January 4, 2011
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.
July 30, 2009
Photo by *alfoto used under a Creative Commons license.
Javier Marías, The Man of Feeling (Vintage, 2005).
The narrator of this short novel is an opera singer, a tenor, a native of Madrid, who recounts his dream of the events four years earlier, upon his return to the city to perform. He encounters an odd trio: a Belgian banker, his Spanish wife, herself a native of Madrid, and their paid companion, Dato, and each of the four is a tragic, lonely figure. To describe much of the plot risks evoking melodrama, but Marías, himself a native of Madrid, is too strong and interesting a writer for that. Published in Spain in 1986 as El hombre sentimental, and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
Google BookSearch gives a preview, and here is another long excerpt. Here is the author’s site, and here is Wikipedia’s page about him. Aida Edemariam (The Guardian) profiles Marías. So do Wyatt Mason (The New Yorker), Christina Patterson (The Independent) and Ilan Stavans (The Nation). The Complete Review calls it an impressive little work, and provides some excellent links. Penny Hueston (The Age) says Marías has the gift of making what could seem like a banal albeit tragic love triangle read as a gripping tale of the heart. Matthew Kirkpatrick (Bookslut) says this quiet book is remarkable and surprising. Josh Lacey (The Guardian) sees a novel of unusual beauty, insight and imaginative power. Lawrence Venuti (The New York Times Book Review) says Marías is preoccupied with the erotic imagination. Zoe Green (The Observer) calls it a book of contradictions, an unusual mixture of the melancholy with the comic; of tender description with pitiless detail; of lightheaded dreamscape with squalid reality. Steven G. Kellman (Review of Contemporary Fiction) calls it perverse and powerful. Joy Press (Village Voice) says it has a gothic heart. The Washington Times‘ reviewer calls it breathtaking. Craig Morgan Teicher gobbled it. Essan Dragone sees loves of selfishness. Vendela Vida nominates Marías to be literary ambassador from Spain, but says that this is not one of his best books. Lawrence Venuti considers the translation. This blog is dedicated to Marias. Paul Ingendaay interviewed him for Bombsite in 2000.
Buy it at Amazon.com.