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Rio de Janeiro: Carnival Under Fire Hardcover – August, 2004
The Amazon Book Review
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'Interweaving stories from his life with tales of Rio's colourful history, Castro paints a portrait of one of the most passionate cities on earth.' Express
About the Author
Ruy Castro is a writer and journalist whose books include two classics about Bossa Nova, a biography of the immortal footballer Garrincha and an encyclopaedia of Ipanema. He has also edited a compendium of 1,600 poisonous bons mots called Bad Humour and two novels for children. His book Bossa Nova: The Story of Brazilian Music that Seduced the World was published in the US in 2001.
Top customer reviews
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As a true lover of the city, I was amazed by Ruy Castro's profound and inspired view of Rio. He makes this book as interesting for someone just looking for a travel guide as for the most serious and passionate student of the city's soul.
Rio is more than just a beautiful accident of geography and history. This one place that, so stubbornly and yet, so rightfully calls itself "the wonderful city", like a being greater than its buildings, streets, beaches and mountains, is a major character of our lives.
This is no trivial book about Rio. Ruy Castro writes, in a good-humored and elegant style, a guide to the carioca soul: a fresh, original and colorful view of the city and the people that make it the best place to live in the world.
Seemingly influenced by the flaneur approach to writing on cities (though not adopting the majority of that form's conventions) and with the long memory that comes of living in and loving a city for his whole natural life, Castro gives plentiful insight into a genteel experience of the city. He tells how Rio rose over its first few centuries, and then fell into the same morose situation that afflicted so many metropolises through the Cold War years, a conflation of the effects of over-exposure that turned an exciting, exclusive experience like early Copacobana into the banality of over-exposure, and a structuralist approach to cities that sucked them of life. Alongside the allusions to many a scandalous encounter, there are nods to the less glamorous aspects of Rio's underbelly, but the favelas, the drugs trade and Brazil's notorious crimeworld are skipped over with only the scantest of mentions.
Despite the vivid picture he draws, for all the talk of hypnotic rhythms, the book never quite grips the reader or imparts the carnival spirit on which its first half is almost entirely focussed. It may be that that detachment is telling of a divorce that has taken place between the Rio of legend and the Rio as experienced by a man who has lived through the city's awkward middle years and is still trying to work out a place in a new age, but it results in a less engaging book than one might hope this city would inspire. As a quick read, Rio is worth a look, but its not quite the mesmerising experience readers may be looking for.