cover image The Cowboy Bible

The Cowboy Bible

Carlos Velazquez, trans. from the Spanish by Achy Obejas. Restless Books, $14.99

The Cowboy Bible is a book of scripture. It is an inebriated burrito vendor, a talisman, and an anxious teenage girl seeking opportunities to rebel. It is an overweight single mother, a musical instrument, and the enigmatic forces binding Vel%C3%A1zquez's surreal collection of prose in his English language debut. Eluding easy classification, the book has three parts: Fiction, Non-fiction, and Neither Fiction Nor Non-fiction. The stories take place in the fictional Mexican state of PopSTock! In the title story, the son of a professional wrestler continues his father's legacy, stepping into the ring under the alias Menace Jr., while also pursuing a career as a DJ, a musician, and a visual art critic. "The Post-Norte%C3%B1o Condition," is mostly dialogue and incorporates a stage play format. Its protagonist, Old Man Don Paulino, attempts to trade his soul and his wife to the Devil for a pair of rare boots. Like these narratives, all of the stories are distinct but share similarities in tone and structure: layers of pop culture references, quoted verses and song lyrics, and references to events mentioned in other portions of the book. In her translation, Obejas superbly amplifies Vel%C3%A1zquez's style. Playful and clever, inventive but familiar, this brief book is deeply satisfying, and warrants multiple readings. (Jan.)