While Mexican literary critic Alejandro longs for Mercedes, his estranged and unfaithful wife, Bonnie, the daughter of Mercedes' lover, witnesses a murder, and Preston, an American industrialist, and his wife deal with an unscrupulous art dealer
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Preston Hollier, a wealthy American developer, has traduced two young rising-star Mexican intellectuals into doing his bidding under the guise of undertaking restoration and conservation of the Mayan pyramids and antiquities. Hollier means to loot everything, of course (``Ownership in Mexico is a frame of mind''), and has a network that includes a rotten American pre-Columbian art dealer; his wayward wife, Rita; various museum administrators and high government officials. The relative ease with which clerks bow to power is a theme here. But what comes over more strongly, annoyingly for the reader, is the postmodernist (and pass‚-seeming) stylistics. Abish--no surprise from the author of How German Is It (1980)--loves question-sentences so much that he constructs whole paragraphs made of them). There are fractured narrative, hard-bitten dialogue, banal and barren landscapes (``The corroded gas pumps in front had not seen service in years, despite the misleading sign: CHEVRON--SERVICE WITH A SMILE. Above the entrance, the sign in red, its first two letters missing, announced RAGE''), the high-culture milieux of restaurants and galleries. The atmospheric chill is glacial, stiffly enforced (at the cost of a reader's wondering why certain characters, such as a reclusive American novelist and his teenaged daughter, are even in the book in the first place). Everyone's a shard, a fragment of the generalized paranoia--but in the crazing, Abish shatters his novel as well, and you read uninvolved, from too far back, undisturbed (except, easily, by scenes of cruelty). Working with a basic Manichaean palette used before (and better) by William Gaddis, Robert Stone, and Evan Connell, Abish seems to struggle throughout to pull together what he aesthetically prefers to keep separate--and the strain shows. Intelligent but inert. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Abish's best-known work, How German Is It (which won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1980), was hailed for its complex portrait of modern German society--its slick, rational surfaces and aggressively antiseptic architecture built upon a terrain shifting with historical and pyschological doubt. In his first novel since then, Abish applies the same aesthetic to modern Mexico with equally beguiling if less momentous results ( How German Is It ended with a revolutionary, under hypnosis, raising his hand in a Seig Heil! salute). Alejandro is a Mexican literary critic, urbane and sophisticated; his estranged wife Mercedes, a translator, leaves him, ostensibly to teach in the U.S., but Alejandro believes she is actually having an affair with Jurud, a Jewish-American novelist in New York. Alejandro's crisis unfolds against a backdrop of art theft, political chicanery and pernicious intellectual gossip-mongering among the cultural elite of Mexico City. As with most of Abish's work, the dramatic qualities of the plot are mildly diverting, but what fascinates most is its dynamic: the overall narrative structure (representative of History?) is dependent upon individuals solemnly pursuing the satisfaction of their own needs (capitalism?). How this comes to resemble art and story--and how it eclipses the reality of historical forces--is underscored by the purposefully melodramatic ending.
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Book Description Knopf, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0679418679
Book Description Knopf, 1993. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110679418679