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The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle

The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle

by Francisco Goldman

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Coming off the most successful book of a decorated career—Say Her NameThe Interior Circuit is Francisco Goldman’s timely and provocative journey into the heart of Mexico City.

The Interior Circuit is Goldman’s story of his emergence from grief five years after his wife’s death, symbolized by his attempt to


Coming off the most successful book of a decorated career—Say Her NameThe Interior Circuit is Francisco Goldman’s timely and provocative journey into the heart of Mexico City.

The Interior Circuit is Goldman’s story of his emergence from grief five years after his wife’s death, symbolized by his attempt to overcome his fear of driving in the city. Embracing the DF (Mexico City) as his home, Goldman explores and celebrates the city, which stands defiantly apart from so many of the social ills and violence wracking Mexico. This is the chronicle of an awakening, both personal and political, “interior” and “exterior,” to the meaning and responsibilities of home. Mexico’s narco war rages on and, with the restoration of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (the PRI) to power in the summer’s 2012 elections, the DF’s special apartness seems threatened. In the summer of 2013, when Mexican organized crime violence and death erupts in the city in an unprecedented way, Goldman sets out to try to understand the menacing challenges the city now faces. By turns exuberant, poetic, reportorial, philosophic, and urgent, The Interior Circuit fuses a personal journey to an account of one of the world’s most remarkable and often misunderstood cities.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 05/05/2014
In this exquisite chronicle, novelist and journalist Goldman (Say Her Name) takes readers into the heart of Mexico City, showcasing its vibrant complexity and grit. Grieving for his young wife Aura’s death five years earlier, Goldman explores his relationship with her native city against the backdrop of its changing leadership—a result of the 2012 presidential elections that restored the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power after a 12-year absence. As Goldman notes, the Districto Federal (D.F.), as Mexico City is commonly known, mainly avoided the “catastrophe of the murderous narco war” because of the progressive leadership of mayors from the left-leaning opposing party, the PRD. Now with the PRI—and its ominous ties to the drug cartels—back in power, not even the D.F. seems immune to kidnappings and escalating violence. A perceptive, funny, and philosophical narrator, Goldman investigates the kidnappings of 12 youths in broad daylight; traces the evolution of a student movement, #YoSoy132, formed to protest the candidacy—and eventual election—of presidential candidate Peña Nieto; overcomes his fear of driving in a megacity of 22 million; and ponders the differences between Mexico and the U.S. in their approaches to culture, friendship, and grief. Throughout this remarkable book, Goldman is highly attuned to the pulse and rhythm of one of the world’s most captivating cities. Agency: ICM. (July)
From the Publisher


A Los Angeles Times Top 10 Books of 2014; The Guardian 10 Best City Books of 2014; Biographile’s Best overlooked memoirs 2014; New York Public Library's Best Books of 2014; Business Insider Australia (Librarians' Pics for Best Books of 2014); San Francisco Chronicle (Writers Share Best Books of 2014 - Maria Venegas Pick); Vue Weekly Best Books of 2014

One of New York magazine's "7 Books You Need to read this July"; A Vanity Fair Hot Type pick; An Amazon "Best of" pick for July

“Remarkable…Sentence by sentence, Goldman brings to life a city that is bewitching, terrifying, beautiful….Goldman brings something new to the [chronicle] form.”—John Freeman, Boston Globe

"So sneakily brilliant it's hard to put into words. Part travelogue, part memoir, part reportage on Mexican politics and the scourge of narco-terrorism, it is also, in the finest sense, a book that creates its own form....the genius of "The Interior Circuit," [is that it] link[s] Goldman's grief for Aura to the grief of all these families and indeed of Mexico. It's an audacious move, but it works because of the offhand beauty of the writing, which shifts from individual to collective with the fluid grace of circumstance."—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

"Both an homage to the (albeit flawed) city [Goldman] calls home and a meditation on the many residents — himself included — who have experienced loss there...Goldman is a keen observer and an apt guide to Mexican politics and society."—Adam Goodman, Washington Post

"An indispensable contribution to the growing body of artistic representations of Mexico’s most recent years of darkness...there is an urgent, raw beauty in Frank’s prose, as if we are plugged into an only slightly edited version of his journals, and it is full of “cortos”: journal gives way to reportage, reportage to lament, lament to polemic, polemic to erudite rumination...Frank throws himself into the Heavens case with tremendous journalistic energy, badgering officials, cultivating confidential sources, scouring what looks like just about every press account, and, most importantly and at some risk, by crossing the social border and stepping into the old barrio to interview the relatives of the disappeared...Here Frank joins a growing crew of writers (among them Marcela Turati, Oscar Martínez, Cristina Rivera Garza, John Gibler, Magali Tercero, Sergio González Rodríguez, Diego Osorno, Daniel Hernández, Lydia Cacho, Anabel Hernández*) who undertake dogged investigative journalism — the kind there is precious little support for in the digital age, and which in the Latin American context can get you killed — and dedicate themselves to revealing the victims, itself an eminently political (and also spiritual) task that is the heart of Javier Sicilia’s movement...Interior Circuit confronts the corto, the short-circuit, as in too-brief-is-our-time, by recognizing the absurdity of both “freakish” and politicized death, and of the necessity of mourning both intimately and in community — of reconnecting the broken circuit with the language of pain itself."—Rubén Martínez, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Goldman draws an imagined geography that depicts very well the harsh realities which those of us who live in the DF face. We must be grateful that a foreigner has given back to us the feeling that, in spite of everything, it's worth it to live so intensely the interior circuits of [Mexico] city."—Roger Bartre, Letras Libres

"Though much can be said about the elegance of Goldman's writing and the piercing quality of his reportage, it's really the emotion-driven moments - his identification with those seeking to improve the city's living conditions and with those affected by the Tepito victims' deaths - that take "The Interior Circuit" to a commendable height that even crónica doesn't set out to reach...Altogether moving and eye-opening, "The Interior Circuit" is as much a love letter to Mexico City as it is to his late wife."—Rigoberto González, San Francisco Chronicle

"Goldman’s journey is an intensely personal quest...Beautiful writing and unblinking honesty...little has yet been written about the Peña Nieto presidency and Goldman is thought-provoking on the corrupt path he sees Mexico stuck on, and the uncertain course that lies ahead."—Jude Webber Financial Times

“Francisco Goldman, whom I never read before this year, has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary authors. This great work of literary nonfiction begins after the tragic death of its author’s wife and moves forward as a variegated chronicle of Mexico City.”—Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire

“Goldman transcends the personal, transmuting the role of memoirist into that of city chronicler.... Goldman’s surrealistic portrait of DF gives due weight to the city’s layered complexities... In searching for some essence in the city Goldman finds an inner territory beyond personal grief.”—The Daily Beast

"Suddenly, thanks to the keen eye and sympathetic imagination of the journalist and novelist Francisco Goldman, I care about the place that locals call the D.F....Goldman is by turns impassioned and detached, loving his adopted city while by no means blind to its many faults...Goldman made me care. That’s what the best writers do."—Chris Tucker, Dallas Morning News

"Incisive observation, flashing wit, intense curiosity...vivid prose...The vibrant life of Mexico City makes for a compelling story in its own right, and not merely as the backdrop for Goldman's personal quest, as absorbing as that continues to be. In either of its incarnations, this is a story about love, whether for a person or for a city, in all the complicated, rewarding and painful messiness that emotion entails."—Harvey Freedenberg, Book Reporter.com

"Much of the pleasure of The Interior Circuit builds on Goldman's knowledge and love of Mexico City and his unabashed personalization of its streets and student dives....If The Interior Circuit is partly Goldman's chronicle of overcoming personal sorrow, it is even more his take on the politics, complexity, romance and vibrancy of one of the great megacities of the world."—Shelf Awareness

"Exquisite...perceptive, funny, and philosophical...Throughout this remarkable book, Goldman is highly attuned to the pulse and rhythm of one of the world’s most captivating cities."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This book is an exquisite, deeply funny, truly gorgeous panorama of Mexico City by a writer of enormous sensitivities who notices everything. This book will charm and urgently engage you like no other, because it is so totally original. It includes the dirty parts.”—Rachel Kushner

Kirkus Reviews
The death of the author's wife hovers over this densely meandering, poignant look at the simmering violence in his beloved Mexico City.American novelist and journalist Goldman (Say Her Name, 2011, etc.) writes affectingly about his adopted city, where he had lived on and off since the 1990s. His short second marriage to essayist, graduate student and Mexico City native Aura Estrada ended with her tragic death from a bodysurfing accident while on vacation in 2007, a devastating loss Goldman wrote about eloquently in Say Her Name. Here, the author continues to move through stages of grief—e.g., by relearning how to drive, which he had been unable to do since Aura's death, as well as by relating with fellow residents' attempts to come to terms with the senseless drug cartel violence that has permeated all levels of Mexican society, especially in politics. Driving around the Distrito Federal, or DF, as the city is known, with its chaotic streets and aggressive drivers, presenting Mexico City zone by zone, Goldman attempted to engage with the city, seek out its secrets and deepen his relationship to it by creating his own "interior circuit." While he extols the vibrancy, endurance, youthful romance and tolerance of the city, he also confronts head-on its brutality and death wish. The legacy of President Felipe Calderón's war on the drug cartels, waged from 2006 to 2012, resulted in an explosion of violence against and by the narcos, spilling over into the DF—which had been relatively spared the carnage—in the form of the kidnapping of 11 young people from an after-hours club in May 2013. Goldman followed the case closely, which seemed to implicate both the new DF mayor and president.A gifted writer submerges his grief in his deep affection for his adopted city.
Library Journal
★ 11/01/2014
With the fifth anniversary of his wife's death approaching, the critically acclaimed writer is eager to reassert control over his life and determinedly embarks on a "driving project," exploring the roundabouts and neighborhoods of his adopted home, Mexico City. Goldman describes variegated landscapes, revisits sacred memories, depicts tender street scenes, and provides insightful reports on a host of topics, from fútbol and student movements to Tepito crime rackets. (LJ 9/15/14)

Product Details

Grove Atlantic
Publication date:
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5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

“Vivimos adentro de una burbuja, we live inside a bubble,” I’m always hearing people in the DF say, a remarkable thing for those residing inside one the world’s largest and reputedly most dire metropolises to be saying. People sense the entire country collapsing, even vanishing, around them, becoming, as one friend put it, an “anti-country.” The plague of terror, chaos and murder is as close as just beyond the city’s borders, already having consumed large parts of Mexico State and its most populous municipalities. Though narco shoot-outs, executions and the like do occasionally occur, perhaps even with more frequency than the great majority of us realize, why has the DF so far been relatively immune? Is it only because the city isn’t on a major drug trafficking route, or because of the relative ubiquity of its police forces and surveillance cameras, or because it is a big enough drug consumption market on its own that it’s just good business to keep it relatively calm and prosperous? Those are commonly heard hypothesis, but are there more conspiratorial reasons? I sometimes imagine that the cartels have been sent the message that if they don’t want U.S. Navy Seals and drone-fired missiles hunting down their capos and blowing-up their mountain and desert ranch hideouts and sicario caravans – a nauseating solution, even if it were a solution, which it surely wouldn’t be -- then they should stay out of the DF, the nation’s economic vital organ and political and media capitol, but I have no proof that there is any truth to that, it’s just one of those paranoid imaginings. What will happen now? Peña Nieto has surrounded himself with what some regard as an experienced and capable cabinet, a mix of PRI “dinosaurs” and “new” technocrats like those that have filled every Mexican presidential cabinet since the dawn of the technocrat vogue under Carlos Salinas. Will the PRI go back to dealing with the cartels as it is said to have before, making pacts that benefit both sides, going in as partners as it were, tamping things down for the time being at least? I don’t know. I sometimes fear, it being a given that the PRI will do whatever they can to undermine their PRD rivals before the next elections, with many now predicting that the party has a chance to produce the country’s next president, probably Ebrard, then why not send some cartel-style bedlam into the PRD bastion and explode that “bubble”? Send in beheadings, corpses hung from highway overpasses, massacres in nightclubs, restaurants and shopping centers, extortion rackets against small business owners, kidnap adolescent girls from bus stops to sell into prostitution-slavery rings in Mexico and abroad, or simply to rape and murder them, bring some of that heavy Medusan poison in directly from Peña Nieto’s Mexico State, where cartels operate with near total impunity, especially La Familia Michoacana and the Zetas. Of course that’s just more paranoia, right? Wouldn’t that be a self-defeating strategy for the PRI, given the resulting inevitable damage to the national economy and to many of Mexico’s wealthiest citizens and interests? The PRI would do better to at least create the appearance of bringing the country’s violence and corruption under control. But how will the PRI or anyone else subdue the Zetas, “Mexico’s most organized and dangerous group of assassins,” as they’ve been understatedly defined by the U.S. DEA, crime monopolists who seem to have lifted satanic self-interest and sadistic self-indulgence to a level hardly seen before in the world? Let go of one thing, you let go of the adjoining, and of the adjoining… There is a feeling that the lawlessness has spread too widely and too deeply now for anyone, even El Chapo Guzman, to reverse it.


“If you don’t have people using the city’s public spaces, if the public spaces can’t be enjoyed, then you don’t have a city,” Marcelo Ebrard told me when I spoke to him in the spring of 2013. “You have to create conditions so that people feel that they’re part of a community. If you don’t do that, the city doesn’t work.” The winter skating rink in the Zocalo with skates provided for free may not sound like such a big deal, but one only has to see the long lines of parents with children waiting their turn to grasp what it could mean for a child from the city slums to ice-skate for the first time, and for a parent to be able to provide that experience. Mexico’s paleontologists were invited to mount a dinosaur exhibit in the Zocalo, and a temporary wooden gallery was built to shelter the huge prehistoric skeletons and other displays. Six public swimming pool beaches were installed around the city with sand trucked in from Veracruz for poor children who may have never even seen the ocean. The exhibit of Rodins and Dalis in the Faro del Oriente in the poor colonia of Itztapalapa defied, said Ebrard, “the idea that beauty has become classist.” The exhibit broke city attendance records. More than three hundred new children’s playgrounds in the parks, and outdoor modular gyms. The free concerts that brought the likes of Paul McCartney, Justin Biebber, Brittney Spears and Shakira to the Zocalo. The musical and theater performances in poor neighborhoods. The city’s museums open late and free one night a week. The incredibly popular and inexpensive (in pesos less than twenty-five dollars a year) bike sharing program, sprouting up in one neighborhood after another, including the Centro, though not yet in neighborhoods like Itzapalapa; bike lanes all over the place; major avenues closed off for Sunday biking; late night group rides; the DF, its traffic hardly hospitable to bicyclers, has nevertheless gone mad for bicycling.


The Colonia Roma apartment that I rented at the start of the summer is on the sixth floor, overlooking the Plaza Rio de Janiero, its living-room window offering a big view of sky over the tree-filled plaza and buildings on the other side. I love to watch the summer afternoon rains from that perch at the front window, especially when they are torrential, heavy and dense or lashing, diffuse lightning flashes startling the purplish-grey chilly gloom, followed by shattering thunder, and then rattling hail, otherworldly like a storm on Mars; you hear sirens wailing all over the city. But often the rains are peaceful and luscious. The rains clean the air, bringing, when they wane, the fresh scent of trees, churned earth and wet stone. Concentration and hours to write come more easily to me in the DF than anywhere else, but especially when it rains. Time in Mexico City, at least to me, seems somehow slowed down, so that days feel twice as long there as they do in New York. A mysterious energy seems to silently thrum from the ground, from restless volcanic earth, but one that is also produced, I like to think, by the pavement-pounding footsteps of the millions upon millions who labor every day in the city, by their collective breathing and all that mental scheming, life here for most being a steadfastly confronted and often brutal daily challenge, mined with potential treachery but also, in the best cases, opportunity, one sometimes hiding inside the other like in a shell game; also by love, desire, and not so secret sexual secretiveness, the air seems to silently jangle with all that, it’s like you breathe it in and feel suddenly enamored or just horny; so much energy that in the late afternoons I don’t even need coffee. The writer Juan Villoro says that all chilangos carry a seismograph inside – I, like everyone else who lives here, have experienced earthquake tremors that have turned my knees to jelly -- and maybe it is partly that too that helps me to focus here, senses alert, both inwardly and outwardly. That seismograph senses more than just literal earthquakes.

Meet the Author

Francisco Goldman is the author of the novels: Say Her Name; The Long Night of White Chickens, winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction; The Ordinary Seaman, a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and The Divine Husband. His last book of non-fiction, The Art of Political Murder, was awarded the Index on Censorship’s TR Fyvel Freedom of Expression Book Award.

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