(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Most of the action of the novel takes place as the characters drive around Mexico City, searching for something meaningful to do. The action centers on the young and misunderstood Menelao, who has been abandoned in a seedy apartment by his divorced mother. Having left his father’s home because of his stepmother, Menelao cruises the city with his friends as they all tell stories about their escapades. The narration begins with a collage of actions: Vulbo’s telephone conversation with Menelao describes the gang’s previous evening’s activities; Menelao, in bed, imagines their drive to his father’s house in a stolen car to recover his possessions, a fact which he verifies later in a conversation with one of them; Menelao remembers his dream about Gisela, in which all is well with his family. The vantage point of this series of actions is unclear, although Menelao appears to be piecing the facts together while lying in bed. The first chapter is typical of the narrative as a whole in that events are told from different points of view and are presented in a deliberately ambiguous manner. To these actions are added tape recordings, diaries, and summaries of past events. Menelao retells the history of the fight with his father in an encapsulated version: “a) One day he went on a picnic somewhere and I quarreled with Matriarca. . . . b) Matriarca always manages to get mixed up in my business. . . . c) One evening, after an argument, I piled all my clothes. . . .” He seems to be impatient with his role as storyteller so he turns to other forms of communication for help.

Two matters preoccupy Menelao and serve as catalysts for the action: his relationship with Gisela, whom he wants to seduce, and the disintegration of his family. He...

(The entire section is 714 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Davis, Philip J. “Searching Anaya, Sainz, Fuentes, and Baca for a Common, Cultural Center.” Confluencia 11 (Spring, 1996) 137-161. Davis explores common themes in the works of Mexican American authors. He examines the ways in which the authors portray urban and provincial life and a national identity.

Gould, Eric S. “Carnival with a Conscience: Carnivalesque Discourse and the Adolescent Construction of the Self in Gustavo Sainz’s Gazapo.” Hispanofila 119 (January, 1997): 59-72. Examines Sainz’s depiction of adolescence and the use of the carnivalesque in the novel.

Shaw, Donald L. “Three Post-Boom Writers and the Boom.” Latin American Literary Review 24 (January/June, 1996): 5-22. Shaw discusses the “Boom” in Spanish American fiction of the 1950’s to the 1970’s, viewing Sainz as emphasizing literature’s social responsibility.

Williams, Raymond. “The Reader and the Recent Novels of Gustavo Sainz.” Hispania 65 (September, 1982): 383-387. Williams details the role of reader response in the novels of Sainz.