Death and the Sun

I fell in love with Spain on a high school trip and have never fallen out of love. To assuage my longing for Spain between trips, I drink rioja and albariño, and I eat chorizo, manchego cheese, tortilla española and paella. After my last trip, during which I took a tour of the bullring in Sevilla, my mother asked if I would want to see a bullfight. When I said yes, she asked why I would be interested in seeing a bloodsport that was unsporting and gruesome. [This from a woman who doesn’t have a problem with modern American hunting, with all of its tools for tracking and killing for a pair of antlers or a hide.] My answer was that it is something that is quintessentially Spanish. I still believe so, although I haven’t been yet. Someday though, I will visit Spain during the feria season and see a running of the bulls.My first new book for 2006 was Death and the Sun: A Matador’s Season in the Heart of Spain by Edward Lewine. Lewine accompanied Francisco Rivera Ordóñez, a famous torero during the bullfighting season of 2002, and chronicled it. He also attempted to explain what bullfighting is to outsiders, touching on the history, the social context and the reality of the corridas (frequent injury, relatively few truly successful matadors, being almost constantly on the road for 8 months of the year).I didn’t particularly care for Lewine’s writing style, which was fairly choppy in places, but I do think he did a good job describing Fran’s season, and the forces that push and pull at the toreros and the bullfighting world. The narrative itself flowed well, even when Lewine interrupted the journaling of the season to write about the historical development of modern bullfighting, or the medical reasons for the death of Fran’s father, the bullfighter Paquirri, after being gored by a bull named Avispado in Pozoblanco in 1984. In generally, Lewine’s non-fiction account pleased me much more than anything Hemingway ever wrote. [I think Hemingway latched on to the corrida in a desperate attempt to be macho, and his writing is overrated.] Grade: B.

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