Brazilian Torres' second novel in English (The Land, 1986) strings together an account, personal and political, of the eternal conflict between the Northeast ""Backlands"" and the urban South, especially Sao Paulo. The novel, composed of a collage of materials (poems, songs, tall tales, fantasies, etc.), is ultimately too muddy, however, to be very memorable. Part of the problem is an alcoholic narrator, an insomniac, and his modified stream-of-consciousness narration that, when it settles down, is overly casual and anecdotal. He is fired from his office job for reading (especially The Great Gatsby) during office hours and stares at his wall, where pictures and memories, odd bits of news and hallucinations appear, all usually mishmashed together into a sort of history: ""When I was twenty, they stuffed a dictatorship down my throat. Now I've reached maturity I have to carry the weight of my exhaustion."" Most notable are hallucinations of ""the most beautiful procession of little blue coffins,"" as well as images of tanks connected to a 1964 coup; and a long, rambling saga about Calunga, his older cousin, who is forced back to his native town to die after a long career as student, marksman, reporter, war hero, drank, and so forth: ""The Communists are to blame."" Though the narrator fails to attend Calunga's funeral after his decline, he provides a bio of their misadventures together (gonorrhea, lots of drinking, a satire of trendy types at a panel discussion, adventures in the military), along with details of rural life, conversations with his mother, and an account of a brief love affair. Torres is clearly a trustworthy guide to Brazil--but his sad, lyrical ode, while representative, doesn't pull together and sing.