The Quixote Cult

Genaro Gonzalez, Author Arte Publico Press $12.95 (260p) ISBN 978-1-55885-254-9
Visceral, angry and edgy, Gonzalez's (Rainbow's End) novel about a Chicano hippie activist in Southern Texas comes to us like a time capsule from the 1960s. The narrator, De la O, pursues a quest for social justice and ethnic pride, identifying with Cervantes's visionary idealist, Don Quixote, as he tilts at bigoted fellow students and teachers--and at Chicanos who ape or worship the Anglos. De la O joins a Chicano organizing movement and rallies exploited farm workers, acid heads, Vietnam vets, dope pushers and squeaky-clean Catholic activists to the cause. They are joined by disgruntled intellectual fellow travelers who, like himself, are steeped in Che Guevara, Sartre, the Beats, Nietzsche and Borges. Gonzalez neither bashes nor romanticizes the era, and though De la O's self-righteousness, studied cool and adolescent rants can be tedious, Gonzalez exhibits a fine ear when rendering his protagonist's leftist rhetoric and sardonic opinions about life and death and America's class and racial divisions. Gonzalez's knack for creating offbeat personalities falters with his female characters, among them Rachel, the Jewish Aztec Princess, and ""brown Barbie"" Genoveva, who are almost interchangeable props for the macho males' egos. More convincing are De la O's cronies, like well-off drug-dealer Lucio, who, weighed down with the responsibility of a wife and baby, turns to religion, i.e., sorcery, and makes psychedelic trips into a spirit realm. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
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