Reading – Happy Families by Carlos Fuentes

And little by little, Alejandro, you begin to realize that your son’s individuality was the most faithful mirror of the life that still was yours, that leaving the movie sets was not a death certificate, as you believed before, but a window that opened to let air, sun, birds, rain, pollen, bees into the closed tomb of a movie set reeking of sawdust, cardboard, glue, the hair of wigs made with the tresses of corpses, period costumes never sent to the cleaner, stained under the arms and between the legs, the clothing of extras, the others, the surplus, the replaceable, the dispensable.

Now you’re the extra in your final film, Alejandro. Except that your secret resignation — or can it be your will? — to disappear into the vast anonymous nation of failure has been frustrated by the encounter with your son, by the spirit of comedy that Sandokán displays….”

Carlos Fuentes – “The Star’s Son”, Happy Families.

Happy Families is interesting. If you’re looking for happy bedtime stories, this isn’t exactly the right choice (think challenging reading of an alien society filled with people doomed to not find happiness). But if you want individual stories that make you think about a place very different from middle America, this might be worth trying. The New York Times reviewer summed it up as “traditions of suffering“, but I think the review may too smugly sum it up as not emotionally sympathetic enough to make us connect with the characters. I connected with the frailties that were shown, and spent a good bit of worry on how the characters would navigate through. In some ways, “The Star’s Son” was the most hopeful story, and I was left with the happy question of who redeemed whom. If you’ve read the book, and would like to talk about it, leave a message in the comments.


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