Liz's Reviews > Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico

Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico by Javier Marías
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's review
May 05, 2010

really liked it
Read in March, 2010

One of the editors at New Directions passed this along to me because he thought I would enjoy it based on my enduring love of Bolano. He wasn't kidding. Clocking in at a slender 57 pages, this is the sort of gripping novella you can and will read in one sitting. The story is a first-person account by an unnamed narrator looking back on a formative moment in his life. As a Spaniard in his early 20's he moved to Hollywood in hopes of finding fame and fortune in the film world. While working odd jobs for a studio he was suddenly offered the opportunity of a lifetime: A director approached him with the news that Elvis was making a new film (Fun in Acapulco) and was looking for someone to tutor him in Spanish, but, due to one of the King's whims, he wanted a "Spanish" Spanish accent, not a Mexican one. The studio was full of Mexican illegals, but as the only Madrid native the narrator jumped at the chance to vacation in Mexico with the most famous rock star in the world. While a terrible actor who was utterly uncapable of speaking Spanish with any degree of authenticity, Elvis proved to be a jovial and inclusive sort. Bursting with energy, after each day's shoot he insisted on going out and exploring the Mexican nightlife. His exhausted and excited entourage could consist of anywhere from three to ten people, but the narrator was always required to be a part of it as he was the only one who spoke Spanish and could act as translator. One night they went to Mexico City with Elvis's pilot, a pretty girl with a bit part in the film, and a particularly obnoxious and abrasive investor. They walked into the wrong bar at the wrong time and the ivestor did something to irk the local mob boss who owned the place. An argument ensued leaving the narrator to act as go-betweeen for two groups who didn't speak the same language, in more ways than one. Due to some of the finer nuances of translation, the argument devolved into a much more serious situation and the narrator ended up getting in over his head. The story pops with energy, violence, and sharp, witty language. As someone who tends to geek out on writing involving rock music and issues surrounding the problems of translation I obviously loved it. But I think the writing here would appeal to all lovers of literary fiction.
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