November 2008

Beth Harrington

nonfiction

Crazy Loco Love by Victor Villaseņor

Victor Villaseñor grew up in Oceanside, California, the son of an accomplished and powerful rancher/businessman who emigrated from Mexico after the Mexican revolution. Thus, he grows up feeling himself to be in the shadow of his father and spends the years of his adolescence and early manhood searching for his true identity, a quest that leads him to forsake his education and the security of his parents’ ranch and sojourn to Mexico to understand his heritage.

Crazy Loco Love starts out successfully enough with teenage Victor as its appealing narrator recounting an incident that defined his father’s character in his young mind. It seems that Senior Villaseñor has made a fool of himself at a public event by getting drunk and flirting with the mayor’s wife. His own wife is furious and sends Victor to try to talk some sense into his father. Instead, to the surprise of Victor, his father simply takes up the microphone at his next public outing and apologizes for his foolish behavior, thus earning the respect and forgiveness of his audience. The moral, simple yet engagingly put, is that everyone will make mistakes and that what is important is to have the character to admit them without making excuses and to learn from them. With this lesson as his guiding principle, Victor recounts navigating his way through wide-ranging obstacles: objecting to a racist and legalistic military education, chafing against the religious strictures of the Roman Catholic Church, and trying to control his raging hormones without obliterating them in a somewhat disconnected and rambling stream-of-consciousness.

According to the author’s website, the original publisher of Crazy Loco Love wanted to eliminate the first half of the book before releasing it. In response, Villaseñor took out a second mortgage on his family’s ranch in order to buy back the publication rights of the manuscript. While I would not say that a complete deletion is advisable, the whole book does seem approximately one hundred fifty pages too long and certain sections throughout are excessive or redundant and would have benefited from being tightened up. (For instance, I now know a bit more about the process of castrating both livestock and humans than I personally consider necessary.) While Villaseñor accurately captures the exuberance of what it means to be young and have opportunities and be full of inspiration in his prose, his hyperactive delivery often makes for tedious reading and renders specious a lot of the assertions he is trying to convey.

This is a shame as the author does have some interesting ideas that may or may not be new to readers now but were likely more radical during the era in which Villaseñor came of age. Saying that God is equal parts male and female will likely earn him much applause from female readers and his analysis of what it truly means to be a catholic with a small ‘c’ is definitely thought-provoking. However, his hypothesis that language does not constitute a reality and is merely a one-dimensional construct to provide convenient identification for what is around us may confound and insult anyone who has ever experienced the joy and liberation of oral or written communication. In light of this pronouncement, Villaseñor does not provide adequate justification for his decision to become a writer and engage specifically with language. The conclusion of Crazy Loco Love gives readers the happy ending they are hoping for but is condensed into only a few paragraphs making it seem glossed over in comparison to the pages and pages expounding upon this protagonist’s angst.

Crazy Loco Love by Victor Villaseñor
Arte Publico Press
ISBN: 978-1-55885-315-7
416 pages