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Horizontal Vertigo

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Horizontal Vertigo by Juan Villoro
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Mar 23, 2021 | ISBN 9780593395356 | 991 Minutes

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  • Mar 23, 2021 | ISBN 9781524748883

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“Villoro recounts his adventures with a mix of irony and empathy, with a sense of humor and a feeling for the absurd. He is exquisitely attuned to the capital’s contradictions and nuances, and he knows how to listen to its inhabitants. There are deeply moving moments in this book.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“One of Mexico’s most celebrated contemporary writers offers an affectionate exploration of the country’s capital city. [Villoro] does not shy away from issues of poverty, class, and gender, and the result is an enthralling, often funny depiction of a city that ‘overflowed urbanism and installed itself in mythology.’”
—The New Yorker

Horizontal Vertigo is the bestwittiest, wisest, most detailed and enlightenedbook I’ve read about Mexico City. It is both deeply personal and scholarly, and most of all humane and humorous – Juan Villoro’s triumph as a chronicler of Mexican life.”
Paul Theroux, author of On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey

“The joy of Horizontal Vertigo is that it offers a unique entry into Mexico City’s ‘inexhaustible encyclopedia’ of people, places and old traditions, complementing the history books and outperforming the tour guides… Villoro is so closely identified with Mexico City that it’s impossible to imagine how one can be known without the other, which is why his writings consistently employ the communal ‘we,’ as in this telling statement about the unbreakable bond between Chilangopolis and chilangos: ‘What was once a cityscape is now our autobiography.’”
—The Los Angeles Times

“Juan Villoro, one of Mexico’s leading novelists, delivers a contemporary portrait of Mexico City that is as diverse and labyrinthine as the city itself. In Horizontal Vertigo: A City Called Mexico, he weaves together voices, styles and disciplines in a personal and expansive exploration, a flâneur through geography, history and culture.”
—The Guardian

“Deeply learned . . . Along his leisurely, illuminating path, Villoro delivers an essential update of Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950). He can be both brittle and funny . . . Celebrating food, wandering through earthquake-struck ruins, reflecting on literary heroes, Villoro makes an excellent Virgil. An unparalleled portrait of a city in danger of growing past all reasonable limits.″
Kirkus Reviews [starred review]

“This is a stimulating portrait of one of the world’s most mind-bending metropolises.″
Publishers Weekly

“Villoro applies his witty and incisive pen to the monster that is Mexico City . . . Villoro’s voice is engaging, and the subject matter, fascinating . . . An unusual and rewarding read for all who love or are intrigued by Mexico City.″

“This is Villoro’s masterpiece . . . His great achievement in Horizontal Vertigo resides in his ability to understand and make the city known through different characters, occupations, and beliefs. Although many writers have been interested in Mexico City, such as Carlos Monsiváis and Carlos Fuentes, Juan Villoro finds a new, postmodern way of portraying the contemporary city.”
World Literature Today

“One of the ten best nonfiction books of the year. A superheroic effort to tame the urban chaos that was born of an ecocide: the drying up of a lake. No city is wilder, more monstrous than Mexico’s capital. And few writers know it with more precision and passion than Juan Villoro.”
The New York Times en Español


Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction FINALIST 2021

Table Of Contents

Prologue: Making an Agglomeration Look Like a City by Néstor García Canclini ix

Entry into the Labyrinth: Chaos Is Not Something You Improvise 3
Living in the City: “If You See Juan . . .” 12
City Characters: El Chilango 20
Shocks: How Many of Us Are There? 26
Crossings: Memory Atlas 29
Living in the City: The Child Heroes (Los Niños Héroes) 37
Ceremonies: The Shout (El Grito) 46
La Independencia, S.A. de C.V. 51
Places: The Back Patio (La Zotehuela) 54
Living in the City: Oblivion 57
Ceremonies: Coffee with the Poets 61
City Characters: El Merenguero 74
Shocks: Street Children 77
Places: The Mausoleums of the Heroes 98
City Characters: The Manager 108
Crossings: From Eye Candy to Moctezuma’s Revenge 112
Ceremonies: “Do Good Without Staring at the Blonde”: Wrestling Movies 119
Places: Public Government Ministry 127
Living in the City: My Grandmother’s Outing 131
Places: Tepito, El Chopo, and Other Informalities 144
City Characters: Paquita la del Barrio 155
Ceremonies: The Virgin of Transit 160
Living in the City: The Conscript 163
City Characters: The King of Coyoacán 179
Ceremonies: The Bureaucracy of Mexico City—Giving and Receiving 182
Places: Fairs, Theme Parks, Children City 188
Places: A Square Meter of the Nation 200
Ceremonies: How Does the City Decorate Itself? From the Foundational Image to Garbage as Ornament 203
Crossings: Extraterrestrials in the Capital 215
Shocks: A Car on the Pyramid 221
Places: The Meeting Place 226
Living in the City: Rain Soup 230
City Characters: The Tire Repair Man 234
Ceremonies: The Passion of Iztapalapa 239
Shocks: The Anxiety of Influenza—Diary of an Epidemic 245
City Characters: The Quack 259
Places: Santo Domingo 263
Shocks: The Disappearance of the Sky 276
Crossings: The City Is the Sky of the Metro 281
City Characters: The Zombie 287
Shocks: The New Meat 291
City Living: The Political Illusion 294
Ceremonies: The Security Book 316
City Characters: The Sewer Cleaner 320
Shocks: The Earthquake: “Stones of This Land Are Not Native to It” 324
Ceremonies: The Aftershock, a Postscript to Fear 341

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