Review: Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino by Julian Herbert

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Synopsis:

Virtuosic stories by one of “the more interesting and ambitious prose stylists of our time” (Los Angeles Times)

In this madcap, insatiably inventive, bravura story collection, Julián Herbert brings to vivid life people who struggle to retain a measure of sanity in an insane world. Here we become acquainted with a vengeful “personal memories coach” who tries to get even with his delinquent clients; a former journalist with a cocaine habit who travels through northern Mexico impersonating a famous author of Westerns; the ghost of Juan Rulfo; a man who discovers music in his teeth; and, in the deliriously pulpy title story, a drug lord who looks just like Quentin Tarantino, who kidnaps a mopey film critic to discuss Tarantino’s films while he sends his goons to find and kill the doppelgänger that has colonized his consciousness. Herbert’s astute observations about human nature in extremis feel like the reader’s own revelations.

The antic and dire stories in Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino depict the violence and corruption that plague Mexico today, but they are also deeply ruminative and layered explorations of the narrative impulse and the ethics of art making. Herbert asks: Where are the lines between fiction, memory, and reality? What is the relationship between power, corruption, and survival? How much violence can a person (and a country) take? The stories in this explosive collection showcase the fevered imagination of a significant contemporary writer.

Review:

Julian Herbert is someone whom I have never read, but the title of this short story collection, Bring Me The Head of Quentin Tarantino, made me preorder it immediately. In my teenage years, I was a much bigger fan of Tarantino than I am now, so the title has two different appeals to me. One is that it refers to a director whom I am largely familiar with, and two the loathing of this director might be something I can agree with. (I didn’t know at the time that the title is a riff on the 1974 Sam Peckinpah film Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia).When I started to get into this collection of stories, I was more interested in the style and stories Herbert told than the actual title.

Julian Herbert writes about everything. From crack addicts to gangsters to zombies to finding a pastry on the train and wondering whether or not to eat it, all of these stories are very interesting, have a surreal quality to them, and are very entertaining. Reading about his life and some of his interviews, he is versatile, writes everything, in every genre, and feels like no one should limit what they write. In an interview from November 3, 2020 in The Southwest Review, Herbert states:

“One of my favorite descriptions in sport is something said about the Dutch soccer squad during the 1974 World Cup: “They all defend and they all attack.” In Mexico sportswriters called the team The Clockwork Orange. They used to say that they played “Total Soccer.” I’d like to be able to write literature in that way, not thinking too much about genres (or my position on the field), but trying to do everything at the same time, as writers did in Rabelais’s day.”


This philosophy is really apparent in Bring Me The Head of Quentin Tarantino. This is one of those short story collections where you do not know what is coming next because there is so much variety. The title story, the longest by far in the book, is a little over 60 pages. “Z” the story about the man who is living with zombies and has one for a “psychoanalyst” is 10 pages. The story before that is 4 pages. What I love most about this collection is that he also knows when to stop a story, right at the point where the reader is settling in and is ready for more. Every story in this collection is masterful, and with so many different themes and varieties, it makes me think about some of his other books and how I feel like he might be one of the best living Latin American authors.   

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