The New York Times Book Review, Sunday, November 20, 1988
¡WELCOME TO MY CONTRI!
By Geoffrey Fox
This frequently powerful collection of short stories enters Latin America as if through the rickety back door of a burlesque house: "Goo'mornin', all you wonnerful people," begins the title story as a tour guide leads his Anglo flock through the imaginary splendors of a city called Santo Abismo. The low-rent standup routine serves to lure unsuspecting readers to some pretty dank depths, and although the stories of violence draw from a familiar well (a peasant is mutilated, a village decimated, a rebellion plotted), when he turns to accidental clashes between conflicting cultures, Geoffrey Fox steps out on his own. Most fictional treatments of such encounters feature at least one ugly American, but "Welcome to My Contri" does not resort to easy cliché. The Northerners who appear here do not tramp carelessly on third world freedoms; instead, they inadvertently knock them over. A bit like characters from Graham Greene, they don't quite understand the rules by which others play the game, with the result that the game itself is deeply suspect. In this short and impressive work, Mr. Fox, who has taught Latin American politics and society at New York University, has created a memorable set of players who, while not natural antagonists (they often share the same dreams and goals), are still somehow bent on confrontation. Watching their sometimes vicious, often darkly humorous interactions leaves us thoroughly wrung out -- and aware that we are in the presence of a formidable new writer. -- JAMES POLK