Previewing the 2006 Texas Book Festival
Mexico in Mind: An Anthology
edited by Maria Finn
Vintage, 256 pp., $14 (paper)
Described as a "literary travel guide," Mexico in Mind assembles writings from 31 poets, essayists, and fiction writers covering nearly every corner of Mexico. What is distinctive about this anthology is that it includes work written from 1843 to the present. This long view not only looks at Mexico over time but also shows how views of Mexico change among generations of writers.
The book is divided into six sections: Love in Mexico; Sights, Sounds, and Tastes; Revolutionary Encounters; Down and Out in Mexico; Icons and Identity; and Ritual and Myth. No one section is stronger than the other, but each features at least one distinctive work. Ray Bradbury's short story "Calling Mexico" (1950) in the opening section brilliantly captures experiencing Mexico City for the first time, a sensation a dying man wishes to recapture in his final hours. D.H. Lawrence's "Mornings in Mexico" (1927) and food writer Diana Kennedy's "My Mexico" (1998) are sensorial delights. Finn includes a particularly dry section from journalist John Reed's Insurgent Mexico (1914), though the piece springs to life once Reed recounts a conversation between Pancho Villa and his wife. The Icons and Identity section features four works from several high-profile Mexican-American and Chicano writers: Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, Rubén Martinez, and Richard Rodriguez. Though Rodriguez is the writer Chicano intellectuals love to hate, he is nonetheless a superb one. Unfortunately, the selection (from 1992's Days of Obligation) is a weak representation of his work. Jack Kerouac, Alice Adams, Langston Hughes, Salman Rushdie, and Tennessee Williams are among the other featured writers.
As Finn writes in her introduction, Mexico is an "enormous, complex place" that no one can hope to know in a lifetime "let alone convey in one volume." She's right. Still, Mexico in Mind is a swift and enjoyable read. And if readers are introduced to a writer formerly unknown to them and wish to discover more of their work on their own, all the better. Mexico in Mind is the ninth in the In Mind series and the second edited by Finn (who also edited Cuba).
Saturday, Oct. 28, 2pm
Todo Sobre México: Impresiónes Literarios
Patricia Quintana, Maria Finn, C.M. Mayo; Moderator: Ricardo Ainslie (in Spanish)
Sunday, Oct. 29, 12:30pm
Literary Impressions of a Distant Neighbor
Jeff Biggers, Maria Finn, C.M. Mayo; Moderator: Katherine Oldmixon