Fountain at the Center of the World

Overview


Police across Tamaulipas, Mexico's north-eastern state are hunting Chano Salgado. A reclusive young widower and political apostate, Salgado goes on the run after he is persuaded to blow up the pipelines of a sluicing operation sucking the local groundwater dry. Meanwhile, Evan Hatch, a London-based flack for an "issues-management" PR firm, is dying from leukemia. Hoping to find a donor, he tracks down his long-lost brother in Mexico (from where he had been adopted at birth) while en route to the WTO meeting in ...
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Overview


Police across Tamaulipas, Mexico's north-eastern state are hunting Chano Salgado. A reclusive young widower and political apostate, Salgado goes on the run after he is persuaded to blow up the pipelines of a sluicing operation sucking the local groundwater dry. Meanwhile, Evan Hatch, a London-based flack for an "issues-management" PR firm, is dying from leukemia. Hoping to find a donor, he tracks down his long-lost brother in Mexico (from where he had been adopted at birth) while en route to the WTO meeting in Seattle. Chano, desperately needing to cross the border, finds his brother (Evan) first, and steals his passport. In the third narrative strand, Chano’s young son, Daniel, himself given up for adoption in Costa Rica, is also looking for his father. Traveling to Mexico, he is forced to flee when the police take him hostage hoping to force his father turn himself in. Squirreling himself away on a freighter, he is rescued by a UK refugee organization whose activists fly to Seattle with him to participate in the protest hoping to reunite him with his father, who, masquerading as Evan, is about to give a speech to the European Roundtable of Industrialists…
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… it reads like what you'd get if Tom Wolfe clambered inside the head of Noam Chomsky -- it elegantly and angrily scorches a lot of earth. You wouldn't want to read many novels that were as hyper-politicized as this one is, but there's something almost old-fashioned about the way Newman wears his heart utterly on his sleeve. — Dwight Garner
Publishers Weekly
In this intense but flawed global drama, a British PR flack tries to find his long-lost brother after being diagnosed with a fatal form of leukemia. Evan Hatch works long hours running interference for a firm that specializes in complex governmental trade issues, but his sudden cancer diagnosis forces him to track down his brother, Chano, to orchestrate a bone marrow transplant. The search is complicated by his brother's work as a political activist in northern Mexico, where Chano is on the run for bombing a sluicing plant that was poisoning the local groundwater supply. The family angle turns into a triangle when Chano's teenage son, Daniel, who was put up for adoption, travels to Mexico from Costa Rica to try to locate his father. A complex, extended game of hunt-and-chase then ensues, with Chano and Daniel fleeing the various authorities who want to arrest and deport them, respectively. Meanwhile, Evan learns that he has been misdiagnosed, and that he is in the last, deadly stage of a rare tropical blood disease called Chagas' disease that he contracted as an infant. The climax takes place in Seattle against the backdrop of the riots that shut down the World Trade Organization meetings several years ago, where the paths of Chano, Daniel and Evan finally converge. Newman's extensive political research adds depth and breadth, but it also clutters the book with so much factual detail that the protagonists are thrust aside, and the problem is compounded by the introduction of far too many ancillary characters. With a bit more clarity, this might have been a superb novel, but instead it is a compromised testimonial to Newman's formidable range, intelligence and talent. 15-city author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932360110
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/9/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Fountain at the Center of the World

A Novel
By Robert Newman

Soft Skull Press

Copyright © 2003 Soft Skull Press, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-932360-11-5


Chapter One

From the book:

Chano stands alone in a perfect cloud. For a moment everything is invisible. There are no more streets, no shops, no banks, no cops. Only hanging white curtains of gas-cloud falling softly, thickening like snow.

All is quiet inside this perfect whiteness. Chano takes a few tentative steps further into its pure silence.

He finds that the cloud hosts a museum miscellany from that other world, the world outside the thick, white gas-fog. How odd it is, he thinks, to come across a dark-blue mail-box here, like a symbol in a dream!

He walks on through silent blank suspension. Not quite silent: he eavesdrops on coughing, spluttering, crying, the private scrabbling of bodies on intimate concrete. Two people with their arms still linked appear out of the mist, stagger into him and go by. All is sheer blank again, and then in the cloud-a sapling. Here, thinks Chano, a little tree, here! And yet it could be on a winter field in Peru. Passing the sapling, he touches a branch and plucks a leaf from its bendy twig.

Chano stands over a curled-up body in the mist at his feet. A billow rolls between them. He crumples the leaf in his palm. He breathes heavily, gas singeing his nostrils, its spiky air scraping his throat. He crouches. Lower down the smoke is less thick. He can see him clearly now.

Here in this strange other world, in the calm center of chaos, in this place where it seems he alone can walk, time has bent and warped. For so much does his son now look like he looked once before: steam all around him, curled-up, crying, coughing, spluttering, wailing, and as if abandoned.

Chano strokes the damp hair.

My baby, he says in a slow, quiet voice, Daniel.

Daniel forces an eye half-open. In-rushing torrents of pain blur a petrochemical haze. He sees a face floating above him. The lips smile. The voice says: What have they been doing to my boy?

The apparition teleports from Daniel's view. The side of Chano's head is clubbed. A soldier's leg steps over the crumpled figure who stroked his hair and called him Daniel. He screams as a gloved hand seizes neck and jaw, dragging him forward onto his knees.

In green goggles Monica throws herself, rolling into the steel shin-guards and tumbles on top of Daniel in a heap. The grunt brings down the butt of his stave on her ribs, then turns away.

A long-distance swimmer dragging herself out of the sea, she stands. She reels, at first away and then towards Daniel. She drags him along the ground until she's holding more sleeve than arm. She hauls him up into a three-legged race until both fall into the recessed doorway of a bank, where Monica cradles Daniel's head in her lap.

A bespectacled medic in a green bib pours water from a one-gallon bottle over their faces to sluice the oleoresin-capiscum. Daniel splutters, hawks, heaves. The crudely-drawn red cross swims before his vision a moment before she presses a wad of cotton to his eyes, clamping Daniel's own fingers over it. The bespectacled medic stands up holding the plastic gallon jug. A shot rings out. In one smooth movement, as if she's pushed herself over with the heel of her palm, she clutches her head and falls. Another shot booms. A rubber bullet hits the medic's back but she still clutches her eyes with both hands. The gallon jug rolls into the street.

Monica bends over Daniel's body as a rubber-bullet ricochets around the three-walled doorway like a supersonic, rock-hard squash ball, cracking the glass door to land, spent, in the frozen crook of Monica's arm. Slowly she puts out a hand to the quarter-inch hard-nosed shell.

Robocop marches towards the prostate medic. Stands over her, takes aim and shoots her twice more in the neck. Robocop turns, picks up the gallon jug and empties the water onto the street. Robocop stamps it flat with a big black boot. Robocop turns his plexi visor towards Monica and Daniel. Studies them. Thinks about it. Sets off to protect some place else.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Fountain at the Center of the World by Robert Newman Copyright © 2003 by Soft Skull Press, Inc. . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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