They say the third time is the Charm, and considering how much I enjoyed Marcus Wilder’s two previous books ( “Naïve & Abroad: Pakistan, Travel in a Land of Mullahs” and “Naïve & Abroad: Spain: Limping 600 Miles through History”), I was worried that I would over-hype his newest book (“Naïve & Abroad: Mexico, Painted Mask”) and be disappointed.
No worries. Wilder continues to delight and enthrall with each re-reading of “Painted Mask.” The Table of Contents reads like a list of topics guaranteed to arouse the ire of the La Raza crowd. Mexican Truth. Mexican Corruption. Why Mexicans Do Not Assimilate. Why Mexicans Come North. Mother of Mexicans. Culture in a Curse. Yet there’s no animus here; Wilder takes his lifetime of growing up in South Texas, his command of the language, and his extensive travels in Mexico herself and brings the truth as he sees it, while showing us collectively the things he’s learned in the process.
Of course, the master storyteller in Wilder comes shining through quickly. He peppers you alternately with anecdotes, statistics, vignettes, off-topic subjects, and the occasional odd tale of his childhood in a Mexican work camp that makes the book come alive with texture, realism, and authentic south Texan flavor. Wilder declares “It is possible to live one’s entire life in San Antonio without speaking one word of English…without inconvenience. This is equally true along the Texas/Mexico border. This must be true in other U.S. cities. In San Antonio, I frequently eat…or have a flat fixed…or have my oil changed where no one speaks English. ” Living in San Antonio and Chicago as I have I know this is true; I’d just never noticed before he said it. Wilder is a keen master of the obvious, and a spellbinding reporter of these truths.
“Painted Mask” is alternately fascinating and disturbing in some of the conclusions Wilder draws about the future of America. It’s a must-read for anyone looking for a primer on Mexico, Mexicans, and immigration. Wilder is quickly becoming one of my favorite “must-read” authors on a level with Tom Clancy, Hemingway, Stephen King, and Dan Brown; albeit for different reasons for each author. But make no mistake; there are a lot of books out there that will leave you unfulfilled and bored. Marcus Wilder does not write anything like them.
Go; Buy Now!