Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Review: Fabulous Sinkhole

Jesus Salvador Treviño. The Fabulous Sinkhole and Other Stories. Houston: Arte Publico, 1995. ISBN: 1558851291

Michael Sedano

Several weeks ago, at the eleventh annual Lascano Family Pelada, I was chatting with a writer about her interest in chicana chicano detective stories. A fellow up to his wrists in green chile, asked if I knew a poem, "El Louie." "Ayer enterraron el Louie," I recalled, "and San Pedro o San Pinche are in for it." Who can forget Montoya's stirring language? He said he had a short film I just had to see, an oral interp of the piece, or perhaps a staging.

When the envelope arrived I opened it anticipating a DVD. Nope. Jesus Treviño has mailed me a copy of his collection-novel, The Fabulous Sinkhole. It's an excellent collection that I missed back in 1995 when it first hit the streets. Makes me wonder why I don't just sit down and read the Arte Publico catalog from cover to cover.

I don't see the necessity of the "and other stories" tag line. It's like saying Woman Hollering Creek isn't a novel. Treviño links all the stories back to the events of the title story. There's more to this sinkhole than meets the eye. A small puddle in Mrs. Romero's front yard grows large enough for the body of an old Chevy to surface. The locals gather around, plucking goods miraculously dry for having floated up from the hand of the Goddess or the Rio Grande.

The most touching story, "Last Night of the Mariachi" has a close second in "The Return of Pancho Villa." In the former, middle age and rock and roll have both caught up and surpassed the men, who've played the same songs in the same bar for decades. The sparse crowds in bar and the raucous success of the youth-oriented club down the street convinces the owner to fire the mariachi. For their last night, they dress up in full fresh-from-the-drycleaners charro traje. The empty bar fills with the sound of their playing. The mariachi is playing their hearts out, their souls. The muscians look up and there's a crowd, faintly familiar through the smoke. It's the famous singers and composers whose music has kept the mariachi going all these years, finishing their career playing to the ghosts of the music in an empty house.

The Pancho Villa story offers a total lark. Talking flies. At first I can't help but think of the Vincent Price movie, "The Fly", at the end the little fly with the man's head is trapped in the web crying and buzzing, "help me, help me". Instead, Treviño has flies take on the cucui of one's ancestors. Tío Pancho tells a tomboy it's time for her to grow up. She'd rather play second base and brawl in the dirt with the guys than wear make up and let her boobs hang freely. But Pancho Villa the fly urges the girl to go to the dance where she's a gorgeous blossom. It's the kind of story every little girl should read. (Note to literary fly collectors: this story rounds out your collection of the fly walker from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the fly roper from Geek Love. Please alert me to favorite fly passages.)

If there's a stereotype chicana chicano writing wants to escape, it's stereotypy. Treviño takes this head on in his darkly satiric "Attack of the Lowrider Zombies." Movie stereotypes of Mexicans rise from the dead and go on a rampage murdering Hollywood producers who put out schlocky caca. The author's message grows a bit heavyhanded here, but obviously, it's a writer having a lark, as when the characters intrude into the zombie lair in Evergreen Cemetery, If they really were characters out of movies, it would be the pain of hundreds of films' worth of moral and psychological abuse. No wonder they were in pain. Treviño directs network television drama. I wonder if there's a second krypto message here television watchers might pick up?

As I closed the book, glad to get it but still hoping to see the video of "El Louie", I noted the dedication page, "To Bobbi". That's the writer who was telling me she enjoys chicana chicano detective stories. So that's why Treviño was standing next to her.

There we are, gente, October moves rapidly into Fall. Remember, if you read something interesting or have something to share-- like a favorite fly story-- leave a comment. And La Bloga's always open to guest columnists. Interested? Email a bloguera bloguero and let us know what you've got. See you next week. mvs


Manuel Ramos said...

Nice review; thanks for reminding me about this book.

El Louie -- a masterpiece. I'd love to see that film.

Georgina Baeza said...

The Skyscrapper That Flew is awesome too. I hope the third of the trilogy is out soon.