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This novel opens with a double definition of its title as signifying the Yucatan race and a female personification of illusion and these two meanings help to set its parameters. Maya is constructed as a series of cinematic scenes narrated in the present tense with the taut neutral descriptions we associate with the nouveau roman. Its three characters-two men and a woman-are would-be actors participating in the making of a film, but the novel's progression through repetition undermines any sense of a production nearing completion. Instead Stuefloten blurs distinctions between film and reality ("shooting" in every sense), and even depicts a setting which veers ambiguously to and fro between a film studio, Mexico, and Vietnam. The characters are not insulated from the violence that their film would depict; on the contrary, the gang rape suffered by the woman is indistinguishable from the real thing and the novel draws a series of analogies between different kinds of invasion, particularly military and sexual.

Like Rudy Wurlitzer's Walker, the novel even presents the arrival of the film crew as a cultural incursion within rural poverty. The tropical landscape is painstakingly detailed as swarming with a grotesque vegetable and animal life that threatens the three characters who each undergo a gradual collapse. As this happens more and more parallels emerge between the mechanical and the sexual, between the woman as flower and sacrificial victim. The last part of the novel switches from this narrative to reflections on Mexico as the site of its own composition and incorporates a dialogue between author and companion on the degradation of the female character (appropriately named Virginia White). The novelist, now speaking in his own right, acknowledges the justice of the charge and then has sex with his accuser, thereby implicafing himself in the set of connections the novel has established. At this point the objectivist implications of the camera-eye narration in the first chapters are completely erased and the novel ends. Maya weaves impressively tense and disturbing variations on the theme of violence in the American imagination. [David Seed]
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Author:Seed, David
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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