A short story must, in a limited amount of space, create a scene and characters with a past, present, and future. It inevitably has to leave some things out, details to be extrapolated by the reader. I think finding a balance between providing the reader enough specifics and letting them fill the gaps for themselves is a very hard thing to accomplish. That is why I paid particular attention to the shorter works by Ray Gonzalez. I especially liked his story ‘The Glass Eye”. “The Glass Eye” leaves many things unexplained. It presents us with a character, Folio, who has a glass eye but doesn’t explain anything about how he got it. When another character, a pretty girl in a yellow bikini, comes to his door and gives him another artificial eye, one that changes her appearance greatly, the reader is faced with many questions. I had to wonder, “Who is the girl in relation to Folio?”, “What is the magic of the new eye?”, “Which form is the girl’s true form?”, and “Why does Folio love the girl in her second form, when she is obese?” I think the great value of this story is that these questions are left explicitly unanswered. Gonzalez purposefully paints us a bizarre scene and then abandons us to interpret it as we will.
Overall, I found the content of the fiction section of Humor Me to be strange and surprisingly somber. The stories did not strike me as humorous at all. Rather many left me feeling puzzled about their strange plots and sad at the unjust order of the world they created. For example I was very troubled by Daniel Chacon’s story “Godoy Lives”. In it Juan, crosses the border pretending to be a man named Miguel Godoy but then when he encounters Godoy’s family he assumes the role of Godoy and abandons his old life and his family. It was very disturbing to think of a person actually doing what Juan does in this story, and it was all the more troubling because Chacon creates a realistic character in Juan, a man who simply chooses the easy way out, in the dilemma he is presented. I liked this story because it challenged my assumptions that Juan would make the morally righteous decision to tell the truth about his identity or return to his wife at some point in the story.
The entire book Humor Me also presents an interesting perspective since it is “an anthology of humor by writers of color”, so the issue of race pervades even the stories like the two I discussed, that are seemingly not racially charged.