Compelling and complex . . . Strange and wonderful. The New York Times Book Review, in praise of McIlvoys previous fictionI am going to write about the state of New Mexico and put in some maps and stuff from the encyclopedia. My theme is the Don Juan Onate trail and the Jornada Del Muerto. But I might write some other important things which as it turns out my stepmother got angry about and said she wouldnt type this until my Dad said Dammit now it is history and told her maybe there werent commas in those days.The Complete History of New Mexico is no ordinary research paper, and this is no ordinary collection of short stories. Eleven-year-old Chums history unfolds over three distinctive and increasingly disturbing sections. He writes that Coronado explored around and found Santa Fe in 1610; that William Becknell was tracking wagons over everyplace in 1821; and that every day his best friend, Daniel, is afraid to go home.Kevin McIlvoy intersperses the title novella with equally distinctive stories set in New Mexico. Laura, a plain, overweight nurse, encounters a terrified young man on his way to the Vietnam War and takes matters into her own hands. Zach spends time with his white-trash relatives and finds loves terrible and true face. The Complete History of New Mexico is a stunningly original collection that will further McIlvoys growing reputation.
This bizarre, engaging collection by the author of the critically acclaimed novel Hyssop can be split into two distinct parts. Like a series of jazz riffs, a group of 12 (relatively) more conventional stories range widely but keep returning to similar themes. Recurring characters pop up regularly, as do references to blinding of one sort or another and vision problems in general. In "Smoke," Zack, a boy with a lazy eye, uses his exercises with a rubber ball to try to "see beyond"; in "Rafters," Zack visits his messed-up relatives and spends a traumatic, exhilarating day installing insulation; in "Permission," Zack's cousin Bud, a bartender at the U Dam Right, meets a bar magician who changes his life. Even odder than these stories, but more focused, are three separate, interrelated reports on the history of New Mexico, which together make up the title novella. The fictional author is one Charlemagne J. Belter, an 11-year-old in public school in the state. Charlemagne (or Chum, as he is called) isn't much of a student, but as a narrator he is beguiling and good-humored ("I got into sixth grade but almost not"), mixing dubious schoolbook history with grim, touching anecdotes about his best friend Daniel. Peering over Chum's shoulder, the reader is treated to a weird, haunting view of his world in this uneven but occasionally mesmerizing collection. Agent, Miriam Altshuler. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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January 01, 2005
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