Month: August, 2013

Octavio Paz – The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings



Do you have a passion for Mexico and Latino culture?  Are you interested in learning more about Mexican customs, traditions, characters, and concepts such as the fiesta, the pachuco, the Virgin de Guadalupe, and El Dia De Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead)?  Are you looking for insight into the psychology and poetry behind this amazingly rich culture?

More than 60 years after its initial publication in 1950, Octavio Paz’s The Labryinth of Solitude remains arguably the greatest overview of the soul and identity of Mexico ever written.  It’s language is incredibly rich and poetic, but always accessible.  Paz mixes ruminations on solitude and death with penetrating historical analysis, covering many of the events that have shaped Mexican history going back to the time of the Aztecs.

Long a staple of college courses on Latin American history, The Labyrinth of Solitude offers much for the lay reader as well.  It would be an excellent companion for any trip to Mexico.  Highly recommended.


Thomas McGuane – Ninety-two in the Shade


The popularity of recent film adaptations of Cormac McCarthy’s novel “No Country For Old Men” and Charles Portis’s “True Grit” have seen interest in these authors soar.  If you’ve become a fan of the hard-boiled, austere, at times jarringly intense style found in these novels, you’re sure to enjoy Thomas McGuane.   A recent Paris Review article on McGuane sums up his style nicely: “Thomas McGuane’s fiction projects a volatile, highly personalized mixture of power, vulnerability, and humor.”

Though a Midwesterner by birth, much of McGuane’s fiction is centered in the South.  He writes about marginal, morally ambiguous people with exceptional insight and a dry, wry sense humor – a trait his writing shares with both McCarthy and Portis.

“Ninety-two in the Shade” is perhaps his best-known novel; it was nominated for a National Book Award in 1973.   It was adapted into a feature film (relatively obscure, and excellent) starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates shortly after publication.  The book is set in Key West, Florida, and centers around Thomas Skelton.  The novel chronicles Skelton’s attempt to leave behind a life of drug addiction, return to his boyhood home in the Florida Keys, and to start life anew as a  flats guide, taking tourists out on his boat for fishing expeditions.  Skelton soon discovers that guiding in the Keys is a competitive business, and that some of his competitors don’t play very nicely.

Check out “Ninety-two in the Shade.”  And when the inevitable Coen Brothers adapation comes out, you can say you were there first.