Alarcon, Daniel 1977-
ALARCON, Daniel 1977-
PERSONAL: Born 1977, in Lima, Peru; immigrated to United States.
ADDRESSES: Home—Oakland, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Short-story writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholarship to Peru; Whiting Writer's Award, 2004.
War by Candlelight (short-story collection), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including New Yorker and Harper's.
SIDELIGHTS: A Peruvian-born author who grew up in Alabama and attended Columbia University, Daniel Alarcon is credited with bringing a truly multicultural sensibility to his stories. At the same time, he resists being pigeonholed based on his ethnicity. As Adriana Lopez noted in Publishers Weekly, "What distinguishes Alarcon and other new young Latino writers has less to do with writing skill than a sense of security in their identity. They didn't have to break down walls to get their voices heard: they can now simply focus on their craft and building literary connections, even if they keep a wary eye on anyone with a mind to stereotype them."
In his first collection, War by Candlelight, Alarcon moves between New York City and Lima, Peru, straddling time to encompass a range of characters and situations. "Whether it's a deadly landslide, a no-holds-barred neighborhood turf war, or a guerrilla war convulsing a nation, Alarcon jumps right in with a fearlessness that becomes his most striking quality," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
Some stories are tightly connected to their setting, building on the realities of life in modern Peru. "Flood" is a short brutal, piece describing a prison riot and a street fight that ends when the government decides to burn down the prison with the inmates inside, rather than deal with their grievances. "The Visitor" describes a man and his children, the only survivors of an Andean mudslide that has buried their town. Another story, taking place in the 1960s, describes the doubts of a guerrilla fighter who is torn between his devotion to the cause and his longing for the bourgeois lifestyle he is warring against. Others transcend their setting and take on an otherworldly tone. "City of Clowns" centers on a journalist who is assigned to a story on the growing number of clowns in Lima. Intrigued by his encounter with this new subculture, he becomes a clown himself, and in an odd way comes to grips with both the death of his father and his anger at his mother for developing a friendship with his father's mistress. "Third Avenue Suicide" describes a young man who continually flees his apartment before visitors arrive, rather than reveal that he is living with a girlfriend.
Library Journal contributor Lawrence Olszewski felt that the strongest stories are "those that deal with broken relationships." A reviewer for the Economist found the stories "a little clunky and over-determined. But there's no doubting Mr. Alarcon's seriousness and ambition." A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that, "though his vision often seems bleak, Alarcon's voice is fierce and assured, and his debut collection engages."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of War by Candlelight, p. 1058.
Economist, April 9, 2005, "No Clowning: Short Stories," p. 73.
Entertainment Weekly, April 1, 2005, Raymond Fiore, review of War by Candlelight, p. 86.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of War by Candlelight, p. 3.
Library Journal, February 1, 2005, Lawrence Olszewski, review of War by Candlelight, p. 72.
Publishers Weekly, February 21, 2005, review of War by Candlelight, p. 155; February 21, 2005, Adriana Lopez, "The L-Factor: Daniel Alarcon and Other Young Writers Want Their Writing to Be Recognized before Their Surnames," p. 70.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 12, 2005, Edward Guthmann, "For Peruvian American Novelist Daniel Alarcon, Home Is Where He Happens to Be," p. E1.