THE LAST PHILOSOPHER IN TEXAS

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Chacón’s stories deal with small magic: the mysticism of conversations with relatives or finding a familiar face in an unfamiliar setting. In the opener, “My Crazy Tía,” the narrator’s aunt instructs her in time travel over breakfast. It’s a quirky introduction to a wholly entertaining collection that focuses on the bending of reality and sliding through time and space. In “The Flickering Quasar,” for instance, a Christian man falls for a Wiccan woman and becomes, in a Vonnegutian sense, unstuck from time. Where Chacón shines most, though, is in his clever cultural commentary, his exploration of Chicano selfhood. In “Borges and the Chicanx,” he pokes fun at academic stereotyping with a Chicano professor unfamiliar with Latin American literary greats, and in “If Tonantzin Worked at Cracker Barrel,” he places an Aztec goddess in, yes, a Cracker Barrel. The world of this book is one where an albañil, a bricklayer, can “[look] like a god” and where a man’s life is magic as it is “made up of streetlamps and dogs.” Currents of humor underscore the text; for example, while working at Starbucks, Jesus Christ (yes, the real one) purports to the narrator that he can provide anything: “Anything. Salvation? Eternal love? A muffin?” Bits of brujería are sprinkled through stories labeled “Superstition,” which cover everything from the rules on placing photos of dead people who hated each other in the same room to the steps to manifest love at first sight. Perhaps the most characteristic representation of Chacón’s sense of humor comes in “Superstition: The Day of the Dead,” in which the possibility of spiritual possession is bookended with a pragmatic warning: “it would make you moodier than you have ever been.”



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