Orientation And Other Stories

Daniel Orozco

Faber & Faber



Trade Paperback

176 Pages



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A Kirkus Reviews Best of the Year Short Story Collections Title

Breakfast’s boiled egg, the overhead hum of fluorescent lights, the midmorning coffee break—daily routines keep the world running. But when people are pushed—by a coworker’s taunt, a face-to-face encounter with a woman in free fall from a bridge—cracks appear, revealing alienation, casual cruelty, madness, and above all a simultaneous hunger for and fear of the unknown.

Daniel Orozco leads the reader through the hidden lives and moral philosophies of bridge painters, men housebound by obesity, office temps, and warehouse workers. He reveals the secret pleasures of late-night supermarket trips for cookie binges, exceptional data entry, and an exiled dictator’s occasional piss on the U.S. embassy. A love affair blooms between two officers in the impartially worded pages of a police blotter; a new employee’s first-day office tour includes descriptions of other workers’ most private thoughts and actions; during an earthquake, the consciousness of the entire state of California shakes free for examination.


Praise for Orientation

" . . . Orozco allows his readers to breathe even as his characters suffocate. The stories demonstrate less interest in dystopia than in the real world, and offer many accessible pleasures that cut their taste of ennui and desperation . . . [Orozco] writes in a style that feels carefully tended but not overworked."—The New York Times

"The stories in Daniel Orozco's debut collection convey a sense of workplace alienation that would make Karl Marx cringe . . . A treat."—John Williams, The New York Times Book Review

"Inspired . . . Acidly comic . . . Virtuosic."—Ted Weesner Jr., The Boston Globe

"There isn't a lemon or extraneous word in Orozco's nine stories, which boast not just cleverness but complexity, subtlety and range."—Heller McAlpin, The San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] fine and original writer . . . funny and refreshing."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“‘Temporary Stories,’ the eighth entry in Daniel Orozco’s debut collection, Orientation, is a gem and a killer. Not since Henry James’s ‘In the Cage’ has a writer so perfectly captured the anxieties of interacting with the public for pay. Somehow, Orozco manages to convey James’s psychological acuity with one-tenth of his clauses, mingling it with Steven Millhauser’s sense of lunatic joy.”—Eugenia Williamson, The Boston Phoenix

“Orozco’s long-anticipated collection, Orientation and Other Stories, holds a cracked Barthelme-meets-Kafka-esque mirror to this twenty-first-century American life.”—Megan O’Grady, Vogue

“[Orozco’s] cracked characters grip like Krazy Glue.”—Lisa Shea, Elle

“These nine darkly funny, profoundly compassionate stories take as their subject the loneliness particular to contemporary culture . . . ‘You can’t know anybody, not really, not in the brief overlaps of flimsy acquaintance, nor in the tenuous and fleeting opportunities for connection that we are afforded,’ thinks a man about to be shot for the $60 in his wallet. But the real genius here is the subtle accumulation of evidence to the contrary—the insistence that even in the office cubicle, or between the lines of the police blotter, human contact is sought after and made.”—More

"The moment you begin this incomparable debut, you’ll discover why Daniel Orozco’s fans have been shouting his praises for years. In these wildly original stories, single details reveal whole human lives; the impersonal dissolves seamlessly into the personal; the geological transforms into the psychological; and the short story itself breaks open to reveal previously unimagined possibility. This may be Orozco’s first collection, but he’s nothing short of a master."—Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge and How to Breathe Underwater

"Orientation is a wonderful collection of stories. ‘Somoza’s Dream’ alone is worth the price of the ticket. But that’s not fair, because the same could be said of ‘Officers Weep,’ ‘Shakers,’ and every single story in this stunning piece of literary art."—David Means, author of The Spot
"Orientation is a seriously good book—beautifully written, rigorous, funny, brokenhearted, smart, and without a hint of pretense. Orozco has achieved that rare thing, his own prose rhythm, and the truth of it is a pleasure to the ear."—Adam Haslett, author of Union Atlantic

"I became a fan of Daniel Orozco when I first read the story ‘Orientation’ back in the 1990s. I’ve been waiting eagerly for this collection ever since, and I’m so grateful to have it in my hands at last. Orozco is a vital American writer, and this book is cause for celebration."—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply

"At a time when trivial tales are often expanded and diluted into book-length narratives, Daniel Orozco’s Orientation brings hope for the return of serious short-form storytelling. The stories in this collection make one marvel at the bigness of their creator’s mind—each of them has the depth and scope of a novel. Orozco has both the relentlessness and the compassion of a truly great writer."—Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants

"This book brims with big, deadly surprises and sharp, hallucinatory images. Orozco can do anything: first, second, third person; he can explode moments into whole stories, and dash through lifetimes in a paragraph. Orientation contains nine unsettling, boundary-crossing, and exquisitely-fashioned stories—and I won't be surprised when it becomes a classic."—Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and Memory Wall

"Nobody else is writing quite like Orozco.  These are bracing stories, rich with wicked humor and loving toughness."—Oscar Villalon, Zyzzyva

"Precisely written, deeply human stories."—Kirkus Reviews

"The great strength of Orozco's debut collection is the light it shines on the contemporary workplace, wherever it may be. Best of all, and worth the price of admission, is the title story and opener, which takes the reader on a first-day tour through the cubicle kingdom in a voice that both captures and mocks the rhythm of corporate communication. Readers know they're in good hands from the first few sentences: 'Those are the offices and these are the cubicles. That's my cubicle there, and this is your cubicle. This is your phone. Never answer your phone.' Though not laugh-out-loud funny like the first, other stories in this slim volume similarly display Orozco's empathic ear and keen observational skills, variously featuring an office temp with a top-secret assignment, a first-day workman on a bridge crew who witnesses a suicide, and the exiled dictator of a Latin American country"—Sue Russell, Library Journal

"Veteran short-fiction journeyman Orozco makes a long-overdue book debut with a rewarding collection infused with wonderfully wrought landscapes and telling glimpses of alienation. In the much anthologized title story, an omniscient tour guide takes a new hire around the cubicles, identifying the employee who is also a serial killer, several one-sided love interests, and the resident ghost of the office. The haunting 'Hunger Tales' comprised sketches of people who gorge, splurge on supermarket cookies, or, like a 600-pound Iraq War veteran, eat themselves into obesity, revealing the power of food to heal, connect, and hurt. In 'I Run Every Day,' a pathological long-distance runner deals with the hectoring of his fellow workers and the come-ons of the new secretary, who gets as close as anyone ever has and pays a price for it. Orozco displays considerable descriptive ability with an obsessive attention to banal details, spinning archetypes to complicate a cross-section of American society. The writer's gifts are particularly apparent in 'Somoza's Dream,' the tale of a South American dictator in exile and his assassin. This collection has been a long time coming, and it's been worth the wait."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt


Those are the offices and these are the cubicles. That’s my cubicle there, and this is your cubicle. This is your phone. Never answer your phone. Let the Voicemail System answer it. This is your Voicemail System Manual. There are no personal phone calls allowed. We do, however, allow for emergencies. If you must make an emergency phone call, ask your supervisor first. If you can’t find your supervisor, ask Phillip Spiers, who sits over there. He’ll check with Clarissa Nicks, who sits over there. If you make an emergency phone call without asking, you
Read the full excerpt


  • Daniel Orozco

  • Daniel Orozco’s stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The Best American Essays, and the Pushcart Prize anthology, as well as in publications such as Harper’s Magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story, McSweeney’s, Ecotone, and StoryQuarterly. He was awarded a 2006 NEA Fellowship in fiction, and was a finalist for a 2006 National Magazine Award in fiction. A former Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford, he teaches creative writing at the University of Idaho.

  • Daniel Orozco © Krysta Ficca
    Daniel Orozco