The Crystal Frontier Paperback – Sep 17 1998
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From Library Journal
Leonardo Barroso is an unscrupulous Mexican oligarch whose fortress of a villa is only a short drive from the "crystal frontier" of the title, and each one of the nine stories comprising this work explores the life of someone touched by him. There's Juan Zamora, whose medical studies at Cornell were made possible by the stratagems of Barroso; the beautiful Michelina from Mexico City, whom Barroso marries; off to his son and then takes as his own, and the working girls of Barroso's maquiladoras, who lust after the gringo male dancers of the clubs. The outrageous racism of Fuentes's Anglo characters, such as Miss Amy Dunbar and border patrol Dan Polonsky, may seem excessive and stereotyped, but it is also hard to deny that such attitudes exist along this troubled border. Fuentes masterfully interweaves Mexican politics, economics, and history within the individual stories, giving a brilliant update on relations between an extremely poor country and the richest in the world. A recent (1995) and highly recommended work by Mexico's premiere novelist.?Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Fuentes has no qualms about using fiction as a vehicle for social analysis. When this union between art and commentary succeeds, it generates indelible scenes of tremendous passion, of which there are many in this set of nine loosely connected stories, but when it fails, Fuentes' tales turn awkward. It may be that Fuentes' immense sense of responsibility toward Mexico and its people--a commitment that compels him to dramatize the entrenched corruption and ferocious poverty that drive so many people across the border--at times simply overwhelms the delicate emotional balance crucial to the magic of a story. That said, these are nonetheless gleaming fables about the volatile and urgent relationship between Mexico and the U.S., unnerving stories rich in metaphor, wit, and remarkable characters, from Don Leonardo Barroso, an ambiguous figure of great wealth and power, to Juan Zamora, who leaves his oppressively poor life in Mexico City to study medicine at Cornell, where he discovers both his homosexuality and his deep compassion. Then there's young, vulnerable Marina, who dreams of seeing the ocean as she works assembling televisions in a factory along the border, and the hero of the haunting title story, Lisandro Chavez, who, along with dozens of other men, is flown into Manhattan to spend a weekend cleaning the inside of a glass skyscraper, the latest high-tech form of migrant labor. Fuentes boldly shines his high beams on "the illusory crystal divider, the glass membrane between Mexico and the U.S.," thus illuminating both our vast differences and our manifold connection. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
While some stories appear to be ending in limbo and others more or less abruptly and tragically, taken together they form a portrait of the complicated, often fractious relations between Mexico and the United States, especially in the border region. For us to move beyond the obvious depictions of cross-border conflicts or the plight of immigrant (legal and illegal) workers in the US, it helps to be familiar with Mexican history and politics. Fuentes drops many references to historical events, cultural figures, etc. While most protagonists are from the poorer sectors of society, there are those, like Don Leonardo Barroso, who benefit greatly from US-Mexican border deals and play important political and business roles on both sides of the "frontier". Don Leonardo appears in the first of the story as a central figure and in most others he is a minor, yet powerful, background presence pulling strings...
Carlos Fuentes is widely respected as one of the primary writers of Mexico.Read more ›
"The Crystal Frontier" is an unimaginative attempt at metaphor concocted by Fuentes to symbolize the frontier between Mexico and the United States. That boundary is not only the physical presence of the Rio Grande River but also of the differences between cultures.
The character that threads the stories together is a powerful Mexican businessman named Leonardo Barroso whose main export to America is cheap labor. He is introduced in the first story, called "A Capital Girl" in which he sets up his bookish son to be married to a beautiful girl. He also sets her up to be his mistress. Like a demented Amelie, Leonardo has a direct or indirect impact on all the short stories that follow. I guess it has something in common with chaos theory, but instead of a butterfly causing a hurricane, here we have a money grubbing exploitive Enron type affecting lives that he knows nothing about.
A few of the earlier stories are interesting and good. "Pain" is about a doomed love affair between two medical students, one of which got a scholarship from Leonardo. "Spoils" was a great story about a famous food critic and chef who offers his philsophy of why America is obese. It is also in that story that the book starts to destroy itself for me. Fuentes starts coming in through his characters about how America stole half of Mexico and about how we are inferior to the europeans in culture.Read more ›