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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good description of �la vida mexicana�.
All in all, "On Mexican Time" is a pretty good read if you want to find out a little about living in Mexico and the people (both natives and imports) that you will encounter there.
In their fifteen years in San Miguel de Allende Tony and Masako gain a pretty good appreciation for the Mexican way of life. I'm not saying they adopted that way of life because, from...
Published on August 16, 2000 by T. J. Mathews

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Wanted to Love This Book....
I have travelled to Mexico three times, though not to San Miguel de Allende. I was truly excited by the prospect of reading this book as I have an ongoing fascination with Mexico and its culture. Unfortunately, Cohan's self-indulgent whining and tedious, repetitive prose style present themselves as tangible obstacles. I did, however, enjoy some of his vivid descriptions...
Published on January 22, 2001 by Sean Roberts


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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good description of �la vida mexicana�., August 16, 2000
By 
T. J. Mathews (Livermore, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
All in all, "On Mexican Time" is a pretty good read if you want to find out a little about living in Mexico and the people (both natives and imports) that you will encounter there.
In their fifteen years in San Miguel de Allende Tony and Masako gain a pretty good appreciation for the Mexican way of life. I'm not saying they adopted that way of life because, from beginning to end, they both remained very much norteamericanos (Spanish PC for gringo). I, too, have lived in Mexico and I believe that those of us born north of the border will never fully understand all the elements that make up the Mexican psyche, and visa versa. Who we are, as a culture, is a concatenation of centuries of historical, theological and sociological factors. It is unlikely that any of us can fully understand why another culture acts the way it does.
Nevertheless, Cohan aptly portrays the `sabor' of `la vida mexicana'. His descriptions of the joys and sorrows of the Mexican nationals and the quirky behavior of the expatriates bring clearly to mind many people I have known. While I haven't been to San Miguel de Allende his description of the city; its streets, shops, festivals and homes, is a very accurate portrayal of many other cities in Mexico.
On the down side, he could have done with a lot less about all their shopping. If I read the words `plaid bolsa' one more time it will be too many. While some description of the differences between our two cultures is in order, I feel like I've just read his entire grocery list for the past 15 years.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best book I have read in years, January 30, 2000
By 
Back in the mid 1980s, about the time Tony Cohan and his wife discovered San Miguel de Allende, my wife and I spent six weeks driving through Mexico, becoming enthralled with this land and it's cultures. Since then we have often thought of uprooting and heading south of the border.
Our trip didn't take us to San Miguel, though we spent lot of time in nearby Guanajuato and Queretero and other cities of the central highlands. It has never been hard for me to summon an imaginary San Miguel. So when I saw this book I snatched it up. The cover art looks like so many of my photographs from Mexico...
...And I was sucked into Tony Cohan's fabulous writing. I finished the book in three evenings, while nonetheless feeling as though I were languishing in the "sabor" of every paragraph. Cohan's book is not an artsy-fartsy travelogue about San Miguel de Allende. It is a wonderful journal of a life he and his wife have undertaken together.
While there is little doubt that the sounds, smells, flavors of classic Mexico richly permeate every page of this book, it is true, too, that the book could have been about a small town in Piedmont Virginia, or the south of France, or anywhere that the frantic and grasping and ultra-"productive" life has not yet conquered all.
This book is truly inspriring, and beautifully written. It is just what I needed to remind me to pay attention to life all around me, to love and sensation and contemplation and cockroaches and scorpions and dying vines...
Thanks, Mr. Cohan, for letting us into your sojourn. Don't worry...I won't run to St.Miguel and accelerate the gentrification. Instead, I'll look around my home and my yard and my neighbohood and be greatful for my own San Miguel...and for your fine book.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The good and bad, February 18, 2000
By A Customer
Having lived and worked in a town near San Miguel de Allende I enjoyed this book. It brought back lots of memories of the area and people. Being able to picture every city, street, and building that Cohan mentioned, since I have seen them all, helped to create wonderful imagery for me. I do think it is important to point out that San Miguel is really a tourist town. There are lost ex-pats living there and everyone speaks english and many times prefer english to espanol. Rich Texans take weekend vacations there and only the wealthy Mexicans can afford to visit a place so important in their history. (Many of my Mexican friends call it Saint Michael - because of all the Americans). In a way it is sad that Tony Cohan's book is good, because I think more people will visit San Miguel de Allende and the historic little mountain town will lose its magic. But at the same time the economy of San Miguel de Allende deeply depends on las turistas. I guess it's a Catch 22. Enjoy the book!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Wanted to Love This Book...., January 22, 2001
By 
Sean Roberts (Kingston, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
I have travelled to Mexico three times, though not to San Miguel de Allende. I was truly excited by the prospect of reading this book as I have an ongoing fascination with Mexico and its culture. Unfortunately, Cohan's self-indulgent whining and tedious, repetitive prose style present themselves as tangible obstacles. I did, however, enjoy some of his vivid descriptions and the few glimpses of this town he provides that aren't obscured by his egotistical point of view.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, August 24, 2000
By A Customer
Being a regular visitor to San Miguel I was delighted to see that it was the subject of a new book. I found it entertaining and generally consistent with my impression of the town and the kind of people an expatriate or traveler would meet there. The real joy of the town to me is in its eccentricities and beauty, and both of these were captured. Unlike some other reviewers I don't think it should be interpreted as a critique of Mexico and Mexicans but rather a loving memoir of someone who established a lifestyle in a wonderfully different culture.
By the way, Tony Cohan and his wife Misako collaborated on another book, Mexicolor, which is a beautiful photographic study of Mexican design and folk art. Many of the pictures are from San Miguel.
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56 of 69 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars falling in love with the mirror, April 21, 2000
By A Customer
This book is quite a feat. In it, Mr. Cohan demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of almost every important aspect of Mexican culture: the language, the Mexican people, and Catholicism. One would at least expect his editor to correct his misuse of Spanish (for example, the type of traditional Mexican song is a "corrido," not "corrida," which is actually a different word). At times, his description (which is annoyingly self-congratulatory) of his "immersion" in Mexican culture is laughable. For example, during his first week, he proudly informs us that he has stopped shaving and now wears huaraches instead of shoes (even though his feet are bleeding). Wow! He's in sooo deep. The reader should be suspicious of how Mr. Cohan was able to fall in love with Mexico while speaking virtually no Spanish. As somebody who is fluent in Spanish, has travelled extensively in Mexico, and has a number of Mexican friends, I can assure you that it is impossible to have any authentic understanding of Mexico and Mexicans without a command of Spanish. One must be able to interact extensively with the people and their culture, and that means conversations at an adult level (not baby talk in beginning Spanish), reading local newspapers, watching local television, listening to local radio, overhearing converstions on the bus, etc. Mr. Cohan simply fell in love with his own projected, idealized notion of what he thinks Mexico is. It never dawns on Mr. Cohan that he has brought with him to Mexico the shallow, narcissistic consumerism from which he thinks he has escaped. It is not coincidental that much of Mr. Cohan's and his wife's early activity in Mexico consists of shopping. In an early passage of the book, he bursts with enthusiasm about his wife's having bought a blouse "literally of the back" of a humble local woman. It is also important to point out that San Miguel is a very touristy town with a large number of gringos who have helped turn it into more of a boutique than a typical Mexican town. This book is totally false, light-weight and dilettantish, and could be taken seriously only by someone who knows nothing about Mexico.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Read it Only if You Must, November 15, 2004
By 
Intelligent Reader (PAGOSA SPRINGS, CO USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel (Paperback)
If you love Mexico, as I do, or are moving down there, as I am, then, sure, read this book. But if you are after some good travel writing, look elsewhere. The author tries SO HARD to sound flowery, impressive, artsy and cultured that I frankly found it disgusting. He was always trying to impress the reader with his words rather than just tell his story. One example: "Out here on the Mexican road, I have veered into the realm of casual anarchy, where the instruments of recourse may be worse than the problem that occasioned them." Huh? Another example: "The scene is Fellini, Jacques Tati--or Luis Bunuel." If that describes a scene well for you, then maybe this book is for you! Personally, I found his prose very irritating.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Annoying, Sometimes Touching..., June 19, 2000
You know how these expatriate memoirs go, but to summarize:
Travel writer Tony Cohan and his artist wife have this feeling of uneasiness in the 3:00 AM of their souls that (as far as I can tell) comes from living a life--why is it always in New York City of LA?--that doesn't involve worrying about how to pay the mortage, whether one's 10-year-old car will start, or having to get to work on time Monday morning no matter what.
And author Tony Cohan soon realizes that--outside of their sealed enviroments of residence, car, and clients' offices--the surrounding society seems to taken a chaotic cast, like something out of Bladerunner.
So, the two of them did what any other couple with a six-figure bank balance would do. They rambled down to the small town of San Miguel de Allende, tucked away away in the mountains of Mexico, where they gradually felt the feelings of malaise lifting.
Naturally, the two of them found themselves spending more and more time there. (They shuttle back and forth from LA like most of us catch a crosstown bus.)
They learned a little Spanish--make that damned little. They learned a little about the culture--make that damned little as well.
One day, in a rare and curious moment of passion, they pulled $85,000 out of the bank and bought a dilapidated house that they had rehabbed until it looked kinda like their place in LA, except with chalk walls and quaint neighbors outside.
Friends visit.
Friends depart.
Once in a while, other duties beckon--like when Cohan has to fly back to the US to meet with a publisher.
Life can be tough, you know? But you just push on through, you and your lifemate...
That's the ticket....
And the love between you deepens, just like the love you have for San Migule.
Fade out.
Roll the credits.
I think the problem with the book, what really annoys the hell out of readers and reviewers, is that they can't identify with the narcisstic twit lifestyle of Tony Cohan and his wife.
What are the stakes in the narrative, except to scratch a vague itch?
At times, when the stakes DO seem to rise beyond the pursuit of self, the reading gets interesting. Most often, it's when acquaintances get sick, or when they die. (That's bound to happen when you hang around for fifteen years in a small Meixcan town in which your friends are Americans at the outset are well into middle age or beyond.)
The scenes that resonated to me most were the ones where Cohan and his wife rehabbed an old house. A couple of years ago, I re-did a bodega that rented for $100 a month in the red-light district of a border town, where I was doing some documentary work. I had some of the same cross-cultural mishaps happen, except mine reached a more dramatic crescendo when I went to holler at some spectacularly inept locals who were patching the roof. In a snit, I ran through a sliding plate glass door that my then-wife had cleaned spotlessly and replaced back in its track only moments ago.
A bit more on the positive side: Cohan's prose is competent. So, this is an OK read on an airplane.
And I think that "On Mexican Time" can serve as a starting point for the neophyte who will eventually want to learn (much) more about Mexico.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars another yuppie house remodel, June 8, 2000
I echo the sentiments of previous readers--too much shopping, remodeling, and too many gringos. Cohan and his wife escape L.A. so they can duplicate their acquisitiveness by buying and furnishing a house in Mexico. This is essentially an account of a 15-year visit to a nice, middle-aged couple's lovely vacation home. Made me want to join the Zapatistas.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I almost moved, December 7, 2005
By 
Joshua D. Reitano (Cincinnati, OH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel (Paperback)
After reading Cohan, I was tempted to pack it in and move to the sleepy mountains of central Mexico. This is what Cohan and his wife did after decades battling the rat race of the American consumer lifestyle. Experiencing a mid-life crisis of sorts, Cohan (a novelist) and his wife (a painter) decided to forgo the conveniences of suburbia in favor of a different way of living. The simple life, they found, was elusive. That is until they took a risk, sold their home in the States, and moved to the 16th century hill town of San Miguel de Allende. On Mexican Time is Cohan's memoir of the move and his adjustment to life in Mexico. This book is worth reading if you are at all interested in Mexican culture, or simply in good writing. Readers beware: you may be tempted to move south of the border!
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On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel
On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel by Tony Cohan (Paperback - January 9, 2001)
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