This second collection (Burnt Water, 1980) of five long stories from Fuentes (Christopher Unborn, The Old Gringo, etc.) is full of sound, fury, and various linguistic innovations, as well as a sustained meditation on the relationship between art and life. Although Fuentes is best in his novels, where he has a broader canvas, there is much spirited satire here, along with some tedium. The best is "Reasonable People": a group of students meets every month for lunch, often with their mentor, an architect with aeautiful daughter. They all love the daughter, who plans to marry a politician, and are much taken with the architect's interest in "a sacred center, a point of orientation." In Mexico, "the problem is whether or not to believe in the sacred." Many words are spilt on these matters, and part two, the payoff, is a compelling fable on the nature of miracles and faith. "Constancia," a meditation on exile, is about a doctor who lives in Savannah with Constancia, near a Russian actor who is close to death: thinking about "old age as a series of renunciations of what we loved when we were young," the narrator investigates his wife's history after she recovers from an illness and discovers that, in fact, she is not the exile he has imagined, but a woman from whose real life he has been mostly excluded. "The Prisoner of Las Lomas" is a long, busy tale, a postmodern O. Henry story; "Viva Mi Fama" begins with a man leaving his wife in Madrid and quickly becomes phantasmagoric, ending with an apocalyptic finish that includes Goya; and "La Desdichada" is a spirited satire about two students who bring home a mannequin and fall in love with it. Fuentes' fans may appreciate his wire-walking here, while others will be reminded of better things he's done.