Absurd and comic but with a bitter edge, this novel takes a unique and refreshing approach to the darker aspects of Mexico’s...
The reconquest is on, and it’s being led by an old man and a clutch of high school students.
Shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize, this is Toscana’s fourth novel to be translated into English (The Last Reader, 2004, etc.). Ignacio Matus is sick and tired of the United States of America. As a public school history teacher in Monterrey, Mexico, Matus spends most of his class railing against the cruel injustices and depravities of Mexico’s neighbor to the north. But his gripes aren’t just political, they’re Olympic. Matus is convinced that he is the rightful winner of the 1924 Olympic bronze medal for the marathon and not the American who walked away with the prize—this is despite the fact that Matus wasn’t an official competitor and staged his own parallel race through the streets of Monterrey. When Matus is fired from the school for one rant too many, he decides it’s time to conquer the beast. But his call for an invading army is only answered by a few friends and a handful of students. Calling themselves los iluminados (“the enlightened ones”), the dreamers march north with visions of glory and history in their heads. When los iluminados cross the Rio Grande (in only a few steps) and quickly conquer the Alamo (a two-story house), the stage is set for a showdown between the forces of good and evil. If they’re actually in the United States. The novel jumps back and forth between Matus’ ramshackle adventures, his old age, when he attempts one more marathon, and a post-mortem exploration of his legacy, or at least an attempt to find anyone who really remembers him. Like the novel itself, Matus is both compelling and absurd. The novel is funny in a cringe-inducing way and has an undercurrent of sadness and tragedy we can’t look away from. We read almost with our hands over our eyes, anxious for the safety of these dreamers too innocent to fear their own naiveté. Toscana’s postmodern satire explores the darker side of Mexico’s impression of the United States and Mexico’s own place “toward the bottom where the crumbs are handed out.” The jokes are obvious, but the message is subtle and deft.Absurd and comic but with a bitter edge, this novel takes a unique and refreshing approach to the darker aspects of Mexico’s relationship to the United States.
Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2019
Page Count: 232
Publisher: Univ. of Texas
Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Pub Date: March 10, 2015
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.
"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
Pub Date: June 15, 1951
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
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