A pleasingly quirky U.S. debut from Saldaña París, a young Mexican writer who now lives in Canada.
Rodrigo has the studied indifference of a Meursault, but he’s not really criminally inclined; sorting right from wrong would be too much work. He spends much of his time hanging out in his Mexico City apartment, which has, unusually, an empty lot next door on which, fittingly, nothing much happens. “My life is a repetition of one Saturday after another,” he says, in a “reign of inertia.” Rodrigo likes the unexamined and untroubled life, it seems, but things pick up, much to his chagrin, when he grudgingly takes a job and blunders his way into a marriage. Neither fits his lifestyle, which is doomed from the outset. “Living with Cecilia is self-inflicted torture,” he kvetches. “Her scorn for me grows with the weeks, festering like a tenacious parasite in the inches of mattress that separate us each night.” They wind up in his mother’s hometown, cousin to the ghostly plateau haunts of Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo, where an effusive Spaniard, a friend, perhaps more, of his mom’s, complicates his life with projects, even as Rodrigo wishes he could just be left alone to “sleep in late and walk in my underwear to the kitchen to drink—straight from the bottle—a swig of thick, repulsive milk.” The plot itself thickens, though not repulsively, as those projects widen to take in psychedelic cacti, astral projection, hypnosis, cultic doings, and expatriate hipsterdom: Rodrigo can barely keep up, and in the end, the simplicity of that empty lot beckons. The story is both critique and sendup of millennial slackerdom, and though it’s more character study than action-driven, what does happen is full of odd twists and surprises. Among the high points are Saldaña París’ exasperated but affectionate paeans to “the immense, beautiful city” that is Mexico’s capital.
Though a study of slothfulness and its discontents, a welcome book on which the author has clearly expended energy.