Choppy postmodern backward glance at Hemingwayesque bullfighting ethos, recast as a macho conflict between artists in southern Mexico. First-novelist/Artist's Magazine columnist Innis can't help but feel sorry for Isaac Sherderval, a struggling Impressionist painter who, in 1970, takes a teaching gig at an American art school in southern Mexico in order to forget his failed marriage- -as well as his forgettable songwriting day job. But what begins as a quaint, American-in-paradox, fish-out-of-water tale in the scenic if sorry town of San Miguel de Allende soon becomes a mano a mano contest between Sherderval and Heinrich Guerber, a German-born pop artist who's achieved wealth and notoriety among the New York art crowd by painting over works by well-known French and American Impressionists. Guerber, who's making a triumphal return to his alma mater, tells Sherderval that he finds only cruelty and barbarity in bullfighting--whereupon Sherderval counters by praising it as a solemn, vital cultural ritual that resonates with his own artistic endeavors. The two agree to try the cape before inexperienced bulls at a nearby ranch, with the prize being Guerber's slender, model-beautiful girlfriend Memori. In a brilliantly executed scene, Guerber suffers an easy success but lacks the courage to go up against a formidable beast. And Sherderval embarrasses, then redeems himself, not through courage, but through a series of accidents that inadvertently express his romantic indifference to danger. Sherderval's fling with Memori and Innis's message--that artists need unequal portions of solitude, historical tradition, and appreciation--are forgotten when sore-losing Guerber falsely accuses Sherderval of harboring drugs. Sherderval flees with his windy artist friend Sturgeon Boswell, who prattles on about what is or isn't good for artists and saves Sherderval from a fate worse than marriage. Amusing, pretentiously anti-pretentious, portrait of the artist as an earnest schlemiel, leavened with an ironic, Hemingwayesque admiration of its south-of-the-border setting.