THE UNDERSIDE OF STONES: A Story Cycle by George Szanto


Email this review


Quasi-mystical stories from the author of Not Working (1982), all built around a gringo writer's encounter with rural Mexican inhabitants of Michoácuaro. Studded with travel-guide Mexicana--tequila, scorpians, machismo--the stories furnish scant insight into the community beyond a stale platitude that its citizens are a quaint, superstitious bunch who tell a lot of stories. Mainly the narrator sits around listening to these tales (a more promising prospect, it seems, than staring idly at his own typewriter), remarking at one point: ""It was all becoming, improbably, a story I might want to write one day."" Meanwhile, MoisÉs de Jesús, an ingratiating sidewalk sweeper who mysteriously continues his duties even after death, tells of a statue inhabited by spirits; Nisi Calderón astutely foresees his own death and awaits it patiently from his bed; and many myths collect around the sexually potent Alj Cran, reputed to have sprouted a scorpion-like tail. Amidst all this symbolism, Szanto's attempts at surrealism become strained, particularly in his account of Dolores, a two-headed woman whose two selves, Dolly and Doris, compete for a single lover. Better is his portrait of the town's sullen police chief RubÉn Reyes Ponce, who steers the narrator through local customs while the two share gallons of booze. Throughout it all, Szanto somehow allows the Mexicans to speak in broken phrases when it is the narrator who supposedly has difficulties communicating. A hackneyed Under the Volcano wannabe.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1990
Publisher: Harper & Row