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November 2013

Diciembre Presents The Idiot President. Coming to a War-Torn City Near You

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“The city was lovely. There could be no place in the world to which he belonged so completely.
That was why he’d always dreamed of leaving, and why he’d always been so afraid to go.”

I have a difficult time summarizing the plot so I will let the publisher do it for me. Here it is:

Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another
man, his brother has left their South American country and moved to the United States,
leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get
off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot
President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla
theater troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.

The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen,
which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to
his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during
one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.

Get it? Got it. Good!!!! Now here are my thoughts on the book.

This novel’s subject matter is not one I would normally gravitate to. Performance arts typically involves overly dramatic, self-indulged, and entitled individuals that give me little reason to sympathize let alone cheer for. The tipping point for me was the psychological elements of the characters, the constitution and development of the purported “anxious” times, the regional civil unrest and it’s convenience-oriented judicial system. Their is also an elaborate and distinct view of the effects that imprisonment can have on subduing a person’s political ideals, the wanting of love, and the need for a humans touch wherever they can get it. This was a great read by a young up-and-comer with a fresh yet evocative voice that young and old can appreciate. His name will be one I keep in mind for the future.

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Theatrical work requires the exaggeration of movements while still maintaining the ability to communicate the characters emotions as well as their actions. Many people often suggest that the realization of becoming a true thespian will be on the stage. Where their craft is unvarnished, pure,and transparent without much compensation besides the value received from exhibiting ones own interpretation and expression. At Night We Walk In Circles revels in the thrill of the stage and illustrates how at the best of times life can imitate art and at the worst of times art can imitate life. While reading this book I couldn’t help but reminded of Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Nina Sayers in Black Swan. The similarity does not deal with the reality of being lost in a character, rather the psychological manipulation acting can have on blurring the lines between the theatrical stage and life’s stage.

“That morning, he was afraid of becoming old, and it was a very specific kind of old age he feared, one which had nothing to do with the number of years since your birth. He feared the premature old age of missed opportunities.”

The writing is executed very well and kept me engaged from start to finish. From the childhood idolization of a political rebel, to the travels of a born again theatrical troop, and the physical and mental conflicts that present themselves along the way, this book was pure entertainment. Like all good actors the knowledge of a characters back story is vital in portraying the character in the truest sense. Daniel Alarcón does a great job in individually providing each character a substantial amount of book space in order for the reader to better understand the motivations that propel them along the way.

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I have always regarded the majority of actors as people suffering with many various inner turmoils.The ability to camouflage, adapt, or compromise their own identities allows them the chance for “fitting in” during the short term while degenerating their own individual growth. Throughout this novel you bear witness too many of these episodes that gradually materialize within these main characters. Most reviews mention the inability for compassion or admiration of the primary characters. Personally I don’t understand this peculiar fixation as a fulfillment to whether a book is liked or disliked. True, I really didn’t like these characters myself, in fact I wanted to slap them all at one point, but I was intrigued by all of them and that is what makes an author successful for me. Witnessing the reasons for a characters progression/regression is really exciting and in this book it led to a precarious ending where anything and everything could happen except for an unambiguous ending. C’est la vie.

“Heartbreak is like shattered glass: while it’s impossible that two pieces could splinter in precisely the same pattern, in he end, it doesn’t matter, because the effect is identical.”

This novel is one that should be read within a few days, it may seem a little dense at times but the nuances of the characters could be lost if this book is given to much time to rest. Give yourself some extended periods of time and you will be rewarded with a great literary experience. I would not recommend this book to mothers of nomadic children or recent empty-nesters because upon reading this book you may live in despair thinking about your grown children’s whereabouts while jacking up your phone bill in the process. I would recommend this book to everyone else who enjoys psychological character studies where life’s events transform a person along the journey for better or worse(insert evil laugh).

 

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