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Reviews 369 Intaglio: A Novel in Six Stories. By Roberta Fernandez. (Houston, Texas: Arte Publico Press, 1990. 159 pages, $8.50.) Intaglio, the word, needs no definition. Used to embody the content of this novel, it takes on the dimension of the process by which six Mexican-American women bring a child to womanhood—to a state where she can define herselfin terms not only of her ethnic past but also of her fantasies of that past. Through the old women*Fernandez bestows upon her central character a legacy of sensitivity to art, beauty, religion, love, and evil, too, a legacy which moves the girl steadily toward a career in writing. In “Andrea,” Fernandez introduces Nenita, the child facing puberty, who dreams of dancing, as did Andrea, to the applause of great audiences in grand halls. A thick blue album holding Andrea’s photos and programs is a dominant motif, representing glamour but ending in “shredded blossoms/on the water.”Andrea’s successes only served to separate her from her ethnicity. Nenita’s dancing shoes are put away. Fernandez furthers the child’seducation, next, by treating her to the magic of transformation. She watches Amanda take fabulous materials and fashion them into “luminous whirls”of “swaying fabric.”Amanda’s world is enchanted, where witches hover, and Nenita’sself-indulgence in make-believe is nourished. Story follows story as Fernandez’ structure carries the child forward. With Filomena, Nenita experiences a spiritual epiphany at a celebration of El Dia de los Muertos. When new images learned in college seem to efface the old images, Leonore teaches her that nothing is ever lost: transformations generate new life. True love and its opposite, evil, are brought to her by Esmeralda. Finally Fernandez sets up Zulema to help Nenita realize the value of “los cuentos,”not stories ofwhat really happened, but stories aboutwhich she says, “Each ofus tell it as we see it.” Intaglio is a gem—more than a novel of a girl’s coming of age, more than the development of an artist’s aesthetic, more than six pictures of Mexican culture. It isalso an introduction to magic realism and maywell become a classic within that genre. Unfortunately, the epigraph Fernandez placed before each portrait is reversed for “Esmeralda”and “Zulema.”One would wish for another printing to correct this error in an otherwise flawless book. ERNESTINE P. SEWELL Commerce, Texas The Crown of Columbus. By Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich. (New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 384 pages, $21.95.) “Truth was all in the story, in the way it was told and in who was doing the telling. It could change in a minute or remain the same forever.”In the telling, 370 WesternAmerican Literature The Crown ofColumbus, Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich’s first acknowledged collaboration, raises serious questions about the stories we tell: about the relationships we imagine between past and present. Vivian Ernestine Begay Manion Twostar, a Dartmouth assistant professor of Native American studies, has been asked to produce an article on Columbus, a request she can hardly refuse, since ’91-92 is her tenure-decision year. Meanwhile, Professor Roger Williams, stray member of an old New England family, her lover and the father ofher forthcoming babyViolet, iscomposing an heroic, historically correct epic in the voice of Columbus on his home computer. This situation precipitates a many-layered mystery-quest. Using Vivian and Roger as first-person narrators, the authors weave a tale of suspense, academic parody and historical theorizing that begins in the bowels of the Dartmouth library and ends in a bat-infested cave on the Bahamian isle ofEleuthera. There Vivian, her teenage son Nash, Roger, the innocent Violet and witnesses Hilda and Racine Seelbinder (yes, really) ceremoniously bind together lives past and present—Indian, Christian, European, immigrant. Vivian stumbles upon a cache of forgotten documents that may be Columbus’s lost diary and that could lead to the precious gift Columbus brought to America. Meanwhile, Roger, the quintessential anal-retentive aca­ demic dismisses Vivian’ssearch as the work of a marginal scholar and continues his academically correct study of Columbus scholarship even as the new arrival, Violet, threatens to pull him toward commitment and radical change. Into...


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