Posts Categorized: Dagoberto Gilb

Please, Thank You – Dagoberto Gilb

Last month, I wrote about “Uncle Rock” by Dagoberto Gilb and complained that there was no impact.  It read like a coming of age story that lost me.  In “Please, Thank You” published by Harper’s, Dagoberto Gilb’s story is full of emotion that brings the reader along the whole way.  At times, it reminded me of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, since the main character Mr. Sanchez has suffered a stroke and is unable to communicate or control his body at first.

The story has minimal punctuation with commas left out, words not capitalized, and apostrophes missing.  This formatting seemed like it was trying to reinforce the distance between the narrator and those whom surround him, including the reader.  However, as the story moves forward we learn that the narrator is supposed to be the one who has written the prose, and it’s due to his poor motor skills that only periods are used.  It works.  Before you get there though, it’s already working in creating that distance.

A strength of this story is how it treats illness and hospitalization.  Mr. Sanchez (I can’t remember if his first name is used) is a tough guy, and it’s sobering to watch him deal with the helplessness of having had a stroke.  Hospitals are their own worlds.  The closer Mr. Sanchez comes to being discharged from the hospital the more he begins to realize how he fit in there.  Besides being a place for recovery, he’s grown close to some of the workers, and now must find a new place as someone else fills his role there.

Uncle Rock – Dagoberto Gilb

In “Uncle Rock,” Dagoberto Gilb writes a short story that is sparse and to the point.  The story is basically a coming of age story.  Erick, the main character, is eleven and being raised by his beautiful single mother in L.A.  She’s immigrated from Mexico, and he has no real sense of Mexico.  I’m not even sure if Erick has any dialogue in the story.  He never talks to any of her boyfriends, and lies about his family life out of shame.

There is one man in his mother’s life who keeps coming back, named Roque.  A nice change of pace, Roque, is at heart a good man who is kind to both Erick and his mom.  It could have been easy to make the character a jerk, but that would be a different kind of story.  Instead, Roque, is a pushover.  He loves Erick’s mom, but is not flashy like the men she sometimes dates.

The moment this story loses me is when Roque takes Erick and his mom to a Dodger’s game.  They get to the game late, and wouldn’t you know it, a homerun is hit straight to Erick, who (bet you can’t guess it) catches it!  Never saw that one coming.  Luckily, Erick did.  The story ends with Erick growing up a little or appreciating Roque.  What works well is that it isn’t a shared moment, it’s Erick’s moment, and he doesn’t make a big deal about it.  Gilb writes it in a way that castes doubt on whether Erick even knows the statement he’s made.

Overall, this story is a quick read that has some good touches, but doesn’t carry the impact to keep a reader coming back.