Along with everything else that is lacking in American urban newspapers, it is no surprise that coverage of literary culture is, uh, wrong headed. For example, at a time when papers were hemorrhaging circulation most of them chose to curtail their book coverage—so that the people who were most likely to actually read the papers were given one less reason to do so. Smart, eh?
And the papers that have continued to cover books, well I leave it to others to judge their usefulness. Although I must offer the comment that my quarrel with the New York Times and the like is rarely with their review choices as much as the books that are ignored. And, of course, review editors seem to be fixated on the same 10 or 15 titles, with an occasional token offbeat selection thrown in as a gesture to originality.
In this instance, I am vexed that James Carlos Blake’s new opus, Country of the Bad Wolfes Cinco Puntos Press) has, so far, garnered no review attention. Blake who has 8 or 9 fine novels under his belt, has a sure-handed grasp of 19th western US history and culture that is every bit as engaging and authentic as say, Cormac McCarthy and Guy Vanderhaeghe and Jim Harrison. Blake is a fine story teller whose prose enlivens the history and ambience of the frontier and the separate nation that is the US Mexican border.
His new novel begins in New England in 1828 as the twin sons of Irish pirate Roger Blake Wolfe who are soon enough orphaned and separated— make their way down to Mexico (though much of it will soon be Texas) . The real action begins in 1845 through the first imperialist baby steps of the US and the modernization of Mexico under Porfirio Díaz through the 1910 Revolution. Three generations of Wolfes, two sets of identical twins ,and a skillful and astute narrative of life in Mexico make this an enthralling tale that is also respectful of Mexican history and culture.
Currently reading The Obamas by Jodi Kantor (Little Brown)