September 2016
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Luminous Cities by Eduardo Garcia Aguilar

This collection of short stories (and they are short, only 3-4 pages long) is described as showing us familiar cities through an outsider’s view. Had they not told me that, I never would have guessed. There is very little of the “luminosity” of the title and more sex and depression than I would have ever wanted.

The first third of the novel is essentially full of orgies, including one which involves a 14-year-old girl, and in general I found it offensive the entire way through. It seems every woman can be won through a few sleek words. I don’t really see what this has to do with the title, either – I didn’t see any of the cities portrayed through these explicit scenes and images.

The second third of the collection is entirely depressing. Every story focuses on slime, poverty, or murder, sometimes all three with other depressing aspects of city life tossed in. I find it hard to believe that on visiting these cities I would be witness to a shooting every time, especially considering I have before. Again, did not find meaning in this, and the book seems to lack all luminosity at this point.

Luckily, the last third does manage to improve. A few of the stories pick up on the same horrible themes as the first two parts, but for the most part we finally see beauty juxtaposed with depression, which I can easily imagine and see in every city. ‘Stendhal and Flaubert in the Stomach’ was my favorite of the collection, followed by a couple others in which Aguilar alludes to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think that if the whole book had been more like the last third, the title would have made a lot more sense and I would have gotten more out of it.

Maybe I’m missing something, I honestly could not tell you, but I did not derive any potent message from this book, and I almost completely failed to see the “cities from an outsider’s point of view” like the back of the book promised. I hope that Aliform Publishing has better books, because this one certainly isn’t going to do very well. I received the book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and otherwise I really would not have got past the first story – I’m still wondering how I ended up with this book to begin with, as I can’t think what it would match in my library. I’m very grateful for the book, but hoping for one I can actually enjoy next time.

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