First, the good news, which is, of course, that Obama won. The above photo was taken moments before he was declared the victor, at a results-watching party thrown by the U.S. Embassy at the Hotel Camino Real. The beauty in the silly hat is Margot Lee Shetterly from the great state of Virginia, who is alongside her husband, Aran Shetterly from the chillier one of Maine. The two are publisher and editor, respectively, of Inside Mexico, a monthly English-languague publication here. (You can have a look at www.insidemex.com.) Judging from the grave expressions on their faces, the woman with her hand on her cheek, and the other inspiring sympathy from Margot, were perhaps McCain supporters.
The Mexicans at the party were hardly paying attention to the election results; indeed, they seemed distracted by them. Which brings me to the bad news: Tuesday, at about 6:40 p.m., a Lear jet crashed down on Paseo de la Reforma near the Fuente de Petróleos. This would be more or less like a plane falling on Fifth Avenue in New York, or between the Café de la Paix and the Bourse in Paris. The most prominent passenger was Juan Camilo Mouriño, Minister of the Interior, and right-hand man to President Felipe Calderón.
The government is assuring us that it was an accident. However, all the Mexicans at the party seemed to think that the plane’s failure was the work of drug traffickers, as Mouriño was directly involved in Calderón’s war against them. All nine of the people on the plane, passengers and crew, died. Miraculously, it appears that there were only five other casualties, although 40 people were taken to the hospital. Six are in critical condition and one is among the five who perished.
Balzac said that all great books are about sex and money. If he had read Patricia Monge’s book of short stories, Edecán urbana, he would have been satisfied at least halfway. If in the stories there isn’t a lot of money, this lack is compensated – as it is, if we are lucky, in real life – with an abundance of sex.
Monge’s book contains seven episodes in the life of a contemporary woman in Mexico City. The sex scenes are written without adornment, euphemisms, shame or shyness. Upon reading Edecán urbana, what is most striking is that there are so few authors in Mexico, male or female, who write about sex with such frankness. (Which perhaps should come as no surprise – according to one survey, 71 percent of women in Mexico say they are sexually unsatisfied.)
Forewarned is forearmed: Edecán urbana isn’t merely a dirty book. The author is also interested in those intersections in which sex isn’t only about sex – in Monge’s stories, sex is a camouflage for love, for falling out of love, for hoping to fall in love, for the desperate search for love, and the cynicism that accompanies the lack of love.
There are also substantial parts of the book that have nothing to do with sex, or in which the sex is indirect or imagined. Monge, an Argentine who has lived in Mexico for over a decade, like many foreigners, has an expertly jaundiced eye for social stereotypes, such as the petty bureaucrat. In my favorite parts of the book the narrator speculates about the conjugal life of one of these specimens, and how he engenders his infidelities.
In the photo above, the author adjusts an accessory.