Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: "The Old Gringo" by Carlos Fuentes

The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes is a cool little novel for anyone interested in this recently deceased giant of Latin American literature. It has a cool premise dealing with a literary mystery that has captivated audiences and the American psyche for a century, and the writing is top notch, so much so that I am surprised Fuentes did not win the Nobel during his lifetime. This book still has a few issues though. The way it sets up its timeline is very confusing, leaving little direction or clues as to when events are taking place, and whether they are out of order or actually in order and it is just being vague about it. Some may like it enough to go with the flow, but when dealing with separate time lines and things of that nature, I would like a little direction, especially with a premise that I am all but eager to give myself over to completely. The novel focuses on the journey of the unnamed “old gringo” of the title, who is modeled after the writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared without a trace as to what happened to him. In this fictional account he does actually join the Mexican Revolution and join the ranks of Pancho Villa’s army, lead by General Arroyo, a cocky man who has a thirst for blood. With the General, the gringo overtake a homestead, forcing everyone out except the school teacher, Harriet Winslow (really her name, don’t laugh), who begins a relationship with these two different men, with tragic results. Like I said before, the writing here is really good, getting to the heart of the story’s hidden meanings about death’s inevitability and the ways good intentions can be squandered by jealousy. I just wish that it was a little more clear at points, with the appearance of the actual Pancho Villa being the books narrative highlight, when I wanted much more. Still, this is a book you should check out. It’s relatively short and filled with many rich paragraphs.
Rating: 4/5

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