cover image Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna

Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna

Dagoberto Gilb. Grove/Atlantic, $21 (218pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1554-6

Recalling the trenchant portraits of the dispossessed urban poor by post-colonial writers like Alex La Guma and Jessica Hagedorn, Gilb's first novel (after the multiple award-winning short-story collection, The Magic of Blood) demonstrates his sensitivity towards the gritty, everyday world of the Southwestern, Chicano underclass. In highly evocative prose that often slides into Spanish, Gilb here portrays the angst-ridden, posturing Mickey Acuna, who arrives at the El Paso YMCA on the run from an unknown past event looking only for anonymity and a mailing address. Plagued by inertia and self-doubt, waiting for a check that never arrives, obsessed with obtaining an ``unpolluted understanding'' of his surroundings, Mickey gradually fraternizes with the other disenfranchised Y residents. Gilb focuses on the slow passage of time at the Y and the daily interactions of Mickey's neighbors, like the Charles Manson-esque Reverend Miller and the paranoid loner Charles Towne, both of whom fixate desperately on the delivery of mail. Gilb's unhurried story line occasionally bogs down in the mundane details of life at the Y, yet his characterizations of the underemployed, mentally ill and abandoned men and women who congregate there are vibrant. (Sept.)