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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Hi, This is Conchita

by
Santiago Roncagliolo


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Hi, This is Conchita



Title: Hi, This is Conchita
Author: Santiago Roncagliolo
Genre: Stories
Written: (Eng. 2013)
Length: 176 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Hi, This is Conchita - US
Hi, This is Conchita - UK
Hi, This is Conchita - Canada
Hi, This is Conchita - India
  • And Other Stories
  • Translated by Edith Grossman

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining collection

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly B- 21/1/2013 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "Peruvian author Roncagliolo’s collection contains a dialogue-only novella and three short stories, none of which are especially winning. (...) There’s a lot to like -- and laugh at -- here, especially riffs on the awfulness of Meg Ryan movies, but the humor is surrounded by so much verbiage that bright moments are few and far between." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Hi, This is Conchita is a collection of four stories, the long title-novella and three much shorter ones.
       'Hi, This is Conchita' is presented entirely in dialogue (and monologue), transcripts of the conversations of the telephone calls made to half a dozen or so different numbers. Initially, there seems no connection between the very different calls, which include a man calling a telephone-sex service, a man calling a customer-service line to complain about being double-billed, and a man who is having trouble with his mistress and enlists another to try to take care of things. Another caller repeatedly only reaches the answering machine of one Esmeralda, and leaves various desperate message on the machine.
       There are a variety of communication difficulties presented here. Most obviously, the man reaching the answering machine can not engage in conversation at all. But others, too, face difficulties: customer service remains almost entirely unflappable, but also does everything exactly by the book, frustrating the poor caller who thinks his problem should be easier to deal with. The obliging (and enthusiastic) Conchita, the phone-sex-voice, might know and do her job well, but the caller who becomes devoted to her isn't after the usual thrills. While she aims to please his desires turn out to be rather simpler -- and, thus, entirely harder to handle:

     - I can urinate on you ...
     - ...
     - Zoophilia ? Necrophilia ? Want me to be a paralyzed little girl ?
     - I only want you to caress my head.
     - Mmmmhhh, sure, now I touch the tip gently with my fingers and I ...
     - No, my other head, the one on my shoulders, I mean.
       Trained to say 'Yes' to everything the customer asks for, Conchita finds herself slightly outside her element when the demands aren't entirely sordid and profane -- even as she gamely tries to go along with them.
       "I've always been terrible with words", Conchita's admirer admits -- but as the other conversations also show, communication isn't simple, and isn't just a matter of finding the right words. It takes two, for a start -- yet even that often doesn't suffice. They're speaking the same language here -- when they're speaking -- but often only on the most basic level, the speakers defined by their roles rather than hearing, in any meaningful way, what their conversation-partner is saying. Roncagliolo demonstrates nicely (and often amusingly) that there's considerably more to inter-personal communication that just those words.
       As it turns out, these various men driven to their different extremes -- and to some humorous rants -- by the reactions (or lack thereof) of those they know only over the telephone have more in common than just their communication-difficulties, as Roncagliolo quite cleverly and nicely spins a tale of crossed lives (and one or two crossed lines) out of these dialogues. The connections that turn out to be there all the time make the failure of communication all the more damning.
       The shorter works are slighter pieces. 'Despoiler' finds a woman reaching her fortieth birthday and haunted still by her mother's overbearing manner and the childhood celebrations that were largely anything but for the girl. In 'Butterflies fastened with pins' a man tells of: "getting used to my friends committing suicide". In 'The passenger beside you' a man boards a bus after the taxi he was in was involved in an accident -- and finds his eyes being opened to rather different circumstances than he first realized.
       Roncagliolo has a nice, sure touch throughout, but the more developed and intricate 'Hi, This is Conchita' dominates this slightly lopsided collection. The stories are certainly fine -- closing, with 'The passenger beside you', particularly effectively with a nice little shudder -- but can't really compete with the novella-in-dialogue (which, in turn, could have sustained more conversations).
       But it's a nice little collection, with some sly dark humor, and makes for an entertaining read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 April 2013

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Links:

Hi, This is Conchita: Reviews: Other books by Santiago Roncagliolo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Peruvian author Santiago Roncagliolo was born in 1975.

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© 2013 the complete review

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