MACHO CAMACHO'S BEAT by Luis Rafael Sanchez


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The beat of a song, a guaracha sung by Macho Camacho (it's called ""Life Is a Phenomenal Thing""), streams out from every radio in San Juan and acts as the string for this necklace-like novel--a jaunty, contemporary Puerto Rican book that jumps from one character to another on a single San Juan day. A fat-cat conservative legislator, Senator Vicente Reinosa (""Vince is a prince and his guts never wince,"" goes one of his innumerable inane campaign slogans), hears the song in his car as he waits in a traffic jam--which is the result, though the senator doesn't know it, of a bomb-blast set off by his own puerile, Ferrari-owning terrorist son, Benny. The senator's black mistress hears it as she waits patiently for him in the condo that he's bought for her. The senator's rich, snobbish, delicately nerved wife hears it coming from out in the street as she waits in her psychiatrist's waiting room. And the song drives them all substantially crazy, weaving together the sinuous contradictions of modern Puerto Rican life: false rich and real poor, Americans who aren't really Americans, lusts hidden with phony demeanors. Sanchez fragments all this into percussive, alliterative, stanza-like sections, full of knowing cultural and literary allusions. Sometimes reminiscent of Cabriera-lnfante's Three Trapped Tigers (though less outrageous) and another opportunity for a tour-de-force translation by el Magnifico, Gregory Rabassa--an attractive, small-scale entertainment with special socio-cultural interest.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1980
Publisher: Pantheon