Review by Booklist Review
Here's an odd one. Sundeen is commissioned to write a book about bullfighting in Mexico. Despite his near-total lack of knowledge on the subject, he plunges headlong into the assignment, only to find it impossible to complete. Instead of the grandeur and splendor he expected to find--he has at least read his Hemingway--Sundeen discovers a sport (or perhaps lifestyle) that might better lend itself to a comic travelogue. Unable to complete his mission, the author calls upon his alter ego, Travis LaFrance (under whose name Sundeen has published Fun with Falconry), to finish the book. What results is a bizarre chronicle of the author's failed attempts to write the book we are, in fact, reading. There is an absurd postmodern slant to all of this, shades of the film Adaptation, or maybe it's just that, as Sundeen reasons, every blockbuster needs a making-of documentary. Either way, it's funny, surreal, and thoroughly one-of-a-kind, an exciting adventure about a grand misadventure. --David Pitt
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
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 Library Journal Review
This is not, repeat not, a book about bullfighting. Instead, it involves a young author's attempt to write a book about bullfighting and, in the process, to morph into his hardboiled adventurer alter ego, the Hemingwayesque Travis LaFrance. Readers might for awhile find themselves debating which persona, Sundeen or LaFrance, they would least like to find themselves seated next to at a crowded bar, but ultimately they will share the author's pain as he fails on both counts. Utah author Sundeen grows on you, if for no other reason than that he's not afraid to laugh at himself. His well-bred gringo reaction to his first bullfight in Mexico is hilarious (if one discounts the fact that a living thing is being slaughtered), and his explanation of the invention of LaFrance will be recognized as right on by many other children of privilege who are riddled by guilt at the social station handed to them. However, in the end, as it bounces between Sundeen's (Car Camping) futile attempts to gather material on bullfighting and impress women and his tough-guy reveries, this turns out to be a book about nothing, and it took Seinfeld to pull that off successfully. Recommended only for larger public libraries.-Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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.