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Centaur of the North

Centaur of the North
by Wendell Mayo 2nd Printing
140 pp.
ISBN No. 1-558-85165-8.
Arte Público Press 1996; 1999.

Centaur of the North takes on the themes of family, myth, and memory as Wendell Mayo explores how narrative can tie people to a place and to one another and how disrupting such discourse can throw folks into confusion about who they are and where they come from. Mostly set on the Gulf Coast in Corpus Christi, Texas, the stories in this collection delve into family legends and questions of veracity. Mayo's writing is assured and evocative, painting a picture of hot places where the vapors of memory and language answer burning questions of "Who am I?" only with bits of family lore and uncertain memory.


"Times, I believe I have only room for Soledad, and I have carried it with me all these years.... Perhaps it is better than carrying ashes or memories, better than lugging around the certainties of lineage that splay through other lives like the hungry hard branches of a spreading tree. Perhaps it is far better to carry just one word when one drives great distances in the desert, easier to sound just one word in blues and reds and blacks that far from the crowded world, from the cities of competing sounds. Perhaps it is more practical to hear oneself utter a single word, easier for the vast desert skies to hear it, the rocks to send it back, the solitary mind to contemplate the intonation and stress of each isolated vowel and consonant. Soledad... perhaps such a single word is more suited to a living soul - or a dead one - and as easily suited to the single spark from my campfire that spirals up and dies in the night sky near Piedras Negras, where I often dream of my ancestors, see them in the tongue of flame, in the faces among the black rocks, and call their names in the impossible song of my impossible race."


Centaur of the North has been widely and favorably reviewed, including the New York Times Book Review ("a powerful first collection" - 12/15/96) and Choice ("highly recommended"). It is a beautiful book, with original cover art by San Antonio Artist Nivia Gonzalez.

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