Review

The Movies of My Life

by Alberto Fuguet



If I were to list the movies of my life that made an impact, they
would include The Wizard of Oz (for it touched off my
imagination), Ron Howard's Parenthood (my first date with my
first real girlfriend), and Phenomenon (the first movie I
saw with my future wife). For Beltran Soler, the main character in
Alberto Fuguet's wonderfully inventive novel THE MOVIES OF MY LIFE,
they would include The Sound of Music, Dumbo and
The Poseidon Adventure.

This novel is a memoir of sorts --- the biography of Beltran, a
seismologist on his way to a conference in Tokyo. He pens his
memoirs holed up in Los Angeles by naming the movies that
influenced him at critical moments in his life. There's
Bullitt, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Willy
Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
, and Krakatoa, East of
Java
. Each movie highlights a particular aspect of Beltran's
life, whether it's the relationship he has with his father, his
burgeoning interest in seismology, his love life, his mother, or
Chile and the social ramifications of living there and in the
United States. It's a highly inventive way of creating a fictional
memoir.

Fuguet, a central figure in a loose group of young Latin American
writers who identify themselves in opposition to magical realism,
is a fun writer to read. When writing about movies, he explores the
fact that South America (and the world, for that matter) is
inundated, drowning in the culture of America. Some, of course,
would argue that America has no culture in and of itself; it is
just a cobbling together of all the cultures of the people who live
here. Movies though have a way of transcending all of this. They
can be watched by Cubans and Swiss alike, and both parties can take
whatever they want from them.

Some readers may not like the novel's structure (the chapter
headings are movie titles and each chapter is very short). This is,
however, what I like about Fuguet's book. Memories don't come to us
in long flowing rivers. They don't begin at age 5 and continue on
to the present day chronologically. They come to us in brief
snippets and from different times. Memoirs, fictional or otherwise,
are better for it if they refuse the standard conventions of A to B
to C. It rings more true if it's a hodgepodge of thoughts, images
and memories. Fuguet has figured that out, and THE MOVIES OF MY
LIFE will certainly have readers thinking about the movies of their
lives.

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley on January 22, 2011

The Movies of My Life
by Alberto Fuguet

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rayo
  • ISBN-10: 0060534621
  • ISBN-13: 9780060534622