cover image THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MEXICO

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MEXICO

Earl Shorris, Author . Norton $29.95 (780p) ISBN 978-0-393-05926-7

This threatens to be one more of those hefty tomes that Mexico has a way of inspiring. But fear not: this 3,000-year history not only distinguishes itself in a field of worthy contenders but does so with flair and insight. An essayist, novelist (Under the Fifth Sun ), sociologist (Latinos: A Biography of the People ) and National Humanities Medal recipient, Shorris employs his Renaissance man-of-letters credentials to great effect here. Eschewing a more traditional political point of entry to the U.S.'s southern neighbor, he structures a series of narratives, vignettes and analysis around the Aztec concepts of head, heart and liver. Tonalli , the center of vital power, is the section on history and philosophy. Teyolia , the soul located in the heart, treats art and literature, family and essential character. Ihiyotl , located in the liver, is the center of survival and covers education, economics, politics, corruption and race. Shorris closes with a look to the future and two oral histories, deliberately contrasting "other, far less edited" voices with his own. Though there are more than a few moments when Shorris's prose veers dangerously close to purple, the overall effect is a beautiful, passionate and powerful account of a nation that American readers can ill afford to ignore. 32 pages of illus., 3 maps not seen by PW . (Aug. 16)