(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Los Gusanos takes place primarily in the 1980’s, though the narrative frequently flashes back to the 1960’s and to events surrounding the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The novel centers on a family of Cuban exiles and on the attempts of one member of that family to organize another invasion of Cuba to strike at least a symbolic blow at the object of their personal and political hatred, Fidel Castro. The novel is narrated in the third person, but it includes sections of one character’s journal and the recorded imaginings of another. The narration shifts its focus through a number of characters, taking the reader into their various consciousnesses. The story begins in 1981 in Miami, Florida, in the heart of the Cuban exile community of Little Havana. Scipio de la Pena, a leader of the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, lies dying in a nursing home bed. He is rarely coherent, but he is faithfully attended by his daughter, Marta de la Pena, who talks to him of the invasion. Marta is the one child of Scipio who did not take part in the attack on Castro’s Cuba. Her oldest brother, Blas, survived the attack but has lived outside the United States, a criminal exile, for several years. Marta’s younger brother, Ambrosio, a poet, was killed in the invasion but left behind a diary that forms part of the novel’s narrative and becomes a part of the invasion’s history. The novel’s central plot details Marta’s attempt to mount a second (and more or less symbolic) invasion of Cuba....

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Los Gusanos Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Davis, Thulani. “Blue-Collar Auteur.” American Film 16, no. 6 (June, 1991): 18-25. A discussion of Sayles’s oeuvre in the context of his film work. Includes an excerpt from Los Gusanos.

Goodwin, Jo-Ann. Review of Los Gusanos, by John Sayles. New Statesman and Society 4, no. 171 (October 4, 1991): 36-37. An interesting British perspective on the novel.

Kenan, Randall. Review of Los Gusanos, by John Sayles. Nation 252, no. 24 (June 24, 1991): 856-858. A provocative discussion of the novel.

Sayles, John, and Gavin Smith. Sayles on Sayles. London: Faber and Faber, 1998. Contains a series of interviews with Sayles, each of which takes up a separate work of fiction or film. An indispensable source.

Simpson, Janice C. “Neck Deep in the Culture.” Time 138, no. 5 (August 5, 1991): 64. A discussion of Sayles’s work in literature, films, and television. Focuses on his penchant for championing underdogs and outsiders.