BOOK OF THE MONTH, The Interior Circuit, A Mexico City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman (Grove Press, 2014)

By Carole Reedy

This chronicle of Mexico City is not only a personal memoir, but also an engaging, though turbulent, tale of our times, covering the years 2012 to 2014. It’s significant that Goldman’s young wife died in a surfing accident off the coast of Mazunte, Oaxaca, five years before he wrote the book. Still recovering from his loss, he demonstrates his method for dealing with grief through his work. This is not a sentimental tryst, but rather just what the subtitle states: a chronicle of modern life for both rich and poor in an iconoclastic city with its challenges, politics, social structure, religions, tragedies, and glories.

The book begins with the apparently innocent task of taking driving lessons in a city whose drivers make New York City drivers look like oldsters who can’t see over the steering wheel. While learning to tackle the streets and the idiosyncrasies of other drivers, Goldman takes us on a ride through the interior of this complicated city while recalling personal experiences and relating the stories of the big city.

What makes this book so compelling is not just the facts of the city but the flavors, smells, and emotions of its citizens he so delicately weaves together. Nothing is held back. He names names and tells it as it is, or rather how he sees it, based on his cache of reliable sources in journalism and government. Goldman has much to say about President Peña Nieto, present-Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, and ex-Mayor Marcelo Ebrard (as well as his doormen and other incidental characters).

A significant part of the book takes us to Tepito (one of the least desirable neighborhoods in the city, home to the famous tianguis La Lagunilla) to interview the families of the 13 victims who disappeared from the After Heavens club in the Zona Rosa on May 26, 2013. The involvement of all parties–police, government, gangs, narcos, family members, friends–gives the reader a good feel for the complicated nature of the causes and results of such events.

Other chapters offer intimate details about the Santa Muerte cult, rich-boy thugs, local cantinas, the neighborhoods of Condesa and Roma, and the #YoSoy132 student movement.

The Interior Circuit is an original, entertaining, and thought-provoking observation of this most important of world cities. It is also simply a great read.

Francisco Goldman lives in Colonia Roma in Mexico City. Born in Boston of an American Jewish father and Guatemalan Catholic mother, Goldman has pursued a literary life as a journalist, novelist, and professor. His novel The Long Night of White Chickens (1992) received rave reviews from my friends as well as literary critics. Goldman established The Aura Estrada Prize in honor of his late wife, who was a short story writer. It is a literary award given every two years to a female writer, 35 or under who writes in Spanish and lives in the US or Mexico.

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