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The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: BBC Audiobooks Ltd; Abridged edition edition (March 9 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563365935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563365938
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
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Product Description

From Amazon

Inspired by their heroes Xavier Cugat and Desi Arnaz, brothers Cesar and Nestor Castillo come to New York City from Cuba in 1949 with designs on becoming mambo stars. Eventually they do--performing with Arnaz on "I Love Lucy" in 1955 and recording 78s with their own band, the Mambo Kings. In his second novel, Hijuelos traces the lives of the flashy, guitar-strumming Cesar and the timid, lovelorn Nestor as they cruise the East Coast club circuit in a flamingo-pink bus. Enriching the story are the brothers' friends and family members--all driven by their own private dreams. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The Mambo Kings are two brothers, Cesar and Nestor Castillo, Cuban-born musicians who emigrate to New York City in 1949. They form a band and enjoy modest success, playing dance halls, nightclubs and quince parties in New York's Latin neighborhoods. Their popularity peaks in 1956 with a guest appearance on the I Love Lucy show, playing Ricky Ricardo's Cuban cousins and performing their only hit song in a bittersweet event that both frames the novel and serves as its emblematic heart. Hijuelos's first novel, Our House in the Last World , was justly praised for its tender vignettes of emigre Cuban life; here, he tells of the triumphs and tragedies that befall two men blessed with gigantic appetites and profoundly melancholic hearts--Cesar, the elder, and the bandleader, committed to the pursuit of life's pleasures, and Nestor, he of the "dark, soulful countenance," forever plunging through a dark, Latin gloom. In a performance that deepens the canon of American ethnic literature, Hijuelos evokes, by day, a New York of crowded Harlem apartments made cheery by Cuban hospitality, and by night, a raucous club scene of stiletto heels and waxy pompadours--all set against a backdrop of a square, 1950s America that thinks worldliness means knowing the cha-cha. With an unerring ear for period idioms ("Hello you big lug") and a comic generosity that renders even Cesar's sexual bravado forgivable if not quite believable, Hijuelos has depicted a world as enchanting (yet much closer to home) as that in Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera . The lyricism of Hijuelos's language is wonderfully restrained, conveying with equal facility ribald comedy and heartfelt pathos. Despite a questionable choice of narrative conceit (Cesar recollects the novel from a seedy "Hotel Splendour" in 1980), Hijuelos's pure storytelling skills commission every incident with a life and breath of its own.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book with few interruptions, save sleep. Perhaps, as it was not written in a day, it may have better not too consume too much too quickly, like a good wine needs time to breathe & shouldn't be guzzled. I say this because, it's more noticeable when segments are redundant & repetitive. That may be an editing issue versus my ferocious appetite for reading, esp a Pulitzer rewarded accomplishment, in one stretch.

I cringe saying this, but to ignore saying so seems dishonest. I saw the movie, too long ago to remember more than feasting my eyes on Armando Assante .The Mambo stuff was great, but there's no way a 2 hr movie could touch on more than a fragment of this saga. Furthermore, book & movie are chalk & cheese anyway, all I mean is...don't think the story is ruined if you caught any of it on celluloid. (It's about the writing of course, yet some people see no need to read about what they've seen.)

Another thing, since I'm being honest & not intimidated by the huge seal of approval stamped on this book (Pulitzer Prize) ...for the first 100 pages, I couldn't grasp why this book was P.P. awarded. One expects extraordinary. Probably, this is why I made it a reading marathon until I did grasp why. Yes, in its entirety, an embodiment of work. There are portions which stand out throughout..in fact, I thought the 2nd last chapter (which imo should have been the last) was more revealing & touching, beautifully written.

I don't mind how long a book is, if it isn't tedious, carrying dead weight that doesn't add or act in some means essential, doses of simplicity between complicated, intense scenarios.
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Format: Paperback
While plot is certainly important in a book, what most readers remember are rich, complex characters. One of the best writers of character is Oscar Hijuelos. I admit to being a "Hijuelos junkie," but even if I weren't I'd still have to admire his talent for creating characters and bringing them to life. My favorite "Hijuelos character" was Oscar Levis in A SIMPLE HABANA MELODY, but I also loved Cesar and Nestor Castillo in THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE.
Cesar and Nestor (who have many brothers and sisters) share a love of music-Cuban music-and more specifically, the mambo, but, in every other respect, they are very different people. Cesar is larger-than-life, he's extravagant, totally masculine and his baritone voice, when singing "songs of love" manages to capture the heart of every woman who hears it. Nestor is Cesar's opposite. Nestor is frail and melancholy and seems to simply recede into the wallpaper. While Cesar beds every woman who dares to look his way, Nestor pines away for Maria, a woman he knew only briefly, to the extent of composing twenty-two variations of his musical tribute to her, "Beautiful Maria of My Soul."
In 1949, Cesar and Nestor decide to emigrate to New York City because "that's where the music is." Cuba was no longer "home" to the habanera, the rumba, the mambo. The music had emigrated to New York, so Cesar and Nestor decide that's where they should be, too.
Arriving in New York City, Cesar and Nestor find plenty of music makers to emulate, but the one they care about the most is Desi Arnaz, who once worked in the same orchestra as Cesar. Cesar and Nestor tour America's east coast in a flamingo pink bus, dressed in suits of black and flamingo pink.
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Format: Paperback
This was an excellent read, if not sold simply because of the vivid colourful Latino descriptions of the people, the persusaive sense of the fire of Latin America, and of course, the constant, often coarse, sex scenes.
It was such a bittersweet book, such an undercurrence of sadness and loss. It was essentially, a lament to old age and wasted youth. The detail is incredible, the emotions very real. It effectively captures the horrible sinking inevitability of death.
Hijelo's characters are wild, if not dislikable. This is perhaps the finest point of the piece; the characters are utterly human and terribly flawed.
Cesor's incredible libedo is at the forefront of the work, and there is a sense of humidity, sweat and the smells of sex that pervade the work. Hijelo should be admired for being able to conjuer up such senses. I found it a sensual read, however I disagree with many who describe the sex as sensual. It seemed very coarse, but this is not a criticism, it served its coarse purposes.
The only criticism I have is the distracting nature of many of the sex scenes. The sheer amount of them seemed somewhat unnecessary, however, they began to fade once Cesar aged.
Over all, innovative and superb.
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Format: Paperback
What mainly attracted me to this book was the fact that it had won the Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, I assumed it was going to be excellent; however, I was very disappointed.
The plot had immense potential. There, supposedly, was the tale of the Castillo brothers, Cuban immigrants who come to New York hoping to "make it" as mambo musicians. They worked at a factory during the day, and worked at different clubs at night, and the tale was to tell of their daily life and neighborhood fame. The book's plot, however, centers around the "busy" sex life of the older brother Cesar, and the depression of the younger brother, Nestor... There is still, however, the faint story of the brother's fame. They become very popular in their neighborhood during the 1950s--the Mambo era--and manage to catch the attention of Desi Arnaz, who later invites the boys to appear in an episode of I Love Lucy (marking the heighth of the "Mambo Kings" fame and glory). After Arnaz, however, things fall apart and what's left of the Mambo Kings is old, tired, and pitiful.
While Cesar's sex life and Nestor's depression were the main plots, there were other shorter stories that really didn't fit...
In general, this book was poorly written (grammatical and spelling errors are everywhere), underdeveloped, and, at points, almost pornographic. It did not "move" me, and I never cared about any of the characters. This book was an extreme disappointment, and it's a wonder it won the Pulitzer. I wouldn't buy, or even read, this book.
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