From Publishers Weekly
Novelist and memoirist Cohan takes on a travel magazine assignment to make "some trips around Mexico... see how the puzzle of old and new fit together [and] write about it." Traveling south from his San Miguel home, he passes through Vera Cruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas into the Yucatán. Readers familiar with the path may enjoy traveling with him; others will long for a minimal map, an organizing principle and some photographs. As Cohan drifts through Mexico, history (e.g., the founding of Tlacotalpan sometime between A.D. 900 and 1200) and contemporary events (e.g., the barricading of mountain roads by Zapatista insurgents) are revealed. Chats with taxistas
and shopkeepers, visits with friends and artists, remarks about his own work and casual references to the famous among Mexico's tourist, exile and expatriate population dot the pages (John Huston gets four pages). Cohan's description of the book as "the Mexican postcard I'm always writing home" is accurate; but postcards work best for readers who can fill in the blanks with their own sense of where the writer is coming from. Perhaps readers of Cohan's previous, well-received account (On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel
) will be able to do so. (May 2)
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Cohan updates and expands his portrait of life in Mexico from his previous books. This journey commences in San Miguel de Allende, where Cohan finds his beloved town overrun with overbearing Hollywood movie stars filming an action picture. Their intense hypertechnological activity overshadows the town's unique and vital culture, reflecting in its own way the continuing disruption of civilization by predatory northern neighbors. In further contrast to what he witnesses in San Miguel, Cohan encounters native Mexican filmmakers intent on recording genuine Mexican culture, not simply using the land as a stage set. He also demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the long history of Hollywood filmmaking in Mexico. As Cohan travels from Guanajuato to Mexico City, to Oaxaca, and to the Yucatan, the sights and the people he encounters reflect intractable problems left over from repeated disastrous collisions with first Spanish and then U.S. forces. Cohan accurately and vividly describes the riotous extremes of politics, of geography, of wealth, of smells, and of colors that make up today's Mexico. Mark KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved