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Six Kinds of Sky

Southwest Book Views

Luis Alberto Urrea! What a writer. Read this collection of stories and you want to put your fingers to your lips and kiss them the way gourmets do after eating the perfect meal. The stories in this glorious collection are splendid. There aren’t enough words of praise for it. His language is simple but not simplistic. Neither are his characters mere ciphers or symbols. Urrea shapes believable people living out the complications of their lives with spirit and humor.

In “First Light,” two characters zigzag through their little Mexican village with loudspeakers tied to their car, drumming up business for their uncle’s new movie house. Sewn into the middle of this wonderfully funny episode is this little exchange:
“My life in advertising,” I said.
“Do they do this in California?” he asked.
“You’d get arrested for disturbing the peace.”
He thought for a moment, and said, “We don’t have any peace.”
Urrea is a Michelangelo with a typewriter. His originality and wit bring light to even the most pedestrian events. In “Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush,” a monumental thunderstorm shakes the town. Most of us would be charging up a dozen adjectives to show off our descriptive skills. In Urrea’s hands we understand the enormity of the storm because, “People near the river swore their chickens laid square eggs.” Again, in “First Light,” “A burro zipped by my window like a tatter of fog.”

“First Light” is a superb tale about Henry, a university student in California, who returns to Mexico’s supposedly for the Christmas holidays. In fact, it’s really to see his cousin Christina, when he loves truly, madly, deeply. Henry is a virgin, saving himself for the sacred moment he can take Christina and make her his. Though Henry is in his 20s, this is still a coming-of-age tale of delicious subtlety. And, if you’re not laughing yourself breathless at that ride through town advertising the new movie house, you’re made of chorizo.

As if this weren’t enough, Urrea ends the book with “An Afterword” that will crumble you to tears then straighten you up in awe at the poetic power and beauty of his mind and heart. Cinco Puntos Press should be given some kind of literary Olympic gold medal for its remarkable contribution to Hispanic literature. That they’ve chosen Luis Alberto Urrea as one of their authors just proves what a sure eye they have for first-class writers.

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