Magazine article World Literature Today

The Mexican Flyboy

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Mexican Flyboy

Article excerpt

Alfredo Véa. The Mexican Flyboy. Norman, Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press. 2016. 338 pages.

The Mexican Flyboy reads like a surrealist dream: it is a fairy tale for adults, a novel where clairvoyant superheroes (Mandrake the Magician) and historical figures (Joan of Arc, Jesse Washington, and Ethel Rosenberg, among others) are brought to life by an incantatory language that animates and reenacts a history of unparalleled horrors, unrelenting fanaticism, and crowd complicity.

The lead character is Simon Vegas, a university professor and Vietnam veteran who takes wing on his Antikythera device to each place and moment of execution of persons falsely or maliciously accused in the past, gently transporting the suffering and maimed to a retirement resort in Boca Raton, Florida. A vast mural with satire and irony as the dominant palette, The Mexican Flyboy sketches the life of a skydiver by the name of Sophia Hanlon and reiterates the traumatic memories of her free-falling death in a California vineyard that haunt Simon Vegas most of his life. From this incident, the novel unfolds into a collage of interrelated stories: a bildungsroman, a war narrative, the detailed record of the gestation and birth of a baby girl, and a critique of the mob behavior of peoples, from ancient times to recent US history.

In Alfredo Véa's previous novels, language is vigorously raised beyond the story level, with an emphasis on style, ingenious storytelling (in the tradition of Don Quixote), and on details pertaining to the novel's organic form. In The Mexican Flyboy, the verbal craftreaches a higher spiraling point with passages suggestive of poetic ambiguity ("Slip a modest flurry into a swelling bodice of billowing curtains, and men will see angels"). In the narrative, an expressiveness of a higher order engages the perplexed reader in a play of mixed genres-novel, poetry, essay, autobiography-that ambitiously expand the limits of representation. …

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