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Gringo viejo [PDF / EPUB] Gringo viejo One of Carlos Fuentes's greatest works The Old Gringo tells the story of Ambrose Bierce the American writer soldier and journalist and of his last mysterious days in Mexico living among Pancho Villa's One of Carlos Fuentes's greatest works The Old Gringo tells the story of Ambrose Bierce the American writer soldier and journalist and of his last mysterious days in Mexico living among Pancho Villa's soldiers particularly his encounter with General Tomas Arroyo In the end the incompatibility of the two countries or paradoxically their intimacy claims both men in a novel that is most of all about the tragic history of two cultures in conflict.

10 thoughts on “Gringo viejo

  1. says:

    The author Fuentes 1928 2012 was a prolific writer of about two dozen novels and half that many collections of short stories He’s probably the best known Mexican writer to Americans especially for his books Aura and The Death of Artemio CruzThis novel is a fictional account of what might have happened to the American writer and journalist Ambrose Bierce 1842 1914 Bierce a muck raking journalist for Hearst’s newspapers was also well known as the author of The Devil’s Dictionary and a much anthologized short story of an execution during the Civil War An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge Bierce traveled to Mexico in 1914 when he was 71 Apparently he wanted to join up with or perhaps write stories about Pancho Villa’s rebels In any case he was never seen again so he created an enduring literary mystery Fuentes assumes Bierce came to Mexico to die – giving new meaning to the phrase ‘crossing the border’ Bierce had poor relations with his family and had had two sons die tragically from alcohol or suicide Fuentes also paints him as regretting his journalistic career specialized in sarcasm and ridicule The story It revolves around three people Bierce the “Old Gringo;” a Mexican general fighting the dictator's Federales troops and hoping to hook up with Villa in Mexico City and a young woman freshly arrived from the US who was hired as a nanny and tutor to the children of wealthy hacienda owners As the story opens the owners have just fled and the general has burned the hacienda Although he burned the mansion the General left standing a mirrored dance hall as a symbol of the extravagance of the wealthy elite and as an opportunity for poor Mexicans soldiers and their families to see themselves for the first time in their lives in a full length mirror The Mexican soldiers travel with their families The General lives in a railroad car with his wife the Old Gringo and the American woman The burning of the hacienda may have had great symbolic value but no practical purpose The local Indians immediately start rebuilding it for shelter as they try to establish a self governing commune and start farming the land In the very first military action the Old Gringo careless of his life and like a comic book superhero heads up the charge into battle on a white horse ignoring bullets and cannon balls whizzing by his head A May December romance starts to bud between the Old Gringo and the 31 year old woman As we learn of their lives both the woman and the General see their absent fathers in the Old Gringo The Old Gringo dies of course but not in the way anyone would predict In long conversational discourses especially from the General we learn about philosophy life death love Christianity How he deals with his mixed ancestry – he’s a mestizo – his father a wealthy European landowner his mother an Indian servant Why fight? The General knows “there has to be a new violence to end the old violence” But the woman knows “he will go on fighting until he dies he will never stop fighting even if he wins”There’s some graphic sex The book was made into a movie starring Jane Fonda and Gregory Peck in 1989 – I’ve not seen it In my rating I rounded up from 35 and gave it a 4 The philosophical conversations and thinking at times turned into discourses and it was a bit repetitive – too much made of the mirrors and the woman’s missing father and a specific example we must have been told 40 times that “the Old Gringo came here to die” – a bit much even as an intentional mantra By the way some samples from Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary Cannon n An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundariesConservative n A statesman who is enad of existing evils as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with othersEgotist n A person of low taste interested in himself than in meLawyer n One skilled in circumvention of the law35Love n A temporary insanity curable by marriagePositive a Mistaken at the top of one's voiceTop photo Pancho Villa and his men from Wikipedia commonsMiddle photo Amrose Bierce from biographycomBottom Author Carlos Fuentes from mhpbookscom

  2. says:

    Highly oneiric Revolutionary Mexico Swift jumps from conciousness to conciousness yet with the purpose of generating a coherent narrative The language is spritely sullen erotic by turns The old gringo American journalist and author Ambrose Bierce is a bitter man come to Mexico seeking death at the hands of the Revolution He meets the younger rebel General Tomas Arroyo whose innate machismo turns his relationship with the old gringo into a Game of Manhood A game only the general seems to be interested in playing The old gringo fearlessly marches straight into the most dangerous faceoffs with the Federales He seems invulnerable god like The bullets don't so much as graze him General Arroyo's rebels marvel at him but the General resents the gringo for stealing his thunder In a comandeered train the general his army and the gringo cross the desert for a day and a night to the famous Miranda Hacienda It was here that Arroyo was fathered by Señor Miranda It was here Arroyo grew up and came to know intimately his nation's aristocracy It is in the destruction of the hacienda that the general seems to want to make a grand statement On arrival he and the old gringo find the white woman the gringa arrived only hours earlier from the US to teach English to the Miranda children long since flown the coop Her name is Harriet Winslow She positively screams uptight white anglo saxon protestant and the destruction of personal property is incomprehensible to her She discounts the long history of class oppression in Mexico in a trice Somehow she feels laughably even in the absence of the departed Mirandas that she is responsible not only for stopping the destruction of the hacienda but also for seeing to its restoration She sets the peons to whitewashing the place Yet like certain characters in Anita Brookner’s oeuvre she knows she's missed much of life in her 31 years She becomes Arroyo's lover One feels she could use the workout The old gringo sees her submission to Arroyo only in terms of the General’s machismo He does not for a minute imagine the attraction this man of action might hold for Harriet The sex is electric As I've said elsewhere I’m no fan of sex in literature It's almost always badly done but not here Here the sex is integral it works to push the story forward; whereas usually all the action of the fiction must stop for nookie time It's almost too long the sex Fuentes pushes it about ten pages too far But one can see why It's working so well The novel's onieric bent seamlessly blends backstory dialogue both thought and spoken hopes and dreams you name it The prose is consistently dazzling You must read it

  3. says:

    “No More West Boys”Like most who know of Ambrose Bierce his Devil’s Dictionary was the sum of what I knew about him That and his disappearance in the deserts of Chihuahua in 1913 His book became a companion of my young adulthood confirming my own less than positive attitude about things as diverse as military life patriotism and so called family values in America I suppose the mystery of his final months provided an excuse to consider him as ‘taken up’ rather than dead a sort of literary Elijah whose prophecies were being fulfilled I think Carlos Fuentes may have had similar feelings when he wrote this fictional ending to Bierce’s lifeThat life spanned a crucial transition in American culture Not only did Bierce experience the horror of the Civil War he also watched as the country subseuently was transformed into a dominantly corporate society controlled by men like Leland Stamford and Randolph Hearst that is to say by finance and information Bierce had investigated the former on behalf of the latter Bierce knew both intimately and hated that he had worked in and for the system that fostered them and the other corporate robber barons who ran the country for their benefit and largely still do His freuent journalistic sarcasm was self directed as much as it was comment on American societyManifest Destiny the idea that white Northern Europeans were entitled to expand across the North American continent to the Pacific was the prevailing policy of the American government during all of Bierce’s life And the policy objective had been achieved by the end of the 19th century There was no Western frontier The American Dream had been realised “In his own lifetime the old gringo had seen an entire nation move from New York to Ohio to the battlegrounds of Georgia and the Carolinas and then to California where the continent sometimes even destiny ended” What had been produced was not the predicted utopia of Calvinist pre destination but a cultural cesspit “My country 'tis of thee Sweet land of felony” Bierce sings His mere presence in Mexico as an escapee from his own country is a mockery of “God his Homeland Money”Like the Dutch building dikes perhaps America doesn’t know how to stop its successful expansionism Among other things it invades Cuba on a pretext sends troops into Mexico to fight ‘bandits’ and shells the port of Veracruz for ‘insulting the flag of the United States’ The cultural imperialism and racism of America cannot contain itself “We are caught in the business of forever killing people whose skin is of a different color” the old gringo muses And of course he is right The momentum of American hatred for what is ‘other’ continues unabated than a century after Bierce’s self exileThe Mexicans know why Bierce has come “The old gringo came to Mexico to die He wanted us to kill him us Mexicans” A running theme throughout the story is the mirrored ballroom of a hacienda captured by Pancho Villa’s troops The locals had never seen a mirror before and don’t know what to make of the images; but the gringo and a rather stupid gringa who could well be the United States in a skirt see themselves as never before The vision in the mirrors is disconcerting and it changes the self images of the Americans They recognise that “each of us carries the real frontier inside” The dream had been a delusion To recognise the inherent inferiority of this delusion is why “to be a gringo in Mexico is one way of dying”

  4. says:

    Such a simple plot the old man goes to Mexico to die in the Revolution All he wants is a dignified death But of course there is a woman involved and a Mexican general This is a short book but it may as well have been War and Peace based on how long it took me to read it maybe because it's written like poetry than prose forcing me to slow down re read savor the language and uestion its meaning There are themes here than I can probably even recognize Death life love national borders what it means to be a parent or a daughterson sex dignity true human relationships time poverty power identity And none of them are painted in black and white No there are no real answers here And at times the reader really can't be blamed for wondering what is really happening the narrative is so subjective And yet the uncertainties seem to come closer to approaching any semblance of real truth than bold and specific claims in black and white ever could Each of us carries his Mexico and his United States within him a dark and bloody frontier we dare to cross only at night Then the roving consciousness that was the seal and the fascination of his imagination if not his genius asked the old gringo Did you know she has been creating you just as you were creating her? Did you know old man that she had created a plan for living for you? Did you know we are all the object of another's imagination? You might think this turns out to be the most depressing story in the world but somehow it's not Somehow by the end of it I became convinced that true and deep human interaction is indeed possible and it is the stuff that in the end defines our lives So I guess when I said there were no real answers I may have been wrong It's just that the answers are very gray And of course subjective Loneliness is an absence of time I'm glad I marked some of my time with this book

  5. says:

    An old Anglo man in Mexico amidst the turbulence of that country’s revolutionary period of 1910 20 might ordinarily not draw much attention Yet in Carlos Fuentes’s 1985 novel El gringo viejo The Old Gringo the old man is not just any old man and his rendezvous has everything to do with reckonings facing both Mexico and the United States of AmericaFuentes the son of diplomats who served all over Latin America later said that his residence in a variety of countries throughout the region gave him something of an insider outsider’s perspective on his home nation of Mexico The winner of prestigious literary awards like the Miguel de Cervantes Prize given for lifetime achievement in Spanish language literature Fuentes is a careful observer of his society and a perceptive student of human character – and his interest in physical borders and cultural boundaries comes through strongly in The Old GringoThe title character and dramatic situation of El gringo viejo proceed from a still unsolved historical mystery involving the American writer Ambrose Bierce Students of American literature know him as “Bitter Bierce” a man who wrote journalism and fiction that fairly dripped with his cynical disdain for human characterThe short story collection In the Midst of Life Tales of Soldiers and Civilians 1892 with stories that almost invariably end in death provide a good example of Bierce’s downbeat sensibility So for that matter does Bierce’s satirical The Devil’s Dictionary 1911 a thoroughly cynical lexicon that defines “love” for example as “a temporary insanity curable by marriage” No wonder they called him “Bitter Bierce”What drew Fuentes to want to write about Bierce was the set of mysterious circumstances surrounding Bierce’s death Bierce traveled into revolutionary Mexico in October of 1913 to report on the war there and made his way from Ciudad Juárez to the city of Chihuahua From that point on Bierce simply disappears from history his ultimate fate still unknownIn El gringo viejo Fuentes sets forth an imaginative retelling of Bierce’s last days In this novel Bierce is in Mexico because he wants to die; he has outlived his wife and his children and he is monumentally tired of living Yet he cannot take his own life – because one of his sons committed suicide and Bierce cannot engage in an appropriation of his late son’s pain Therefore he wants someone else to fire the fatal bullet to put him out of his misery – and it is for that reason that he is in Mexico In composing El gringo viejo Fuentes certainly had in mind this uote from a letter Bierce wrote to a cousin before crossing into Mexico “Good bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life It beats old age disease or falling down the cellar stairs To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah that is euthanasia”Accordingly Bierce has crossed the US Mexico border on what amounts to an elaborate suicide mission His crossing of the border from the stability of the USA into the turmoil of revolutionary Mexico gives him considerable opportunity to meditate on frontiers both literal and metaphorical “There’s one frontier we only dare to cross at nightThe frontier of our differences with others of our battles with ourselves” Later Bierce offers similar reflections that “I’m afraid that each of us carries the real frontier inside”Eventually Bierce finds himself with troops commanded by General Tomás Arroyo whose forces have liberated and burned most of the old Miranda estate on which he once lived as a young peon The Mirandas as Arroyo informs Bierce were cruel hacienda owners beating and mistreating the peons on any pretext Arroyo always carries the old ownership papers from the hacienda to emphasize that ordinary Mexican people like him always held the true title to the land – even though he cannot actually read the papersAt the hacienda the reader meets Harriet Winslow a young Anglo woman from Washington DC who traveled to Mexico to teach the children of the hacienda only to discover that her prospective job has gone up in flames along with most of the hacienda Bierce befriends Harriet but holds back one crucial detail “He did not tell her that he had come here to die because everything he loved had died before him”When General Arroyo destroyed almost all of the Mirandas’ hacienda he spared the grand ballroom with its floor to ceiling mirrors; and when he shares the reason why with Bierce he does so in a manner that emphasizes the poverty people like the Miranda estate’s peons have always known “They had never seen their whole bodies before They didn’t know their bodies were than a piece of their imagination or a broken reflection in a river Now they know”“Is that why the ballroom was spared?”“You’re right gringo For that very reason”“Why was everything else destroyed? What did you gain by that?”“Look at those fields Indiana General” Arroyo gestured with a swift weary movement of his arm which pushed his sombrero onto his shoulders “Not much grows here Except memory and bitterness”The book’s action depicts an episodic series of military actions in a manner that recalls Mariano Azuela’s 1928 novel Los de abajo The Underdogs In one of those battles Bierce single handedly charges a group of federales earning the admiration of the revolutionaries; but Bierce deflects their praise saying “It’s not difficult to be brave when you’re not afraid to die”In the breaks between military actions the characters have opportunities to reflect on differences between Mexico and the United States Bierce for example offers Harriet these reflections on racial attitudes in the two countries “We are caught in the business of forever killing people whose skin is of a different color Mexico is the proof of what we could have been so keep your eyes wide open”Harriet for her part shows her own kind of ingenuity saving a revolutionary’s life at one crucial point; and Bierce and Arroyo are both drawn toward Harriet Bierce feels a sort of fatherly protective affection toward Harriet; Arroyo’s feelings toward Harriet meanwhile are decidedly not fatherly as a couple of spicy love scenes make clearThe one thing that I found truly unfulfilling about The Old Gringo was the novel’s ending Fuentes as novelist has given himself the challenge of concocting an explanation for Bierce’s still unexplained disappearance in Mexico during the Revolution of 1910 20; but the manner in which he does so seems contrived – as if he feels he somehow has to work in a metaphor for the often exploitative relationship between Mexico and the United StatesAnd I cannot blame him for wanting to do so Consider that the combined impact of the Texas Revolution 1835 36 the Mexican American War 1846 48 and the Gadsden Purchase 1854 was that almost one million suare miles of resource rich territory passed from Mexican to US sovereignty What thoughtful citizen of Mexico could not think about the process through which a neighboring country gained so much territory at the expense of their own? Yet Fuentes’ attempt to combine a necessary plot element with an historical allusion simply did not work for meNone of that however takes away from the overall success of El gringo viejo – a highly popular novel that was adapted for cinema in 1989 with Gregory Peck as Bierce Jane Fonda as Harriet and Jimmy Smits as Arroyo This book provides incisive characterizations well crafted imagery and a thoughtful look at frontiers both literal and metaphorical; as Bierce once puts it “each of us has a secret frontier within him and that is the most difficult frontier to cross”

  6. says:

    Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes represents a masterful fusion between an author's own identity that of a fellow writer Ambrose Bierce a character whose identity we don't learn until late in the story but an abiding presence throughout the novel I suspect that there are multiple reasons to dislike the book because it portrays a chapter of Mexican history that few are familiar with is steeped in a kind of visceral violence misogyny that many would be offended by and lastly the tale is not told in a linear fashion that would make it easier to digest To be sure while it is a fairly brief book Old Gringo takes a consistent amount of care to unravel There are several distinct metaphors images that serve to define the Fuentes novel one being the concept of frontiers the other the images cast by mirrors The book begins by telling us that the old gringo had crossed to the South Mexico because he did not have any frontiers left to cross in his own country The gringo has fought in the American Civil War when uite young now much older he has purposefully sought out the Mexican Revolutionary War as a place to die because to be a gringo in Mexico is euthanasia The gringo is a voluntary fugitive who crosses the border into the violent uncertainty of Mexico with minimal baggage but among his personal effects is a copy of Cervantes Don uixote 2 other books by an American author The gringo declares that each of us carries his own frontier inside The old gringo expresses a determination to remain in charge of his own destiny not to die old unattended but to go out in a blaze of glory I will always be young because I dare to be young But with that personal manifesto he also admits to feeling like an albino monster in a land that the sun has reserved for its favored In time he meets up with a renegade group of soldiers led by Tomas Arroyo one of whose soldiers uickly realizes that the old gringo has come to Mexico to die with another soldier commenting yes but with honor As it turns out dying will not be uite so easily accomplished even in the midst of battles against federal troops even though the gringo obviously seems an easy target but manages to take on a phantom like nature impressing Arroyo his Mexican troopsMeanwhile Tomas Arroyo is in the midst of a different sort of uest an illiterate bastard child of a wealthy man who owns a large hacienda but who flees with his family when he senses a large scale insurrection A woman enters the scene a well born but now impoverished American who has decided to throw caution to the wind by fleeing her urban life intending to become a governess to the affluent family that has just fled in an ill timed manner Alas Harriet Winslow also has lingering uestions about her own father who had enjoyed a passionate relationship with the family maid who may or may not have been slain while a soldier in Cuba in any case being at that point unaccounted for The old gringo Tomas Arroyo Harriet Winslow form an eclectic very unstable bond It is said that Arroyo who has revenged his upbringing by destroying most of the hacienda contains a whole library of words in his illiterate head Even the gringo has an apparently unsettled relationship with his late father is said to have committed fictional parenticide One might say that these 3 characters fuse while each is in search of some form of liberation from their given identities while enfolded by great uncertainty tropical heat for as it is explained here in Mexico there is nothing to subdue nothing to save There is a wonderful scene when in the remnants of the ballroom of the former hacienda peasant soldiers view themselves in a mirror for the first time matched by other moments when a mirror is used to convey an image that is both true mysterious with its viewer not wishing to accept it as a true facsimile Harriet looked at the old gringo exactly as he wanted to be looked at before he died He felt that her gaze completed the fragmented seuence of his imagination of Harriet Winslow that had begun in the reflections of the mirrors in the ballroom that was but a threshold of the road to dream atomized into a thousand oneiric instants now joined again in the words that told the old gringo that Harriet would not allow a living testimony to her sensuality that she was giving the old man the right to dream about her but not ArroyoThis was my first encounter with Carlos Fuentes much of the prose in the Old Gringo is magical playing on things that are at times dreamlike occult paranormal drawn from Mesoamerican folk traditions One guesses that Fuentes was influenced by James Joyce other modern authors aims to merge some of the fabric of his novel with deeply rooted Mexican folk aspects The author intonesWere all these bodies lying around the suare carefully stretched out there like bleached dolls simply the proof that they themselves the old man the young general her errant father her abiding mother little Pedro the moon faced woman were all bodies occupied by the dead carcasses presently inhabited by people called Harriet Winslow Tomas Arroyo Ambrose Biercewho was a dead name printed on the covers of 2 books the old man traveled with She could not call him Cervantes the author's name on the other book So maybe calling him Bierce was just as far fetched It was an invisible name simply because the old man had no name; it was already a dead name As dead as the corpses neatly laid out around the village suare Did they ever have names?Like Ambrose Bierce Fuentes had 2 children who predeceased him perhaps there are other parallels shared by the authors Old Gringo is a figure whose identity is tied to two wars one American the other Mexican and Fuentes is a Mexican who grew up in large part in the US was very keen on the war stories of Ambrose Bierce While I found the novel rather slow going occasionally the time spent in dissecting it was time well spent ultimately an enjoyable literary experience

  7. says:

    Read in Spanish the English translation being The Old GringoA bit of historical background might be useful here Ambrose Bierce 1842 1914 was a well known American journalist essayist and editorial writer who traveled to Mexico in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution He was rud to have joined the rebel forces of Pancho Villa and was never heard from again Countless theories of his ultimate fate have been propounded over that past century Carlos Fuentes used Bierce’s character never named always called only gringo viejo as the centerpiece of his novelThe story has three main characters One is the old gringo a veteran of the American Civil War journalist for the Hearst newspaper chain father of two sons both of whom committed suicide who has come to Mexico to die convinced that to die in a war is preferable to dying from anything trivial or from suicide The second is Tomas Arroyo the self appointed general of a splinter group of Pancho Villa’s army a autocratic and self aggrandizing mestizo who is the illegitimate son of a peasant woman and Senor Miranda the owner now fled with his family of the ranch where most of the novel’s action takes place The third is Harriet Winslow a young white American woman who has come to tutor the Miranda children only to find them gone She is from a privileged Washington DC family but her father a military officer has disappeared in Cuba during the Spanish American War he himself having been an enigmatic figureFuentes uses these three individuals to explore a number of themes reflecting and refracting their personalities and interpersonal relationships through the image and metaphor of mirrors The relationship of each character to each of the others continually evolves and issues of nationality politics imperialism sexuality mortality love justice and social class are all probed Fuentes’ use of language is adroit and his perspectives psychologically perceptive The resolution and often non resolution of issues and relationships is as creative and thought provoking as it is ambiguous and startling I found the novel fascinatingLet me make a suggestion for those reading literature in other than their own primary language I have a modest but evolving and improving facility in several languages and I have found it most satisfactory to download a foreign language work to my e book reader in my case a Kindle with dictionary and translator apps Being able just to touch a word phrase or sentence that is unfamiliar or confusing and immediately having a translation available enables one to avoid the cumbersomeness of trying to hold a book open with one hand and leaf through a dictionary with another The reading process is far easier and enjoyable this way And I have found that my reading ability improves rapidly and painlessly using this approach

  8. says:

    This is not a bad book That being said after reading Fuentes's Crystal Frontier and being powerfully moved The Old Gringo fell a bit short I was excited to read this modern classic especially as it was inspired by the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce an author whose life and work I find compelling While the hypothetical circumstances and characters Fuentes creates are believable and there is some great symbolism here particularly his comparison of the United States and Mexico to the opposing emotional forces within the individual I found there was an unnecessary banal tone to a number of passages I am surprised to find myself offering this criticism as normally offensive language violence etc are not of themselves problematic for me Perhaps my issue was that these particular passages felt a bit forcedThe largest problem I had was that Fuentes seemed to concentrate much on several other characters than the old gringo himself the character that led me to read the story in the first place In fact the last third or so of the book doesn't deal with him at all I expected some insight into his character his rationale and his identity as a writer On the whole it felt anti climactic

  9. says:

    In the end I came sort of round to the book but lots of impediments to the liking Fuentes must have read all of Faulkner then thought so this is how one writesToo many convolutions paradoxes contradictions enigmas etc of primal mythic esoteric etc essence for me And unfortunately not Faulkner's skill at making you feel like you really are peering into the heart of something very dark and mysterious something which you really need and want to know about but never willI think Fuentes should have read Hemingway firstYou also need some historical background Mexico Pancho Villa and Ambrose Bierce as the novel presents those two and that land as the major characters in the novel The book has some historical basis to it though it is primarily about the revolutionary collision of the Mexican social classes with a good dose of American intervention which we still doingThe book also seemed rather clichéd in its presentation of the Wild West Wild Mexico that is and the full complement Clint Eastwood heroes villains and right hand menI guess in the end the book's main draw is that it keeps you going though not overly enthusiastically But maybe if you're Mexican or interested in Mexico then this might seem a much better book

  10. says:

    Old Gringo was agony for me to read Carlos Fuentes came to Houston a few weeks back and I drove in to see him He was pretty much as I'd expected An achingly handsome eighty year old man who writes poetic novels And who sees life as experienced mainly through his manly body parts This may work for his male readers This may work for the parts of Old Gringo told from the point of view of his male characters like Pancho Villa and one of Villa's generals and even Ambrose Bierce But it did not work for me when it came to reading the parts of the story told from the point of view of Harriet Winslow a starting to age American school marm who takes up with Bierce and the Villa general Agony to read I'd planned to read Old Gringo the book I'd bought at the reading and then watch the video I fought my way to the end of the novel loathing every page And then went hopefully to the video When I took the DVD from its envelope I discovered the DVD had been snapped in half Could it be that the video was as horrifying as the novel and the previous viewer lost it?

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