Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book 33, Puerto Rico: “Macho Camacho’s Beat” by Luis Rafael Sánchez

Back to some genuine World Literature now: this is one of those novels that that takes the tropes of European modernism and makes them groove (with shocking success) to a more equatorial, phantasmagorical beat.

Written stream-of-conscious style with internal rhyme after rhyme, block repetitions and neologisms and multiple points of view over a single day, by author Sánchez, alias Wico, all to the tune of a genuine musicial guaracha beat. Shame upon shame that they had to alter the original title: La Guaracha de Macho Camacho, which really condenses the rhythms of this wonderful book into a single utterance.

Even though the character of Macho Camacho never appears: he’s merely the author of the song that permeates the airwaves in the story, his rhythms infecting every other character from whose perspective we view life in the brokedown American semicolony of Puerto Rico; neurotic figures like the nymphomaniac megalomaniac Senator Vicente Reinosa (Vince is a prince and his ideas convince); his Donald Duck-tantrum wife Graciela Alcántara y López de Montefrío; their good-for-nothing Ferrari-sexual son Benny; the wise woman cooking tripe on her stove Doña Chon; and of course the idiot boy The Kid, normal at birth but something went wrong, who gets spat on and abused by the other kids, the symbol of Puerto Rico herself.

Once again, as in the case of so many texts in this series, I say: I want to write like this. (Or at the very least, translate like this. Gawd, Gregory Rabassa, how did you do it? Such an epic smoosh of Gabo and Joyce and Spike Lee, hey-prestoed from island dialect to Anglophone noise. Qué padre!)

Many thanks to the Puerto Rican poet Jorge Acevedo for recommending this book to me out of all the Puerto Rican books in the National Library: sorry that we don’t stock Luis Palés Matos’s Selected Poems/Poesía Selecta, which you similarly lauded.

View Around the World in 80 Books in a larger map

That’s it for the Greater Antilles, though: now we progress to the Lesser. Slower progress down the chain of islands.

Representative quote: “The sun like an onion will beg your pardon and do its best to give you a hard-on,” said the Mother: conclusively, going to the door, letting Macho Camacho’s guaracha take up residence in her waist, twisting and twisty, guarachose and triumphant in imaginary cabarets, surrounded by a focus of lights that made the imprecise lines of her vivid makeup precise, guarachose and triumphant and trapped by waves of applause: life is a phenomenal thing, giving the microphone to the MC.

Next book: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, (sort of) from the British Virgin Islands.


litsf said...

I was going to cheat and consider Puerto Rico as part of the US but now you make want to read this book. I have been to Puerto Rico and I loved it so maybe I should not cheat and I should pass by in my own literary trip too!

Ng Yi-Sheng said...

Yay! :) But be careful and don't include too many countries, or else you'll end up on an eternal journey, like me!