The King and Queen of Comezón
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
320 Pages | 6 x 9 | 1 figure
Comezón: It’s more than an itch. It’s a long-standing desire that will never be fulfilled. And, in this novel by award-winning author Denise Chávez, it is also a border town in New Mexico whose denizens’ longings are as powerful as they are, all too often, impossible.
But in the feverish dance of life that seizes Comezón during its two annual fiestas, all things seem possible. As the townspeople revel in the freedom of the fiestas, their stories unfold in all manner of mystery, drama, and comic charm. In the middle of it all is Arnulfo P. Olivárez, master of ceremonies and befuddled patriarch of a less-than-tractable family. At the moment, he is calculating his chances of becoming mayor, as well as pondering the fate of his beautiful disabled daughter, Juliana.
Arnulfo’s daughters (“the half and the whole,” he deems them) are the Fiesta Queen, Lucinda, a lovely, lost and wild girl, and Juliana, her half sister, wheelchair-bound but with soaring dreams of love for the local priest, El Padre Manolito. Their mother, the saintly Doña Emilia, attends to all her children, including Arnulfo, with grace. Lucinda’s unsuitable suitor, Ruley Terrazas, a tall, bumpy-skinned boy, is not to be trusted, nor is his father, Cuco “Matamosca” Terrazas, the local chief of police. And Rey Suárez, owner of the Mil Recuerdos Lounge, is haunted by his former incarnation as an immigration officer, an expert in spotting fake IDs.
Between New Mexico and México, between Cinco de Mayo and the 16th of September, between the dreams and the realities of Comezón’s characters, something has to give. Each character is attempting to find love in this feverish fiesta called Life. And in the deft hands of Denise Chávez this tragicomic novel gives unerringly: pleasure, surprise, and the satisfaction of a tale well told.
“[Denise] Chávez’s voice is at once zany and knowing. She is la gran mitotera—a big troublemaker, stirring up rollicking mischief with wacky humor delivered in the lyrical tempo of Chicano slang.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“Chávez draws carefully detailed, emotionally convincing portraits of the lives of ordinary people.”—Newsday
“Chávez records the food, the hang-ups, the turn-ons and worldview of a thriving border culture. . . . [Her] spicy storytelling reminds us that women today, fictional and real, have . . . options. And while looking for idealized romantic love will never go out of style, finding it pretty much has.”—New York Times
“Chávez has a marvelous ear for the dramatic moment and a fine hand for the comic set piece.”—Miami Herald
“The King and Queen of Comezón is a work of pure, comic genius with just enough pathos thrown in to make us weep with gratitude. What Denise Chávez has done for the dusty border town of Comezón (or “Itch”)—for her entire beloved borderland, in fact—is akin to what William Faulkner created with Yoknapatawpha County or Toni Morrison with her native Ohio. The town may be small, but its unforgettable inhabitants live large, dream large, heart and soul.”
—Cristina García, author of King of Cuba
“Denise Chávez is both king and queen of storytelling.”—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
“The King and Queen of Comezón is rich, so full of raunch and beautiful flights of imagination, and humor, and descriptions of the human condition. Above all else, this book reeks of a deep love for humanity. The writing soars. Denise Chávez has written a classic for our age.”—John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War
“Welcome to Comezón! Denise Chávez’s signature wit and wisdom turn a dusty New Mexico village into a magical universe that you will love and never want to leave.” —Demetria Martínez, author of The Block Captain’s Daughter