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Sex as a Political Condition: A Border Novel (The Americas Series)

by Carlos Nicolas Flores

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Fiction
Flores, Carlos Nicolás
Sex As a Political Condition: A Border Novel
Texas Tech University Press
9780896729308, paperback, 406 pgs., $34.95
July 1, 2015


SEX AS A POLITICAL CONDITION, the newest smartly designed title in Texas Tech University Press’s Americas series, is professor and activist Carlos Nicolás Flores’s latest novel. Sex As a Political Condition is about history, family, politics, economics, friendship, and religion. I am conflicted. The novel ambitious and has great potential but ultimately disappoints.

Former narcotrafficante and all-around punk (“from a long line of vain and violent men, always in trouble with women or the law or both”) Honoré del Castillo runs his family’s Mexican curio shop in Escandón (Laredo), Texas. He’s gone straight thanks to his mentor, Juan Sánchez Trusky (a.k.a. Trotsky), a revolutionary. Honoré and Trotsky are part of a humanitarian aid convoy to the Nicaraguan contras. Difficulties ensue: Feds, federales, the CIA, feminists, Republicans, hillbillies, the Guatemalan army, old grudges from narco days.

Flores’ novel exhibits wry humor, such as this conversation between Honoré and his wife, Maruca:
“My greatest fear is dying in front of a television.”
She glanced sideways at him. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Trotsky says most men die like that. Stupid, inconsequential deaths. Me – I want to die on some beach in Central America, before a firing squad.”
“¡Estás loco!”
“Do you know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and discover you’re in bed with a Republican?”
“Do you know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and discover you are in bed with a communist?”

And this between Trotsky and Honoré:
“Sometimes things make sense and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes your closest allies turn out to be your worst enemies. Do you know what all of this is called?”
“No.”
“History.”

Unfortunately more of the humor is pubescent-boy level. I’m a fan of irreverence and agree that political correctness can be taken too far. I am not a fan of crudity for its own sake, and too much of Sex As a Political Condition is merely offensive: stereotypes, bathroom humor, disgusting euphemisms for female body parts. Why do men deride and degrade what they spend their lives trying to get? Honoré is obsessed with breasts — so I asked a guy friend about breasts. My point was that men are surrounded by breasts; half the population has (usually) two of them. He said, “Yeah, but they’re hidden.” Okay.

Flores does have a way with imagery. For example: “[T]he sunrise was the color inside a conch shell…silver lacquer turning orange and pink.” And this: “…unmarked sedans with long steel antennae flopping about like rigging on shrimp boats...” You can see it, can’t you?

Sex As a Political Condition has an intriguing plot that would’ve benefited from further editing. It’s too long, the pacing frequently slow, and the crudity tiresome. This is a shame because Flores has important things to say. We are pacified and tranquilized by comfort, television, money, too much stuff (see George Carlin). Camping for new iPhones is understandable, but Occupy is a bunch of dirty hippies. “This was what Trotsky called American totalitarianism at its worst – or rather, its best. Don’t bother… [nothing] matters anyway…nothing you can do. Man lives by bread alone. Nothing is worthy of personal risk….Buy a television.”

Originally published by Lone Star Literary Life. ( )
  TexasBookLover | Sep 13, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0896729303, Paperback)

Sex as a Political Condition: A Border Novel is a raucous, hilarious journey through political dangers that come in all shapes, cup sizes, and sexual identities, a trip into the wild, sometimes outrageous world of the Texas-Mexico border and all geographical and anatomical points south.
 
Honoré del Castillo runs the family curio shop in the backwater border town of Escandón, Texas, and fears dying in front of his TV like some six-pack José in his barrio. Encouraged by his friend Trotsky, he becomes politically active—smuggling refugees, airlifting guns to Mexican revolutionaries, negotiating with radical Chicana lesbians—but the naked truths he faces are more often naked than true and constantly threaten to unman him. When a convoy loaded with humanitarian aid bound for Nicaragua pulls into Escandón, his journey to becoming a true revolutionary hero begins, first on Escandón’s international bridge and then on the highways of Mexico. But not until both the convoy and Honoré’s mortality and manhood are threatened in Guatemala does he finally confront the complications of his love for his wife and daughter, his political principles, the stench of human fear, and ultimately what it means to be a principled man in a screwed-up world.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 11 Aug 2015 03:44:38 -0400)

A satirical account of the cultural wars on the Mexican-American border.

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