Rabasa, George 1941-
Rabasa, George 1941-
Born December 29, 1941, in Biddeford, ME; son of Joseph and Paulina Rabasa; married Juanita Garciagodoy, August 8, 1981; children: John, Mary. Education: University of the Americas, B.A., 1964. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, long-distance running, meditation, "other people's conversations."
Home—Minneapolis, MN. E-mail—[email protected]
Writers Voice Capricorn Award, 1992, for excellence in fiction; Minnesota Book Award, 1997, for Glass Houses, 1998, for Floating Kingdom.
Glass Houses: Stories, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis), 1996.
Floating Kingdom: A Novel (novel), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis), 1997.
The Cleansing (novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies and literary journals.
George Rabasa is a Minneapolis-based author who has written and published many short stories. A hallmark of Rabasa's writing, which includes the 1996 collection Glass Houses: Stories, is the depiction of the surreal, bizarre, everyday life of unusual and resilient characters.
Glass Houses contains nineteen short stories. One story features a criminal who likes to prance about his apartment in the nude and the criminal's neighbor, who is marketing a cereal using the criminal's name. Another story describes the sale of a serial killer's brain at a garage sale. "The Garbage House" has demanding neighbors and sanitation experts intruding on a messy family; the husband and wife have been arguing about washing the dishes for some ten years. In "Floating," Rabasa digs deep into a female character's psyche by charting her feelings about the swimming pool that her husband is digging in the backyard. Rabasa "starts with a simple, common subject," explained Cyns Nelson in Bloomsbury Review, "then unfurls an uncommon (twisted?) imagination."
Rabasa followed up Glass Houses with Floating Kingdom: A Novel. Set on a tiny island—really a patch of dirt—in the Rio Grande which divides the United States from Mexico, Floating Kingdom depicts the lives of people who live on the Mexican border. The story centers on the aging Lucio Seguila, patriarch of the "Free Republic of Seguilandia," who helps smuggle people across the Rio Grande. When a storm washes Simon Tucker ashore, a low-level, high school marijuana smuggler, Lucio takes him in. The injured Simon is nursed back to health by Lucio and his three daughters. Lucio's son-in-law, however, does not have Simon's best interests in mind. Lucio must struggle with his morals as Simon's presence and the son-in-law's stupidity complicate life on the island. Eventually, the Texas Rangers land on the island, with metaphorical results.
As The Cleansing opens, oncologist Paul Leander is studying the liver biopsy of Victor Aruna, who has cancer. Paul, Victor, and Adele, now Paul's wife and a successful art director, share a history that goes back two decades, to Mexico City. There Paul was earning his medical degree and Adele was establishing herself as a photographer when they met Victor, a playboy who introduced them to each other and to parties where drugs were heavily used. The friendship ended, but not before Paul served jail time and Adele barely escaped being raped. The ties to the past have not been completely broken, and Victor, thinking he is terminally ill, seeks support by moving in with them. Booklist reviewer David Pitt noted that they "learn you can bury the past, but you can't kill it." The fragile marriage of Paul and Adele is not strengthened by the secrets from the past that are dredged up by the trio. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "The denouement is quiet rather than explosive, and it suits the scale of this winningly constrained work." A Kirkus Reviews critic wrote: "The book, with its nicely ironic title, is quite well written, and its three principals emerge as complicated and seductive characters."
Rabasa told CA: "I write to honor a small, single talent with which I've been blessed. There weren't many vocational choices. I would have preferred to have been a rock star, a physicist, Mother Teresa, or a fireman.
"My writing is nourished by a variety of cultures. My parents are from Barcelona, Spain. I was born in Maine, raised in Mexico, and have lived in Minnesota since 1981. As a result, my fiction has wandered across the urban Midwest, the U.S.-Mexico border, and Spain during the 1937-1939 civil war."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bloomsbury Review, January-February, 1997, Cyns Nelson, review of Glass Houses: Stories, p. 15.
Booklist, July 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of The Cleansing, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1997, review of Floating Kingdom: A Novel, p. 1145; May 15, 2006, review of The Cleansing, p. 491.
Library Journal, August, 1997, review of Floating Kingdom, p. 134.
Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1996, review of Glass Houses, p. 78; June 23, 1997, review of Floating Kingdom, p. 67; July 10, 2006, review of The Cleansing, p. 55.