Mexico



Photo of Mexico City by Matthew Tichenor used under a Creative Commons license.

Javier Marías, Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico (New Directions, 2010).
On a short break from filming in Acapulco, The King and a few of his entourage take his private plane for a night on the town in Mexico City, where they run into trouble with a host of “whitewashed gangsters.” The narrator of this short novella is Elvis’ narrator, a Spaniard. To be honest, there’s not a lot of Mexico here, but if you like Marías you will like this, and if you don’t you should.

Here is Marías’ site. Here are profiles of him in the Guardian, The New Yorker and The Nation. M.A. Orthofer says it’s a nicely rounded little thriller, as well as an amusing piece of Marías’ larger and often interconnected œuvre. Eli S. Evans calls it a distillation of Marías’ personal literary universe. 1streading calls it a gem of a story. Wythe Marschall describes it as a work of alternating gravid humor and steak-thick terror. Owen Roberts says Marías apparently is obsessed with Elvis. Charles R. Larson (Counterpunch) sees quite a flight of the imagination. ElvisNews.com calls it well researched. Rise calls it a bad bad book, in the wild west sense. Lincoln Michel calls it a dark and humorous tale.

Buy it at Half.com.

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Templo de Guadalupe
Photo of Chiapas by nielsvk used under a Creative Commons license.

Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory (Penguin, 2003).
Writing in Salon’s Literary Guide to the World, Ilan Stavans calls this novel

a tour de force about the elusive separation — or shall we say promiscuous relationship? — of church and state in Mexico. Set in the ’30s in the southern region of Chiapas, home today of Subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatistas, it tells the story of a drunken priest at the time of intense anti-Catholic sentiment in the country. Greene was a “failed” Catholic himself who contemplated and then abandoned the idea of a life in the priesthood, and his book is an invaluable snapshot of a little-known historical moment in Mexican history.

John Updike’s introduction says:

The Power and the Glory‘s nameless whisky priest blends seamlessly with his tropical, crooked, anticlerical Mexico. Roman Catholicism is intrinsic to the character and terrain both; Greene’s imaginative immersion in both is triumphant.

First published in 1940 as The Labyrinthine Ways. Stavans says it’s set in Chiapas, but many sources say that it is set in Tabasco, so I have categorized it under both.

Wikipedia has lengthy entries on Greene and the novel. Here is a shorter bio from the Guardian. Time‘s Richard Lacayo picks it as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923. Here are reviews from Steven Wu, lizzysiddal, Michelle, Jonathan Boyd, K., McKay McFadden, and mis_nomer. Kevin McGowin considers Greene’s career. Joel finds some of the book’s themes, motifs and symbols. Melody Yiu quotes Greene’s later observations about the novel within her larger collection of Greene pages. You might want to register so you can read Alan Cogan’s review, though I didn’t.

Buy it at Amazon.com.