (with a free membership).