New Carlos Fuentes Novel, Destiny and Desire, Reviewed at New York Magazine

New York Magazine has a review Destiny and Desire (La Voluntad y la Fortuna), which unfortunately is more about him than the book. It starts off alright but goes into all his controversies (not a bad thing if you don’t know about them). However, I mention the review because it shows, albeit briefly, where Fuentes is and why I think he is one of those writers who should have stopped writing or at least with less frequency.

The emos who hang out in Mexico City’s Insurgentes Circle, distant relations of our own kohl-eyed musical mopes, face constant harassment from corrupt police and local punks. Some of them have also been forced to contend with the intrusive questions of a handsome, weathered, impeccably dressed gentleman of 82 who occasionally likes to listen, uncomprehending, to their lingo. “They invent language all the time,” says Carlos Fuentes, Mexico’s most prominent author, who still spends hours wandering the vast plazas and narrow alleys of his country’s capital. “It’s a language I, at times, cannot understand.”

Destiny and Desire is the 24th novel by Fuentes, one of the architects of the sixties’ “Latin American Boom” in literature (along with friends “Gabo” García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, and 2010 Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa). The novel is a tracking shot of modern Mexico City as seen through the eyes of two ambitious frenemies, Josué and Jericó (Cain and Abel is the working archetype), caught in the swirl of dirty politics, narco-trafficking, and a burgeoning telecommunications monopoly. Its more surreal touches—potent symbolism, magic, long polemics, and disorienting leaps in time—bring to mind the best of Latin Boomer lit, including Fuentes’s own classic, The Death of Artemio Cruz, published in English in 1964. It also showcases Fuentes’s need to stay current in his ninth decade—as in the incongruous phrase “Hug it out, bitch,” which telegraphs Jericó’s mysterious international activities.

You can thank the author’s wife, Mexican journalist Silvia Lemus, for the disconcerting (though perfectly logical) Entourage reference; Fuentes has never seen the show. “That’s what my wife is here for,” he says. “She keeps me up on popular culture. I’m a telephone and fax man.” The only American TV he follows, avidly, is Mad Men. “It’s quite fascinating … the American version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.” His favorite character is Bert Cooper, “the boss who doesn’t wear shoes. He’s the only likable guy. The others are horrifying.”

 

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