The making of toro : bullfights, broken hearts, and one author's quest for the acclaim he deserves /

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Main Author: Sundeen, Mark, 1970-
Format: Book
Published:New York : Simon & Schuster, c2003.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"My art is my life, and versa vice," proclaims Travis LaFrance, Sundeen's ever-confident, fictional alter-ego, in this amusing, chivalric tongue-in-cheek story of a writer set on acquainting everyday readers with Mexican bullfighting. After receiving little recognition for his previous book on falconry (which, as Sundeen explains, "is about birds only insomuch as the falcons serve as a metaphor for my flight toward freedom"), the author attempts to redeem himself by unveiling bullfighting's rugged, fiery ritual. The motivated yanqui (Spanglish for "Yankee") buys a one-way ticket to Mexico City, expecting to fall in love with the tradition of bullfighting, the captivating beauty of Mexican women and the splendor of one of the most acclaimed capitals of the bullfighting world. Instead, he finds grimy buildings, cybercafes and Domino's Pizza-sponsored bullrings, which look more like circuses than a noble institution's holy ground. But Sundeen refuses to come to terms with a deflated dream. With each misguided attempt to find bullfighting's heart and soul, LaFrance uses a quixotic idealism to convert reality (e.g., an undercooked drumstick served in a dingy corner diner) to what could be (an exotic delicacy, served only to the most esteemed of guests). It's a skewed travelogue, in which the line between a gritty reality and a chimerical fantasy is warmly blurred. Photos. Agent, Richard Abate. (May) Forecast: Although S&S equates Sundeen to a "failed" Sedaris, Eggers, Franzen or Lethem, the publisher is targeting young, hip, literary men. A blurb from Hunter S. Thompson, a pulp fictionesque cover and positive reviews will get this off to a good start. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The author of Car Camping (not reviewed) on his schizophrenic visit to the world of bullfighting. It's Sundeen who spent the morning "emptying tubs of human poo" in a Utah national park before his agent calls to ask if he can tackle a book on bullfighting in Mexico. Mark may have his doubts about his qualifications for this gig, but his alter ego, Travis LaFrance--the name under which Sundeen published "a slim paperback about hunting for desert rodents with highly trained falcons"--has none. Travis "would never look back at his travels and wonder who gives a shit about what some middle-class American has to say about the world," notes his creator/doppelgÄnger. Mark may balk as a torero "rams the little knife straight into the bull's brain, probing in tight circles like he's scraping the meat from a coconut," but when Travis writes it all down, he finds bravery draped with finesse: "How brave the man. How noble the beast, how profound the ritual!" Women shimmer like moths about Travis's flame; those who encounter Mark are less inclined to swoon: "My car's full," said the girl. "You can meet us there if you want." Never does Mark measure up to Travis, and so determinedly does he deploy humor as his foil that we can virtually see the chords of his neck muscles as he strains to eternalize the pitch of low irony. True to form, Mark loses the girl in the end, though not before entertaining forays into cockfights, flamenco dancing, and reminiscences about his earlier attempt to join the Prague Renaissance. (He boarded the wrong train and wound up in Budapest.) Along the way, Sundeen also gets in some good jabs at journalists who become instant experts. "How do you know so much about bullfighting anyway?" asks an acquaintance. "I've read quite a few books," Mark replies. Well-turned ambiguities, delivered with the steady patter of a late-night TV host's extended comic monologue. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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