- Reviewed by
In Vicente Leñero: The Novelist as Critic Danny J. Anderson insightfully considers Leñero's novels, a corpus of literature for which the present work should foster interest and admiration. A brief preface situates Leñero within both a Mexican homeland and a Spanish American literary scene. The introduction places Leñero's novels within the context of post-Realism, New Novel, Boom and post-Boom Mexico and Spanish America. Unfortunately, Anderson's inconsistent use of critical terms obscures his introductory comments. For example, on page 8 Anderson uses "self-referential" and "metafictional" as synonyms, but usage of these same terms on pages 15, 16, and 17 suggests they describe different varieties of novels. Anderson also insists on the evolution of novels which offer "easier reading" without considering the critical commentary about an inscrutable world which a difficult-to-read novel suggests. The author also implicitly dismisses nineteenth-century realism as naïve and of scant literary value, an attitude which the author may choose to substantiate in subsequent research.
Chapters One through Six entail excellent close readings and critical assessments of Leñero's nine novels: A fuerza de palabras and Los albañiles present epistemological concerns; Estudio Q and El garabato comprise metafictional texts; Redil de ovejas and El evangelio de Lucas Gavilán mark Leñero's concern for cultural criticism; and Los periodistas, La gota de agua, and Asesinato represent generic possibility in the guise of "nonfiction fiction." Each chapter offers admirable critical insights, but in particular the final two are noteworthy. Anderson's confidence seems to mature as his book develops, and, in fact, an authorial "I" emerges in the final two chapters, chapters which deal respectively with El evangelio de Lucas Gavilán vis à vis liberation theology and the three nonfiction novels. Anderson provides theoretical coherence by relying throughout on his own privileging of the idea of worldliness and on Edward Said's The World, the Text, and the Critic.
Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to the novel(s) to be considered and the critical schemata to be employed, this followed by a close reading and an ensuing third (and on occasion fourth) part in which Anderson draws primarily on poststructural theorists to elucidate his own opinion, occasionally taking other critics to task for short-sighted evaluations of Leñero texts. Even though Anderson only implicitly evaluates the texts in question, he clearly admires Leñero's art, and his clear-headed, jargon-free prose should encourage his readers to do the same. Following a conclusion that succinctly recreates the compelling readings and interpretations of the previous chapters, end notes, a four-part bibliography, and an index complete Anderson's text.
The choice of style sheet seems unfortunate because use of the end notes is unwieldy. In spite of the dozen typos this is an attractive, well-produced book. Anderson is to be congratulated on an excellent introduction to Vicente Leñero's novelistic production. Both undergraduate and graduate programs will benefit from [End Page 280] this well-written and lucid study of an author whose novels deserve further critical attention.
Michael Wood's García Márquez: 100 Years of Solitude epitomizes the well-written literary essay. The book elegantly expresses the results of a discerning reader reading. Wood's essay is prefaced by a double-columned chronology, one column synthesizing García Márquez's life while the other correlates his life with historic and literary events. After noting the use of Gregory Rabassa's translation except where it was found inadequate, Wood presents a chapter, "Contexts," which briefly explains...