This Week in Reading 10/31

Busy week this week. I put together the Words Apart Issue 5 Reading and Launch Party, which will be up on Youtube and Vimeo by the end of next month. If you haven’t read the issue yet, I’m very proud of it, and you should go over now and check it out. I also finished reading The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes.

The Old Gringo is a fictionalization of what happened to the great American writer Ambrose Bierce after he disappeared into Mexico during the Mexican revolution. Fuentes does so much so well. It’s a heady novel, but Fuentes keeps it fun and entertaining through his grotesque descriptions, at one point describing a character with a constant half erection and testicles like “hairy avocados.” I couldn’t read that and not laugh at the absurdity of it. He also mixes in movie tropes from Westerns, and that’s a lot of fun, even if you’ve seen the tropes before.

It’s a strange structure for a novel. Fuentes doesn’t follow a linear narrative, but rather overlaps images. They start out as being mentioned once, but then the images come back again and again, being stacked on top of other images that force the reader to reconsider what they mean. He does the same with his characters. They start as tropes, but as they repeat throughout the story and are put into different contexts, we’re allowed to see that they are so much more than the simple tropes they start as.

I really liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in writing. The way it plays with times and expands tropes into undiscovered territory is an incredible thing to see. I have heard that Fuentes, like his subject Ambrose Bierce, is a writer’s writer, so keep that in mind with my advice.

Next week, I’ll be reading Who Killed Palomino Molero by Mario Vargas Llosa, and I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro. I will definitely finish the former, and possibly the latter. I’m also still chipping away at Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg. I did 100 more pages in Bad Feminist this week, so I’m hopeful to finish it this week, but I likely won’t finish three books next week on top of classes.

And I almost forgot, Happy Halloween! I’ve got three articles up at Action Figure Fury celebrating the holiday. If you’ve got some free time, check them out!

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