The hotel in “The Lady Matador’s Hotel,” by Cristina García, located in the capital city of an unnamed Central American country, is the luxurious Miraflor. The time frame is a week. And the stories involve a set of global mongrels and expatriates: a Japanese-Mexican matadora who was raised in Los Angeles and has just arrived for “the first Battle of the Lady Matadors in the Americas”; a suicidal Korean manufacturer of textiles who owns a local maquiladora, Glorious Textiles Unlimited, and whose pregnant mistress is living at the hotel; a lawyer who employs breeder mothers to produce the babies she delivers for adoption to wealthy Americans staying at the hotel; an exiled Cuban poet married to one of those wealthy Americans; an army colonel in town to swap the latest torture and detainment techniques with other thugs from neighboring countries; and an ex-guerrilla whose brother was murdered by the colonel years ago, and who now works as a waitress at the hotel. In six chapters, an “interlude” and an epilogue, their separate stories advance by shuffled increments against the backdrop of a presidential election, insurgent bombs and an impending hurricane.Click to read the full article
The result is a kitchen sink of a novel (as in everything but) whose juggled stories, augmented by the obligatory soupçon of magic realism, take on a quality of festive, freakish excess. Yet García keeps the plates spinning. Not all the stories are equally engaging, and not all the characters rise above the level of types, but the cumulative effect is of an appealing yet barely controlled wildness. The control is in the scaffolding — seven days, six main characters, a collage of news items at the end of each chapter — and at times it can seem constraining. But without the constraint the wildness would sputter. At its best, the novel has the energy of an obsessive tango. Or, indeed, a bullfight.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Cristina García: The Lady Matador's Hotel
John Vernon reviews Cristina García's The Lady Matador's Hotel.