Certain authors feel a strong urgency to pepper their writing with splashes of foreign languages, to give it that je-ne-sais-quoi feeling of “I’m saying this thing, it’s very clever – oh, but you don’t understand?” Other authors, in the vein of Madison Smartt Bell (whose middle name is “almost smart”), enjoy bouncing their words back and forth between languages like a manic, polyglot pinball machine. These people, at their core, are empty and mean. The writers of “Alex Quiere un Dinosaurio,” a book I found on the bE bookshelf and that contains only Spanish, take this evil one step further.
Let’s assess the basic plot trajectory, starting at the ground floor: Alex wants a dinosaur. The character’s basic needs and vulnerability have been laid out from the beginning: check. His saxophone-playing grandfather – wait for it – gets him a dinosaur. Alex and his grandfather then feed the dinosaur (sorry, “dinosaurio”), amuse him, walk him, take him to school, and have him assault truckers. They run off to pursue a life of violent crime, loose women, and dinosaurio-sized prescription meds.
I flipped ahead a bit. This is the authors’ fault.
The narrative employs a popular technique known as “magical realism,” in which readers are compelled to believe something impossible by authors who woke up that morning wearing their fancy pants. The title mentions dinosaurs, Alex wants a dinosaur and nothing else, and the grandfather wants to get him a dinosaur – either there are dinosaurs when we turn the page, or the story ends. We bend over and take it, narratively speaking. The “Dino-tienda” where they purchase Fred is heavily detailed (the degree to which you describe flying elephants increases their likelihood, a famous fancy-pants owner once said). The other characters believe in and interact with and grow to loathe Alex’s dinosaur, so why shouldn’t you?
Move over, Gabriel García Márquez.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, just when you think twenty-some pages were too many – but you’re still totally down with dinosaurs existing and all, you’re with him, you’re packing your bags for the Dino-tienda and ready to go – what happens? You turn the last page to see the grandfather give Alex a white bunny. The little prick was asleep.