Darkly comic and highly entertaining, Javier Valdes's stories insinuate themselves in the unsuspecting reader like a heady brew with a strange kick. From the exploits of an urban vigilante to the erotic pleasures exacted from an unrequited love, from a menacing treasure to a family that brings a whole new twist to the meaning of neighbors, People Like Us is seasoned with irreverent takes on Valdes's favorite writers and directors -- such as Stephen King and Martin Scorsese -- as he delivers a unique array of fascinating and hapless urban creatures.
This book is in Spanish Text.
Mexican dentist-turned-author Valdes makes his English-language debut with six unremarkable forays into horror, erotic thriller and ghost tale. Vices are the true agents here, forcing themselves to the surfaces of the roughly drawn characters they inhabit. In the title story, a couple on a working weekend in the mountains discover a macabre cache of goods in their rented house; their greed sours the relationship. Lust drives the corruption of the Lotzano family in "Neighbors," and in "Flidia," a woman falls in love with her kidnapper because he pleases her as no man has done before. Delight in pure violence drives "Beat Me to Death," as protagonist Mateo illustrates the length to which one might go to feel alive. Valdes is interested in the changeability of the human psyche, but it is difficult to suspend belief as individuals shift from good (respectful, abstaining) to bad (raucous, addled) from one page to the next, and men repeatedly go weak-kneed before firm-breasted beauties. Forced ironic endings further undermine the proceedings. (June)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 04, 2006
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Excerpt from Gente Como Nosotros by Javier Valdes
Gold is cash and love is a worthless check.
Ana Laura and I decided to spend part of the winter in the mountains. After weighing all the possibilities, we were leaning toward renting a house. Although we wouldn't have the conveniences of a hotel, we wouldn't have the inconveniences either, and it would cost about a third as much.
Besides, we would have the peace and quiet we both needed to be able to work. Ana Laura had to correct six texts that her editor was to publish in February and I had to finish more than twelve stories, which I had started some time ago and which would serve to pay a good portion of my not-unsubstantial debts.
So that's what we ended up doing. We loaded my tiny car with food and equipment for our pending work and then set off for our temporary paradise on earth.
The route to the mountains was rife with splendid aromas and scenes. The birds were singing as if it were the last day of their lives, and the painting that nature was unfolding impressed us beyond measure.
We stopped at a scenic overlook along the highway to better appreciate the countryside.
Although many of the trees were leafless, others still glowed a stunning dark green. The ground was carpeted with leaves, forming a mosaic in several shades of brown. In the distance, the tallest peaks were enveloped in snow and clouds that seemed to kiss them.
The air was cold, but pleasant.
We smoked a cigarette in silence as we contemplated the landscape.
"Which way is the house?" asked Ana Laura.
I thought a moment and then pointed to a spot between two low mountains. "Over there," I replied.
Her gaze followed my finger to the horizon.
"Okay then, let's go. This is beautiful, but I wouldn't want to spend the night here."
We got back in the Volkswagen, which soon began to show signs of fatigue as we started the steepest part of the ascent, but German technology ultimately prevailed and the small car successfully scaled the slopes.
We finally arrived at the house around six o'clock, and by then it was much colder.
The house was a real icebox and felt even colder than outside, but the fireplace was stacked with dry wood and it didn't take us long to get a good fire going.
We huddled in front of the flames until our bones warmed up again. Then we made several trips to the car to get our bags, Ana Laura's laptop, and my word processor.
Once this was done, we set about inspecting the house.
It was a small structure, fairly old, but immaculately maintained. There was a pleasant living room, a dining room, a big kitchen -- which seemed overly large for the tiny house -- and a very cozy bedroom with another fireplace, which Ana Laura immediately lit.
We poured ourselves drinks and ate cheese and pate. After eating, we unpacked, stoked the fireplaces, and went to bed. The drive had been tiring, not just for the Volkswagen, but for us too, and the cold made us burrow under the heavy down comforter.
The next day we each began our respective work. The mountain air made me feel wonderful and I finished a story that I'd been stuck on for six months. Ana Laura, on the other hand, worked for a few hours and then started poking around the house. By five o'clock she had already drunk more than half a bottle of vodka. At eight I had to carry her to bed, because she had fallen asleep in front of the fire.
Several days passed in similar fashion. Since she wasn't drunk all the time, Ana Laura soon realized that it had been a mistake for us to cloister ourselves in such a remote part of the world. The poor woman couldn't work and went out for long walks in the forest. She took the car to town several times to buy groceries -- and vodka. Meanwhile, I quickly finished one story after another. I felt like a freshly uncorked bottle of sparkling wine, and sentence after sentence bubbled out with an ease I had never known before.
Ana Laura's laptop remained solitary and inactive, as if it were nothing more than a prop.
I knew very well that Ana Laura was dying to go back to the city or someplace more lively, but she didn't say a word. She wore her boredom stoically.
One afternoon, at the height of her boredom, she discovered a door to the attic. It had been sealed, but no seal can withstand feminine curiosity, and Ana Laura launched an exploration of the space, with the aid of a flashlight she brought in from the car.
At dinnertime she showed me something interesting that she had found earlier that afternoon. It was an old notebook with drawings of the house we were occupying, and it showed in precise sequence how it had been built, from the empty lot to the completed structure. There were details on the foundation, the construction of the walls, even the roof.