Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I read an interview with T.C. Boyle in which he said that since he gets to play God with his characters, he is going to make them suffer. And suffer they do in The Tortilla Curtain. Two men from completely different walks of life are the main characters whose paths collide, literally. Delaney, an outdoor writer, accidentally hits Cándido, an out-of-work Mexican, with his Acura. Cándido and his pregnant wife América are living in a canyon near Delaney's L.A. subdivision with no shelter and little chance of earning a living. Every time Cándido and América start to accumulate almost enough money to make a deposit on an apartment, something dreadful happens to wipe them out, often at the hands of their fellow Mexicans. Delaney considers himself to be liberally minded and is incensed at his neighbors' proposal to construct a wall around their subdivision to keep out trespassers. Delaney, although a nature-lover, saves his ire for the coyotes, after they manage to scale a chainlink fence to abscond with both of the family dogs. Little by little, though, after his car is stolen, Delaney begins to unravel and lose patience with the Mexicans also. A certain amount of mistaken identity and stereotyping on the part of both Delaney and Cándido contribute to their conflict. The book reminded me somewhat of the movie Crash, since both the book and the movie take the position that most everyone can become racist under certain circumstances.

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