Sudden Death by Alviro Enrique (5 out of 5)
This is the second book in a week that had my head all awhirl (a scary proposition; ask anyone!). I have no fucking clue how to describe it, except that if you’re a fan of David Lynch, you’ll enjoy it. Alvaro Enrique fits perfectly in that cabinet of curiosities. I loved it because it was quirky, unpredictable beyond the words in front of me on the page, and it was jetting back and forth throughout the narrative, so it never got dull. It bounced- not unlike a tennis ball-all over the place and throughout time. Not exactly an era piece, but still, you could almost counts it as that. One thing it isn’t? Boring!!!
As the title reveals, a tennis match is the beginning and focal point of this novel. So is the sport, resonating with a large question mark, throughout the book. Rapscallion painter Caravaggio is squaring off against poet Quevedo, in a match that may very well change the course of the world at large, as well as history. The rapt and vocal audience includes Galileo, Mary Magdalene, and a litany of battle-scarred Popes. Anne Boleyn has just been beheaded and they use her locks to weave into tennis balls. Very popular tennis balls, in fact. These items would have fetched a princely (pun intended) sum on the eBay of today. You have Aztec emperors playing their matches, while that kooky diplomat and explorer Cortes and his translator embark on their own bacchanalian revolutions of sex and war. Still as all of this is unfolding, a bishop is reading Thomas More’s parody “Utopia” but taking it as law. Now you know that can’t end well. But how will any of this end?!!?! Throw in some notes and emails between the author and his publicist regarding the book itself, and it’s a game of mental tennis unlike one I have ever been on! I can only call it mind-bending, of the most entertaining variety, and a trip through some very tangled wires. I haven’t been that taken in by an odd book in a long time. And oh, how I missed it! It’s out now in paperback. Pick it up at your nearest indie bookstore.