TIJUANA by Federico Campbell

TIJUANA

Stories on the Border
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 With a novella and four short stories, Campbell's fluid writing is translated into English here for the first time by Castillo (Romance Studies/Cornell), who also offers a good introductory essay about the culture of the Mexico-US border. Campbell plays his trump card first. The novella, ``Everything About Seals,'' is an imagistic portrait of a relationship that subtly mirrors questions of identity. A nameless narrator is obsessed with an American woman named Beverly, whom he first spotted on one of his ritual trips to the airport. They appear to have had a relationship at some point, but much of his observance of her has a menacing, stalking tone to it. The narrative is as fractured as the relationship itself. Even events like Beverly's abortion are slipped in sideways: ``I try to accept that there is no life before the first month,'' the narrator insists, after a vague description of Beverly sleeping in a room with ``alcohol- dampened sheets.'' The four stories, which have less weight than the layered and restless novella, present Tijuana in a clunkier way. ``Anticipating Incorporation,'' narrated by a man who had a troubled relationship with his mother, consists of several episodes involving her and several involving his military service. ``Tijuana Times'' is a brief ode to a childhood spent in Tijuana and particularly one group of boys who ``were really good at basketball, at fistfights, at kicking people around.'' Likewise, ``Los Brothers'' is the story of an enigmatic car trip that is full of information about the places visited but reveals little about the characters. ``Insurgentes Big Sur'' directly addresses a reader who has come from Tijuana to Mexico City to study but, rather than personalizing the story, the second-person voice makes it feel like a lecture. Campbell moves toward correcting Tijuana's Elvis-on-velvet reputation. But the stories, unlike the novella, don't cross beyond an obvious connection to setting and a timid exploration of the theme of the border.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-520-08946-4
Page count: 167pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994