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“Texas mexicano.” Another vital aspect of The Valley is the cumulative effect of Hinojosa’s miniatures drawn from the everyday life of the Valley’s border towns. Slowly but surely the author immerses the reader in a colloquial world that contains high drama and what he refers to as the miracles of a “splendid population.” Halfway through the novel, Hinojosa presents the story of a fatal stabbing in the bar Aqui me quedo. Here the writing takes on a finer quality as the reader is gripped by Hinojosa’s rendering of a longstanding resentment that leads to an unpremeditated murder: I remember, or I think I do, anyway, that there was a buzz or a buzzer going off somewhere, like I was wearing a beehive instead of that hat of mine. Does that make sense? I heard that buzzing, see, and the hissing, raspy voice of that damfool, and then I saw that fixed, idiotic smile o’ that dance girl, and then suddenly, yeah in a rush, see; suddenly a scream, a yell, a, a shriek-like, and I see Ernesto sliding, slippin’ sort-a, in a heap . . . and falling away . . . falling, eh? Now, I do recall I took a deep breath, and the buzzing sort-a stopped and I remember walking outside, to the sidewalk, and then I spotted that family I told you about, the one watching TV. And standing there, I looked at my left hand: I was carrying that pearl-handled knife that Pa Albino had given me when I was up in Michigan. From this section on in the novel the writing grows more pointed, more poignant. Each sketch becomes more complete in itself and yet adds a further perspective to what results ultimately in a group photograph of the Valley. “Coyotes” captures brilliantly the lives of innocent citizens who arrive at the county courthouse unable to imagine why they have been summoned by an official card that amounts to nothing more than a notice of possible jury duty. The “coyote” who fleeces the lamb is at once a scoundrel and a typical, likeable figure dependent himself on the bureaucracy for the little he gains for finally delivering his “victim” to the right window. “Fira” is a touching snapshot of a beautiful whore who will have to move to the next town to make a living because business is off. She will be genuinely missed, even by the respectable, understanding wives. Hinojosa’s description of Fira is enticing: “after her bath, she smells of soap and water, and when out on the street, on her way to work, her hair, damp still, curls on the side of her face close to her ears.” “Night People,” which juxtaposes the voices of children at play and adults discussing problems of the day, contains perhaps the author’s fullest single vision of life in the Valley. This penultimate section of the book leaves the reader with an intimate feeling for the warmth and reality of Hinojosa’s people, even as the writing here is most convincing in its epic grasp of the novelist’s subject matter. Rolando Hinojosa has, as he says in a section entitled “True Dedication,” chronicled the imaginary but believable life of Belken County’s “splendid population.” In dedicating this chronicle to the people of the Valley, as well as to “their mirrors who look back at them, day and night, in shame and pride, in sickness and in health, until SOME MONTHS AGO I bought a car, the first thing of value I’ve ever owned. The car is a green 1966 Triumph TR-4A, what used to be called a “sports car.” It is small, dirty and loud, and a rectangle the size of a shoebox has been cut out of the cloudy rear window of the convertible top. It was also cheap. “Roadster,” the title says. The day I bought it, I was ready to leave. The guy started the car again, leaving the hood up, then disconnected the battery with the engine still running, brought another battery from his garage and put it in, closed the hood. Smiled. I thought, too late now. This is the kind of car that, if you throw two hundred dollars down in front of it, will slurp the money up before you can blink. So I bought Triumph books and a torque wrench. I began saying things like, “Torque wrench.” Clearly, the pleasure of carowning is half in having a legitimate reason to use the jargon title, roadster, clutch, locknut, big-end bearings. It’s intoxicating. Throwing a wrench around any of the thousand or so bolts on these obviously important items can drive the car-oholic mad with pleasure. Six or eight hours later, when you have completely destroyed whatever it was you were trying to repair, your feelings are less pure. Heaven, you think, is a place where there’s nothing to fix. Steve Barthelme is an Austin free-lance writer. Death do them part,” the novelist has created a work of fiction that is true to the life it celebrates, at the same time that it adds another chapter to what has become his ongoing study of the Texas mexicano. The Valley is an excellent place to start in learning something about what Hinojosa calls “The truth . . . that we’re all equal, and the truth . . . also that we’re not all equal,” i.e., the richness of another lifestyle. His novel is also an example of a work that, taken as a whole, demonstrates its affinity with Faulkner and the recent Latin American novelists who have discovered both a subject and technique worthy of one another. There are other pleasures to carowning. With your new Triumph, people driving other TR-4’s or the preceding model, the TR-3, manufactured between 1955 and 1962, wave as they pass. A girl stops on the street: “You want to sell that car?” Exaggerated motoring courtesies are extended people stop and let you through. There is also a powerful sense of independence attached to owning an automobile. This shows up in everything from taking the top down to leaving your junk in the back seat and is best characterized as the feeling that you can leave and never come back. You don’t; it’s just a feeling. Ownership is, of course, a strange concept \(looking it up in the dictionary sists on pretending that they own things, you might as well pretOnd too. The psychological discomfort is nonetheless acute for the beginner. Try understanding the term “asset” when you’ve never had one it’s like coming down with parrot fever. Incomprehensible. The disease is permanent, and fatal, but some things help. A lot of washing and polishing of the possession, for example, will make it feel more possessed. Now, the pleasures of car-owning don’t slip by without conflict, without drawing the attention of puritans of about seventy different varieties who have left their crud in your brain. When they invented the automobile, they invented the automobile harangue. My own father had a lot to say about Owning a Car By Steve Barthelme THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21