The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of LoveA plump, juicy, sexy tropical fruit of a novel!

Its immediately evident why it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; as a matter of fact, it comes from a proud line of family sagas all of them conjoined fatefully with the history of our nation. The Castillo Bros. ("castle" siblings) are the Kings of their music and major purveyors of the CubanAmerican Zeitgeist. Of course, the story is tragicomic... sad but not in a completely unfamiliar way. Yes, this one seems to have inspired later Pulitzer winners, such as "The Stone Diaries", "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay", "Oscar Wao" & the musicheavy "A Visit from the Goon Squad."
Looking at her, Nestor felt fainthearted: she was more beautiful than the sea, than the morning light, than a wildflower field, and her whole body, agitated and sweaty from her struggles, gave off an aromatic female scent, somewhere between meat and perfume and ocean air, that assailed Nestor's nostrils, sank down into his body like mercury, and twisted in his gut like Cupid's naughty arrow. He was so shy that he couldn't look at her anymore, and she liked this, because men were always looking at her.
"My name is Maria," she told him

He is Nestor Castillo, a young man born on a farm and coming to Havana to become a musician, like his big brother Cesar. In the big city, he meets a beautiful woman, has a torid love affair with her, and then he loses her. While Cesar is a libertine who changes his women more often than his shirts, Nestor cannot recover from this first love affair, not even when he goes to New York, like many of his fellow Cuban artists, in the 1950'a at the height of the Mambo Craze in the American nightclubs, not even when he meets another beautiful Cuban immigrant and marries her, not even when, at the height of his succes, he sings with his brother in a Hollywood television programme about the pain of lost love in a melancholic bolero "Bella Maria de Mi Alma"

Nestor remains distant, taciturn, tormented by absences, missing not only Maria, but also the land of his birth and childhood. He is transformed into a symbol of the exiled soul:His continuing grief was a monument to gallego melancholy.. Like Nestor are most of his compatriots who work on poorly paid day jobs, struggle to raise families and to maintain the spirit of the homeland in an alien land:

Many of his friends were that way, troubled souls. They would always seem happyespecially when they'd talk about women and musicbut when they had finished floating through the euphoric layer of their sufferings, they opened their eyes in a world of pure sadness and pain.

This sadness is in stark contrast with the carnival atmosphere of the dancing halls, but maybe it explains the wild abandon of these people to the rhythms of the mambo, their sentimentality and their readiness to come together in moments of need. And in explains why their lives are best expressed trough the music they compose, sing at all hours of the day, dance and even make love to. It may also explain the attraction exercised by the African drumbeats, the raw emotions and the joy for life on the more restrained and selfconscious American audience in the 1950's.

... songs written to take the listeners back to the plazas of small towns in Cuba, to Havana, to past moments of courtship and love, passion, and a way of life that was fading from existence. His (and Nestor's) songs were more or less typical of the songwriting of that day: ballads, boleros, and an infinite variety of fast dance numbers (son montunos, guarachas, merengues, guaracha mambos, son pregones). The compositions capturing the moments of youthful cockiness ("A thousand women have I continually satisfied, because I am an amorous man!"). Songs about flirtation, magic, blushing brides, cheating husbands, cuckolds and the cuckolded, flirtatious beauties, humiliation. Happy, sad, fast, and slow.
And there were songs about torment beyond all sorrows.

From a structural perspective, the history of the two brother, first in Cuba and later in New York, is told through the songs they composed and sung together with their bandThe Mambo Kings . An elderly Cesar reminisces alone and drunk in a cheap hotel room, listening to old 78's self printed records, thinking back to the glory days of white silken suits, Panama hats and endless nights of revelry, spicy food, loud music, voluptuous women and companionship.

What did he have? A few pictures from Cuba, a wall filled with autographed pictures, a headful of memories, sometimes scrambled like eggs.
Again, he remembers back to long ago and his Papi in Cuba saying, "You become a musician, and you'll be a poor man all your life."

The story is nonlinear, following Cesar's "scrambled" train of thought, jumping forward and backward in time, yet the individual snapshots are painstakingly and lovingly expanded, added upon and filled with extravagant minute details by Oscar Hijuelos until they become a panoramic and comprehensive big canvas memorial to the times and the people of Little Havana, to the legacy of a Cuban lifestyle that was disappearing fast under the pressure of revolutionary changes and modern values.

This generation has lost its sense of elegance.exclaims Cesar in 1970, looking at the picture of the dapper young men with immaculate suits and pencilthin moustaches, remembering huge ballrooms with sparkling chandeliers and ladies in evening gowns, sighing over past memories of dainty underwear and high heeled shapely legs. Most of all Cesar is missing his brother and his music, the energy and the resilience that he took for granted in his youth. He's paying the price now for all those fat cigars and glasses of rum, for the sleepless nights and casual amorous encounters.

... he'd lied so often to women over the years, had mistreated and misunderstood so many women, that he had resigned himself to forgetting about love and romance, those very things he used to put in songs.

I was already a 'Cubanophile', as one of the followers of the Mambo Kings is described in the book, long before I read the present novel. It started, as with many of my contemporaries, courtesy of theBuena Vista Social Cluband the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzales. I was thus already predisposed to enjoy Oscar Hijuelo's history and to look forward to the many tidbits of information and cameo appearances of popular artists from the island and from the American scene. The music already spoke to me of the people and of their passion, of their laughter and of their sadness walking hand in hand. Hijuelos didn't disappoint, but I think I can understand how another reader may view the baroque extravagance of the descriptive passages, the almost academic essays on the origins, inspiration and style of the songs, the pervasive melancholy of the whole presentation as a drag and as selfindulgence on the part of a writer who is unable to get detached enough from his subject. I confess that even for me it was not a smooth ride, and the density of the text often put me to sleep after a day at work. The chronic depression of the two brothers started to get annoying, especially in the second half of the novel, the one that focuses not on the 1950's dance craze, but on the later decadence of a once macho man. The mistreatment of women may be consistent with the period described, but it weights uncomfortably on the modern reader. There are numerous explicit sexual passages, necessary in my opinion to underline the character types, but liable to put stress on the more susceptible readers. Finally, for a book that claims to be apolitical, Hijuelos, through the mouthpiece of Cesar Castillo, unleashes quite vicious attacks on Castro and his revolutionaries, going so far as to mourn for Batista and to reproduce verbatim several of the most egregious pieces of propaganda circulated by the CIA.

There are though enough highlights to make me glad I was patient and read through to the end of the book. The novel weaves together fact and fiction so well that I had no way to tell which are the real musicians of the era and which are the fictional ones. All of them feel alive, ready to stand up and start blowing a trumpet or strumming a guitar, take a turn around the dance floor in the arms of a sultry Latino beauty. The very aboundance of the minute details of day to day life that slow down the pacing are the ones that make the experience authentic and memorable. The cheap sentimentality and readiness for tears are proof that their hearts are not hardened, cynical and closed to the possibility of love:

The night of the dance, Delores was thinking about what her sister Ana Maria had told her: "Love is the sunlight of the soul, water for the flowers of the heart, and the sweetscented wind of the morning of life"sentiments taken from corny boleros on the radio, but maybe they were true, no matter how cruel and stupid men can be. Perhaps there'll be a man who'll be different and good to me.

I don't know if the famous bolero sung by Nestor and Cesar Castillo exists or not in one of the old mambo recordings, but it echoes still in my mind, almost two months after I finished the book, and I know that I will listen more carefully to the lyrics next time I put in one of my own Cuban CD's, thinking of my own youthful disregard for the passage of time and my spendthrift atitude to friends and lovers.

Oh, love's sadness,
Why did you come to me?
I was happy before you
entered my heart.

How can I hate you
if I love you so?
I can't explain my torment,
for I don't know how to live
without your love ...
What delicious pain
love has brought to me
in the form of a woman.
My torment and ecstasy,
Maria, my life,
Beautiful Maria of my soul ...


P.S. : I know there is a movie version of the novel, and I plan to find it. I'm glad I got to read the book first, since I don't think you can condense all the rich material here in only a couple of hours of screen time. Yet, I also know of another Cuban movie that is constructed around the music and the 1950's dance scene that did an excellent job with the subject, and I heartily recommend it: Fernando Trueba's animation feature"Chico and Rita"
I cannot BELIEVE this book won a Pulitzer. I bought it because of the shiny red cover with the big silver medallooking sticker on the front (yes, that is how I judge books). The Cuban history/living in New York as a Cuban/music scene perspective was interesting, but it was overshadowed by the long, long, LONG woeisme sadsack selfdestructive fatalistic characters who were, for the most part, unlikable and unrelatable, and the pages and pages of sex. Not sexy sex; DH Lawrence this is not. It's more like forensic sex. There are much better books about Cuban jazz musicians, I'm sure, if that's what you're in to. I almost never would label a book "DO NOT READ", even if I didn't particularly care for it. This book is one of the few. However, I'm apparently one of the only people who feels this way. The Pulitzer guys certainly didn't agree with me. DNFSo disappointing. An extremely engaging six page intro leads into a choppy, entirely sexfocused story that fails to develop atmosphere or nostalgia the way the author intends. It felt like being stuck at a bar next to an old drunk dude wanting to tell you every detail of his life story: how he used to be a musician and slept with just about every chick in NYC at the time. Bully for you, guy. Can I leave now? I guess there was a plot. But I think it was all a thinly veiled cover for writing about an old man's penis.

Seriously. Every page includes some reference to this horny old man's sexual escapades. It's gross. And a little depressing. Which is...provocative. I guess.

EDIT: I redacted my initial hatredfilled review. I might even consider rereading this, from a nonsophomoric* perspective.

*I was a sophomore in high school when I first read this and hated it... I did not have big hopes going into The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, I was hoping to be surprised. Unfortunately, there were only moments of surprise, but not enough for this one to vault over the threestar mark. It beat out Billy Bathgate for the 1990 Pulitzer and as I have not yet read that book, I have to assume it was mediocre and as there were no other runnerups, that year must have been a downer literary speaking. Maybe they should have taken a closer look at Get Shorty or Hocus Pocus although perhaps stooping down to Jurassic Park would have been too low. In any case, the book was interesting but lacked, I don't know, a likable protagonist.

Nestor and Cesar Castillo are brothers from Cuba that arrive in New York riding the mamba wave in the 40s to become the Mambo Kings. They leave their families in Cuba: their abusive father, their doting mother, and in the case of Nestor an exlover which haunts him and in the case of Cesar, a wife and a daughter. Of the two, the younger Nestor is a shy trumpet player and Cesar est un flamboyant singer and multiinstrumentalist and dancer. The book is told from the perspective of the broken and dying Cesar from his room in the decrepit Hotel Splendor in Manhattan as he ruminates on his life while drinking it away. We learn the tragic stories of various musicians on the scene, killed over women, drugs, unpaid bills. Most of the narrative is in the third person, but there are firstperson interruptions in parentheses and occasionally we step into the minds of Nestor and his unfortunate wife Delores as well.

There are some nice passages in these souvenirs:
"it's as if he's a kid again running through the center of Las Piñas at carnival and the porches of the houses are lit with huge lanterns and the balconies garlanded with ribbons and tapers and flowers, and where he runs past so many musicians, musicians everywhere on the street corners, on the church steps, on the porches of houses, and continuing on toward the plaza, where the big orchestra is set up; that's the trumpet he hears echoing in the arcades of his town as he passes the columns and the shadows of couples hidden behind them and charges down steps past a garden, through the crowds and the dancers, to the bandstand, where that trumpet player, obese in a white suit, head tilted back, blows music up into the sky, and this carries and bounces off the walls of another arcade in Havana, and he's blowing the trumpet now at three in the morning, reeling in circles and laughing after a night out at the clubs and brothels with friends and his brother, laughing with the notes that whip into empty dark spaces and bounce back, swirling inside him like youth." (p. 25).

If only all the text was like this, it would have been a better book. As it is, the text is mostly about how awful Cesar is with women: using and losing them one after another, his disregard of his daughter (despite halfefforts to get to know her is the ultimate failure to meet her when she is an adult).

There is some occasional insight that, as someone having grown up in Miami and having been very close to several Cuban families, I found appropriate in terms of how many Cubans deal with depression:"He didn't know what was going on. Cubans then (and Cubans now) didn't know about psychological problems. Cubans who felt bad went to their friends, ate and drank and went out dancing. Most of the time they wouldn't think about their problems. A psychological problem was part of someone's character. Cesar was un macho grande; Nestor, un infeliz. People who hurt bad enough and wanted cures expected these cures to come immediately. (p. 114). This goes far to explain, for me anyway, how this generation of Cuban immigrants became such hardcore conservatives and why there was so much spousal and child abuse (as shown in the book and bourne out in real life) in the community.

The key memory for Cesar and for Nestor is the moment that they meet Desi Arnaz and get a spot on the I Love Lucy show in 1955 to play Nestor's ballad "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" which gives them a temporary boost in their careers. The meeting is described in a typically Cuban way: "And then in the way that Cubans get really friendly, Arnaz and Cesar reinvented their pasts so that, in fact, they had probably been good friends." (p. 127) Perhaps, it is this idealism that doomed those who stayed in Cuba to accept a terrible regime under Castro and which pushed the migrants to the US to success while their unprocessed psychological problems pulled their politics hardright?

Unfortunately, however, two years later, Nestorstill crushed by his undiagnosed depression because of his lost love in Havanadies in a car crash. The rest of Cesar's life is a slow descent into alcoholism and escapism, and this is the real issue that I had with the book. I sort of liked Nestor, but really it was more out of pity than affection and Cesar is just the boisterous Cuban asshole that I saw and detested when I grew up in Miami. Even Delores was a depressing character that never rises above her station when truly she could have. All the meaningless sex (and there is a LOT of that) and discussions of Cesar's enormous prick got to be irritating as well.

In summary, this is a very melancholic book about extreme macho stereotypes that refuse to look in the mirror and take responsibility for their actions. "While [Nestor] was onstage and playing the solo to "Beautiful Maria", a bad sensation had started in his kneecap and risen slowly, rib by rib, through his chest and back before settling in his thoughts. It was the simple feeling that his desires somehow contradicted his purpose in his life, to write sad boleros, to lie sick in bed, to mourn longpast loves, to crave what he could never have." (p. 180). Ultimately, Nestor dies with that last thought and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about the whole mess that the two brothers leave behind. I suppose that many of the situations relayed here by Hijuelos were autobiographical, but I just found that the pace was grueling at times and that I never liked or wanted to like Cesarespecially 300 pages of his rambling, selfpitying memoirs. Like clockwork, highly viscous, graphic coitus every 35 pages. Give that book The Pulitzer Prize! This book is nostalgic, exotic, erotic and narcotic. It is a beautiful book and I have returned to it several times and each time I am completely swept up emotionally by it. With mere words on a page, the author creates the melodies of the Mambo era, the smells of rural Cuban cane fields, the sweat of a dance hall, the swelter of a New York City summer. The two main characters, Cesar and Nestor love in completely different, but totally compelling, ways. For Nestor, love is an ideal, out of reach and cause for nothing but pain. Cesar loves all of womankind with an unquenchable thirst. If Nestor is a Keats poem, Cesar is a Marvin Gaye album. I did not find the book sexist (as some have claimed), I did find the book unabashedly sensual, as sensual as the music and culture and era in which it celebrates. If your greatest erogenous zone is your mind, read The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. If living a life that is drenched in passion and pleasure to it`s fullest capacity is a belief you subscribe to, read this book. If you enjoy rich storytelling, you will like this book. The Mambo KingsIMDb Two Cuban Brothers Bring A New Music To The S USA They Are As Different As The Problems That Await Them Les Mambo Kings FilmAlloCin Synopsis Et Dtails Dans Les Annes Cinquante, Cesar Et Nestor, Deux Frres Musiciens, Migrs De La Havane, Viennent Tenter Leur Chance New York Le Pays Vit Au Rythme Du Mambo The Mambo KingsDVD Blu RayAchetez The Mambo Kings Petit Prix Livraison Gratuite Voir Cond Retrouvez Infos Avis Sur Une Large Slection De DVD Blu Ray Neufs Ou D Occasion The Mambo Kings ImportArmand AssanteMambo Kings, Zwei Brder Aus Havanna, Der Stille Nestor Antonio Banderas Und Draufgnger Caesar Armand Assante , Wollen Anfang Der Er In New York Als Musiker Fu Fassen Gut, Dass Dort Gerade Das Mambofieber Ausgebrochen Ist Doch Zwielichtige Typen Und Die Liebe Zur Selben Frau Erschweren Die Karriereplne Ungemein Die Musik Reit Mit, Und Michael Ballhaus Sorgte Les Mambo Kings WikipdiaThe Mambo Kings Vostfr Series Streaming Regarder The Mambo Kings Vostfr The Mambo Kings En Streaming Gratuitement Retrouvez Galement L Intgralit Des Pisodes Sur Series Streaming The Mambo KingsRotten Tomatoes Based On A Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel By Oscar Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings Are Brothers Cesar Armand Assante And Nestor Castillo Antonio Banderas , Cuban Musicians Who Immigrate To New York City The Mambo Kingsfilmreaction Details Title The Mambo Kings YearGenres Drama, Music Lengthhour Andminutesminutes Release Dates The Mambo Kings Premiered In Cinemas On February ,Cast Crew We Know Aboutpeople Who Worked On The Mambo Kings The Mambo Kings WikipediaThe Mambo Kings DVD,for Sale Online EBay The Mambo Kings DVD,This Is A Great Movie About Coming To America To Find The Streets Of Gold And Fame Cesar And Nestor Castillo Are The Mambo Kings They Are Popular And Their Fame Is Growing In Havana It Is The Earlys And The Mambo Is The Rage Of Dance Clubs Havana Is Experiencing The Greatest Popularity Of All Times With Tourism, And The Music And This Pulitzer winning story of Cesar, the Mambo King, and his Cuban/Cuban American family was compelling although the narrative timeline was unnecessarily haphazard. The story bounces around a lot. Valid criticism has been made of the constant focus on Cesar’s penis and sexual conquests. ‘Come on now let’s move along’ is what I kept thinking. The superficial treatment of women is also a common theme. These are the three reasons that I can’t rate the book as a masterpiece or at least five stars. The third point is hardly unique to this book or many Pulitzer prize winning novels.

I won’t provide a plot summary here but the fictional panorama that is drawn around Cesar’s life and the thematic ties to Cuba and immigration was convincing. The feeling of this time long since past lends a magical quality to the story, such that I wished I had seen that period up close. The writing was engaging and top notch especially in the broader saga context. I definitely was drawn in enough to care about the characters, both the brothers and the nephew. I think the Desi Arnaz connection to the brothers felt a little contrived or at least unnecessary. I would have liked the book just as much without this tiein.

Four stars.

Oscar Hijuelos (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist. He is the first Hispanic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Hijuelos was born in New York City, in Morningside Heights, Manhattan, to Cuban immigrant parents. He attended the Corpus Christi School, public schools, and later attended Bronx Community College, Lehman College, and Manhattan Community College before matriculating into and

[PDF / Epub] ☉ The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love By Oscar Hijuelos – Ultimatetrout.info
    Looking at her, Nestor felt fainthearted: she was more beautiful than the sea, than the morning light, than a wildflower field, and her whole body, agitated and sweaty from her struggles, gave off an aromatic female scent, somewhere between meat and perfume and ocean air, that assailed Nestor's nostrils, sank down into his body like mercury, and twisted in his gut like Cupid's naughty arrow. He was so shy that he couldn't look at her anymore, and she liked this, because men were always looking at her.
    "My name is Maria," she told him

    He is Nestor Castillo, a young man born on a farm and coming to Havana to become a musician, like his big brother Cesar. In the big city, he meets a beautiful woman, has a torid love affair with her, and then he loses her. While Cesar is a libertine who changes his women more often than his shirts, Nestor cannot recover from this first love affair, not even when he goes to New York, like many of his fellow Cuban artists, in the 1950'a at the height of the Mambo Craze in the American nightclubs, not even when he meets another beautiful Cuban immigrant and marries her, not even when, at the height of his succes, he sings with his brother in a Hollywood television programme about the pain of lost love in a melancholic bolero "Bella Maria de Mi Alma"

    Nestor remains distant, taciturn, tormented by absences, missing not only Maria, but also the land of his birth and childhood. He is transformed into a symbol of the exiled soul:His continuing grief was a monument to gallego melancholy.. Like Nestor are most of his compatriots who work on poorly paid day jobs, struggle to raise families and to maintain the spirit of the homeland in an alien land:

    Many of his friends were that way, troubled souls. They would always seem happyespecially when they'd talk about women and musicbut when they had finished floating through the euphoric layer of their sufferings, they opened their eyes in a world of pure sadness and pain.

    This sadness is in stark contrast with the carnival atmosphere of the dancing halls, but maybe it explains the wild abandon of these people to the rhythms of the mambo, their sentimentality and their readiness to come together in moments of need. And in explains why their lives are best expressed trough the music they compose, sing at all hours of the day, dance and even make love to. It may also explain the attraction exercised by the African drumbeats, the raw emotions and the joy for life on the more restrained and selfconscious American audience in the 1950's.

    ... songs written to take the listeners back to the plazas of small towns in Cuba, to Havana, to past moments of courtship and love, passion, and a way of life that was fading from existence. His (and Nestor's) songs were more or less typical of the songwriting of that day: ballads, boleros, and an infinite variety of fast dance numbers (son montunos, guarachas, merengues, guaracha mambos, son pregones). The compositions capturing the moments of youthful cockiness ("A thousand women have I continually satisfied, because I am an amorous man!"). Songs about flirtation, magic, blushing brides, cheating husbands, cuckolds and the cuckolded, flirtatious beauties, humiliation. Happy, sad, fast, and slow.
    And there were songs about torment beyond all sorrows.

    From a structural perspective, the history of the two brother, first in Cuba and later in New York, is told through the songs they composed and sung together with their bandThe Mambo Kings . An elderly Cesar reminisces alone and drunk in a cheap hotel room, listening to old 78's self printed records, thinking back to the glory days of white silken suits, Panama hats and endless nights of revelry, spicy food, loud music, voluptuous women and companionship.

    What did he have? A few pictures from Cuba, a wall filled with autographed pictures, a headful of memories, sometimes scrambled like eggs.
    Again, he remembers back to long ago and his Papi in Cuba saying, "You become a musician, and you'll be a poor man all your life."

    The story is nonlinear, following Cesar's "scrambled" train of thought, jumping forward and backward in time, yet the individual snapshots are painstakingly and lovingly expanded, added upon and filled with extravagant minute details by Oscar Hijuelos until they become a panoramic and comprehensive big canvas memorial to the times and the people of Little Havana, to the legacy of a Cuban lifestyle that was disappearing fast under the pressure of revolutionary changes and modern values.

    This generation has lost its sense of elegance.exclaims Cesar in 1970, looking at the picture of the dapper young men with immaculate suits and pencilthin moustaches, remembering huge ballrooms with sparkling chandeliers and ladies in evening gowns, sighing over past memories of dainty underwear and high heeled shapely legs. Most of all Cesar is missing his brother and his music, the energy and the resilience that he took for granted in his youth. He's paying the price now for all those fat cigars and glasses of rum, for the sleepless nights and casual amorous encounters.

    ... he'd lied so often to women over the years, had mistreated and misunderstood so many women, that he had resigned himself to forgetting about love and romance, those very things he used to put in songs.

    I was already a 'Cubanophile', as one of the followers of the Mambo Kings is described in the book, long before I read the present novel. It started, as with many of my contemporaries, courtesy of theBuena Vista Social Cluband the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo and Ruben Gonzales. I was thus already predisposed to enjoy Oscar Hijuelo's history and to look forward to the many tidbits of information and cameo appearances of popular artists from the island and from the American scene. The music already spoke to me of the people and of their passion, of their laughter and of their sadness walking hand in hand. Hijuelos didn't disappoint, but I think I can understand how another reader may view the baroque extravagance of the descriptive passages, the almost academic essays on the origins, inspiration and style of the songs, the pervasive melancholy of the whole presentation as a drag and as selfindulgence on the part of a writer who is unable to get detached enough from his subject. I confess that even for me it was not a smooth ride, and the density of the text often put me to sleep after a day at work. The chronic depression of the two brothers started to get annoying, especially in the second half of the novel, the one that focuses not on the 1950's dance craze, but on the later decadence of a once macho man. The mistreatment of women may be consistent with the period described, but it weights uncomfortably on the modern reader. There are numerous explicit sexual passages, necessary in my opinion to underline the character types, but liable to put stress on the more susceptible readers. Finally, for a book that claims to be apolitical, Hijuelos, through the mouthpiece of Cesar Castillo, unleashes quite vicious attacks on Castro and his revolutionaries, going so far as to mourn for Batista and to reproduce verbatim several of the most egregious pieces of propaganda circulated by the CIA.

    There are though enough highlights to make me glad I was patient and read through to the end of the book. The novel weaves together fact and fiction so well that I had no way to tell which are the real musicians of the era and which are the fictional ones. All of them feel alive, ready to stand up and start blowing a trumpet or strumming a guitar, take a turn around the dance floor in the arms of a sultry Latino beauty. The very aboundance of the minute details of day to day life that slow down the pacing are the ones that make the experience authentic and memorable. The cheap sentimentality and readiness for tears are proof that their hearts are not hardened, cynical and closed to the possibility of love:

    The night of the dance, Delores was thinking about what her sister Ana Maria had told her: "Love is the sunlight of the soul, water for the flowers of the heart, and the sweetscented wind of the morning of life"sentiments taken from corny boleros on the radio, but maybe they were true, no matter how cruel and stupid men can be. Perhaps there'll be a man who'll be different and good to me.

    I don't know if the famous bolero sung by Nestor and Cesar Castillo exists or not in one of the old mambo recordings, but it echoes still in my mind, almost two months after I finished the book, and I know that I will listen more carefully to the lyrics next time I put in one of my own Cuban CD's, thinking of my own youthful disregard for the passage of time and my spendthrift atitude to friends and lovers.

    Oh, love's sadness,
    Why did you come to me?
    I was happy before you
    entered my heart.

    How can I hate you
    if I love you so?
    I can't explain my torment,
    for I don't know how to live
    without your love ...
    What delicious pain
    love has brought to me
    in the form of a woman.
    My torment and ecstasy,
    Maria, my life,
    Beautiful Maria of my soul ...


    P.S. : I know there is a movie version of the novel, and I plan to find it. I'm glad I got to read the book first, since I don't think you can condense all the rich material here in only a couple of hours of screen time. Yet, I also know of another Cuban movie that is constructed around the music and the 1950's dance scene that did an excellent job with the subject, and I heartily recommend it: Fernando Trueba's animation feature"Chico and Rita"
    I cannot BELIEVE this book won a Pulitzer. I bought it because of the shiny red cover with the big silver medallooking sticker on the front (yes, that is how I judge books). The Cuban history/living in New York as a Cuban/music scene perspective was interesting, but it was overshadowed by the long, long, LONG woeisme sadsack selfdestructive fatalistic characters who were, for the most part, unlikable and unrelatable, and the pages and pages of sex. Not sexy sex; DH Lawrence this is not. It's more like forensic sex. There are much better books about Cuban jazz musicians, I'm sure, if that's what you're in to. I almost never would label a book "DO NOT READ", even if I didn't particularly care for it. This book is one of the few. However, I'm apparently one of the only people who feels this way. The Pulitzer guys certainly didn't agree with me. DNFSo disappointing. An extremely engaging six page intro leads into a choppy, entirely sexfocused story that fails to develop atmosphere or nostalgia the way the author intends. It felt like being stuck at a bar next to an old drunk dude wanting to tell you every detail of his life story: how he used to be a musician and slept with just about every chick in NYC at the time. Bully for you, guy. Can I leave now? I guess there was a plot. But I think it was all a thinly veiled cover for writing about an old man's penis.

    Seriously. Every page includes some reference to this horny old man's sexual escapades. It's gross. And a little depressing. Which is...provocative. I guess.

    EDIT: I redacted my initial hatredfilled review. I might even consider rereading this, from a nonsophomoric* perspective.

    *I was a sophomore in high school when I first read this and hated it... I did not have big hopes going into The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, I was hoping to be surprised. Unfortunately, there were only moments of surprise, but not enough for this one to vault over the threestar mark. It beat out Billy Bathgate for the 1990 Pulitzer and as I have not yet read that book, I have to assume it was mediocre and as there were no other runnerups, that year must have been a downer literary speaking. Maybe they should have taken a closer look at Get Shorty or Hocus Pocus although perhaps stooping down to Jurassic Park would have been too low. In any case, the book was interesting but lacked, I don't know, a likable protagonist.

    Nestor and Cesar Castillo are brothers from Cuba that arrive in New York riding the mamba wave in the 40s to become the Mambo Kings. They leave their families in Cuba: their abusive father, their doting mother, and in the case of Nestor an exlover which haunts him and in the case of Cesar, a wife and a daughter. Of the two, the younger Nestor is a shy trumpet player and Cesar est un flamboyant singer and multiinstrumentalist and dancer. The book is told from the perspective of the broken and dying Cesar from his room in the decrepit Hotel Splendor in Manhattan as he ruminates on his life while drinking it away. We learn the tragic stories of various musicians on the scene, killed over women, drugs, unpaid bills. Most of the narrative is in the third person, but there are firstperson interruptions in parentheses and occasionally we step into the minds of Nestor and his unfortunate wife Delores as well.

    There are some nice passages in these souvenirs:
    "it's as if he's a kid again running through the center of Las Piñas at carnival and the porches of the houses are lit with huge lanterns and the balconies garlanded with ribbons and tapers and flowers, and where he runs past so many musicians, musicians everywhere on the street corners, on the church steps, on the porches of houses, and continuing on toward the plaza, where the big orchestra is set up; that's the trumpet he hears echoing in the arcades of his town as he passes the columns and the shadows of couples hidden behind them and charges down steps past a garden, through the crowds and the dancers, to the bandstand, where that trumpet player, obese in a white suit, head tilted back, blows music up into the sky, and this carries and bounces off the walls of another arcade in Havana, and he's blowing the trumpet now at three in the morning, reeling in circles and laughing after a night out at the clubs and brothels with friends and his brother, laughing with the notes that whip into empty dark spaces and bounce back, swirling inside him like youth." (p. 25).

    If only all the text was like this, it would have been a better book. As it is, the text is mostly about how awful Cesar is with women: using and losing them one after another, his disregard of his daughter (despite halfefforts to get to know her is the ultimate failure to meet her when she is an adult).

    There is some occasional insight that, as someone having grown up in Miami and having been very close to several Cuban families, I found appropriate in terms of how many Cubans deal with depression:"He didn't know what was going on. Cubans then (and Cubans now) didn't know about psychological problems. Cubans who felt bad went to their friends, ate and drank and went out dancing. Most of the time they wouldn't think about their problems. A psychological problem was part of someone's character. Cesar was un macho grande; Nestor, un infeliz. People who hurt bad enough and wanted cures expected these cures to come immediately. (p. 114). This goes far to explain, for me anyway, how this generation of Cuban immigrants became such hardcore conservatives and why there was so much spousal and child abuse (as shown in the book and bourne out in real life) in the community.

    The key memory for Cesar and for Nestor is the moment that they meet Desi Arnaz and get a spot on the I Love Lucy show in 1955 to play Nestor's ballad "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" which gives them a temporary boost in their careers. The meeting is described in a typically Cuban way: "And then in the way that Cubans get really friendly, Arnaz and Cesar reinvented their pasts so that, in fact, they had probably been good friends." (p. 127) Perhaps, it is this idealism that doomed those who stayed in Cuba to accept a terrible regime under Castro and which pushed the migrants to the US to success while their unprocessed psychological problems pulled their politics hardright?

    Unfortunately, however, two years later, Nestorstill crushed by his undiagnosed depression because of his lost love in Havanadies in a car crash. The rest of Cesar's life is a slow descent into alcoholism and escapism, and this is the real issue that I had with the book. I sort of liked Nestor, but really it was more out of pity than affection and Cesar is just the boisterous Cuban asshole that I saw and detested when I grew up in Miami. Even Delores was a depressing character that never rises above her station when truly she could have. All the meaningless sex (and there is a LOT of that) and discussions of Cesar's enormous prick got to be irritating as well.

    In summary, this is a very melancholic book about extreme macho stereotypes that refuse to look in the mirror and take responsibility for their actions. "While [Nestor] was onstage and playing the solo to "Beautiful Maria", a bad sensation had started in his kneecap and risen slowly, rib by rib, through his chest and back before settling in his thoughts. It was the simple feeling that his desires somehow contradicted his purpose in his life, to write sad boleros, to lie sick in bed, to mourn longpast loves, to crave what he could never have." (p. 180). Ultimately, Nestor dies with that last thought and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about the whole mess that the two brothers leave behind. I suppose that many of the situations relayed here by Hijuelos were autobiographical, but I just found that the pace was grueling at times and that I never liked or wanted to like Cesarespecially 300 pages of his rambling, selfpitying memoirs. Like clockwork, highly viscous, graphic coitus every 35 pages. Give that book The Pulitzer Prize! This book is nostalgic, exotic, erotic and narcotic. It is a beautiful book and I have returned to it several times and each time I am completely swept up emotionally by it. With mere words on a page, the author creates the melodies of the Mambo era, the smells of rural Cuban cane fields, the sweat of a dance hall, the swelter of a New York City summer. The two main characters, Cesar and Nestor love in completely different, but totally compelling, ways. For Nestor, love is an ideal, out of reach and cause for nothing but pain. Cesar loves all of womankind with an unquenchable thirst. If Nestor is a Keats poem, Cesar is a Marvin Gaye album. I did not find the book sexist (as some have claimed), I did find the book unabashedly sensual, as sensual as the music and culture and era in which it celebrates. If your greatest erogenous zone is your mind, read The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. If living a life that is drenched in passion and pleasure to it`s fullest capacity is a belief you subscribe to, read this book. If you enjoy rich storytelling, you will like this book. The Mambo KingsIMDb Two Cuban Brothers Bring A New Music To The S USA They Are As Different As The Problems That Await Them Les Mambo Kings FilmAlloCin Synopsis Et Dtails Dans Les Annes Cinquante, Cesar Et Nestor, Deux Frres Musiciens, Migrs De La Havane, Viennent Tenter Leur Chance New York Le Pays Vit Au Rythme Du Mambo The Mambo KingsDVD Blu RayAchetez The Mambo Kings Petit Prix Livraison Gratuite Voir Cond Retrouvez Infos Avis Sur Une Large Slection De DVD Blu Ray Neufs Ou D Occasion The Mambo Kings ImportArmand AssanteMambo Kings, Zwei Brder Aus Havanna, Der Stille Nestor Antonio Banderas Und Draufgnger Caesar Armand Assante , Wollen Anfang Der Er In New York Als Musiker Fu Fassen Gut, Dass Dort Gerade Das Mambofieber Ausgebrochen Ist Doch Zwielichtige Typen Und Die Liebe Zur Selben Frau Erschweren Die Karriereplne Ungemein Die Musik Reit Mit, Und Michael Ballhaus Sorgte Les Mambo Kings WikipdiaThe Mambo Kings Vostfr Series Streaming Regarder The Mambo Kings Vostfr The Mambo Kings En Streaming Gratuitement Retrouvez Galement L Intgralit Des Pisodes Sur Series Streaming The Mambo KingsRotten Tomatoes Based On A Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel By Oscar Hijuelos, The Mambo Kings Are Brothers Cesar Armand Assante And Nestor Castillo Antonio Banderas , Cuban Musicians Who Immigrate To New York City The Mambo Kingsfilmreaction Details Title The Mambo Kings YearGenres Drama, Music Lengthhour Andminutesminutes Release Dates The Mambo Kings Premiered In Cinemas On February ,Cast Crew We Know Aboutpeople Who Worked On The Mambo Kings The Mambo Kings WikipediaThe Mambo Kings DVD,for Sale Online EBay The Mambo Kings DVD,This Is A Great Movie About Coming To America To Find The Streets Of Gold And Fame Cesar And Nestor Castillo Are The Mambo Kings They Are Popular And Their Fame Is Growing In Havana It Is The Earlys And The Mambo Is The Rage Of Dance Clubs Havana Is Experiencing The Greatest Popularity Of All Times With Tourism, And The Music And This Pulitzer winning story of Cesar, the Mambo King, and his Cuban/Cuban American family was compelling although the narrative timeline was unnecessarily haphazard. The story bounces around a lot. Valid criticism has been made of the constant focus on Cesar’s penis and sexual conquests. ‘Come on now let’s move along’ is what I kept thinking. The superficial treatment of women is also a common theme. These are the three reasons that I can’t rate the book as a masterpiece or at least five stars. The third point is hardly unique to this book or many Pulitzer prize winning novels.

    I won’t provide a plot summary here but the fictional panorama that is drawn around Cesar’s life and the thematic ties to Cuba and immigration was convincing. The feeling of this time long since past lends a magical quality to the story, such that I wished I had seen that period up close. The writing was engaging and top notch especially in the broader saga context. I definitely was drawn in enough to care about the characters, both the brothers and the nephew. I think the Desi Arnaz connection to the brothers felt a little contrived or at least unnecessary. I would have liked the book just as much without this tiein.

    Four stars."/>
  • Paperback
  • 407 pages
  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
  • Oscar Hijuelos
  • English
  • 06 June 2019
  • 9780140143911

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