I was persuaded to order yet another graphic novel (my personal brand of crack-cocaine these days) from the library at the encouragement of Jen (Devourer of Books) as part of her spotlight on Chicago authors. I found it waiting for me when I returned from Washington DC, and read it on a roadtrip up to Jacksonville. Truth be told, it will take me longer to write this review that it took me to read the book! You've got to love graphic novels that way.
Synopsis: The author reminisces on his life in a small town in Mexico called El Rosario, a typical community where old women gossip, where folklore define the town's history, and young boys dream of true love.
And it is also the home of "The Graffiti King of Mexico", Mr. Mendoza. For thirty years, the elusive Mr. Mendoza creeps around town with his paintbrush, decorating walls and other objects with declaration of morality and prophetic statements. The townsfolk don't so much like being judged however.
Finally, in his last act of artistic flourish, Mr. Mendoza stands at the center of town, and paints a stairway into the sky, and disappears forever.
My thoughts: I finished this book scratching my head. The story confused me. First, I thought Mr. Mendoza was a bit of a cad, going around and criticizing others for their immoral acts (the author got caught peeping at skinny-dipping girls, and got his rear-end graffiti'd). Then he paints a stairway into the sky and escapes? What? Then I figured I took the story too literally. I'm sure if I were smarter, I would easily spot Mr. Mendoza as a metaphor for something. The town's conscience? God? A fallen angel?
But the artwork! Oh the artwork! I was mesmerized with it. Unfortunately I could not find much online to display the beauty of the illustrations (the cover is my favorite), but here is one example:
There are some local Hispanic artists here in town originally from Puerto Rico that have created paintings and prints with a similar feel, and every time I see it I have to stop and stare. It is rich, and vibrant, and you can almost feel and smell the humidity and the rum and the rhythm of the drum and guitar. Looking at these illustrations almost made me want to close my eyes and start swaying to the beat.
So leave your analytic, literal panties in your dresser today and pick up this quick, atmospheric read. If you can figure out the message, let me know, but prepare your eyes for a little treat.
3.5 out of 5 stars