THE OLD GENTS by Jose Yglesias


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 Yglesias's last novel, published by the same house that has recently issued the Break-In (p. 259) and a collection of the author's stories (see above). This gently droll valedictory is made up of the first-person musings of Germ†n Moran, an eightysomething novelist recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Moran, who has stopped writing except for daily jottings in a desk calendar, is trying to live out his remaining days with as much dignity as his three loving, prying sons--also writers--will allow him, when an encounter with an enchanting young neighbor suddenly convinces him that he must carry on for her sake. And so Moran finds himself competing romantically with his middle son and two of his neighbors for the attention of a woman 60 years his junior, while also searching for a miracle cure for his illness. Moran tells this story in the witty (if meandering) tone given him by Yglesias, warning the reader at the outset that ``if you stick with me, I shall stray.'' And stray he does, pausing to consider his roots in the Cuban-American section of Tampa, delivering several diatribes against the ex-wife he calls Fatso, and offering recollections of his old political struggles (the novel is particularly astute in its rendering of the lives and regrets of aging devotees of the '30s left). Eventually, though, the old man must face the reality of his situation, surrendering to age, if not to death, learning that even the miracle cure he has found won't stave off the inevitable forever. The final movement here feels severely truncated, as if death had crept up on the author before he had fully plotted the ending, but until those rushed last pages, this is a shrewdly written, bittersweet work. An unsatisfyingly abrupt ending can't dim the glow of the low-key pleasures to be had here.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-55885-161-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Arte Público
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996


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