A wry, sardonic romp made even more vibrant by its various satires and absurdities.

I'LL SELL YOU A DOG

A novel of retirement, regret, and revolution in Mexico City.

Teo, short for Teodoro, which may or may not be his real name, lives in an old, broken-down building where the cockroaches run rampant. Teo is approaching 80. Every day he drinks. He drinks either in the bar on the corner; with the greengrocer, Juliet, whom he calls Juliette; or in his room, with a Mormon missionary named Willem (whom he calls Villem) or with a young revolutionary named Mao, who may not be a revolutionary and may not be named Mao. Teo either keeps track of his drinks, or he loses count. “Maybe if you didn’t drink so much…” is a refrain he hears often. Teo had a long career as a taco seller in Mexico City, but before that he was an aspiring artist. Then he gave up his ambition to support his mother, who’d been abandoned by his father and began taking in stray dogs, to whom she bestowed names like Market and Eighty-Three, for the place and the year, respectively, she found them. Now Teo carries around a copy of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, from which he reads passages to telemarketers and anyone else who annoys him. He carries on an ever escalating battle with the “literary salon” that meets on the first floor of his building. When the salon kidnaps Teo’s Aesthetic Theory, he takes revenge on their bulky copies of In Search of Lost Time. Throughout this lark of a novel, there are many appearances by dogs, some of whom die, ignominiously, by strangling, some of whom are sold, illegally, as taco meat, and some of whom roam the streets in lonely, mangy packs. This is the third novel by Villalobos (Quesadillas, 2014, etc.), and it should help establish his reputation as a maniacally witty writer of satire and absurdity. He takes on Mexican history, literary theory, and the just-scraping-by lives of the 99 percent, all while telling a damn good story. He has a novelist’s eye for detail, a painter’s for image, and a poet’s for turn of phrase. Remember those cockroaches? They “take advantage” of the building’s elevator to ride “downstairs to visit their associates.”

A wry, sardonic romp made even more vibrant by its various satires and absurdities.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-9082-7674-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: & Other Stories

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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