Synopses & Reviews
John Rosspoet, journalist, and globetrotting troublemakerhas lived in what the Aztec-Mexicas described as "the umbilicus of the universe" since the great Mexico City earthquake of 1985 crushed out as many as 30,000 lives. Over the years, he has watched the cityEl Monstruopick itself up, bury its dead, and come battling back. But he is filled with a gnawing unease that Mexico City's days as the most gargantuan, chaotic, crime-ridden, toxically contaminated urban stain in the Western world is doomed, that the monster he has grown to know and love through a quarter of a century of reporting on its foibles and tragedies and festering blight will be globalized into one more McCity.
Covering 4,000,000,000 years of history from the primal broth that first spewed out the monster to the Aztec-Mexica oblivion through centuries of rapine and revolution all the way to the Great Swine Flu Panic of 2009, El Monstruo is a phantasmagoric retelling of the story of Mexico City, with which Ross's own history has become hopelessly entwined.
In the tradition of Suketu Mehta's Maximum City, Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives and Joseph Mitchell's Up At The Old Hotel, Ross's El Monstruo is a unique exploration of the mother of all mega-cities. Never before has anyone told from ground level the gritty, vibrant histories of this left city of 23 million faceless, fearless souls, listened to the stories of those who have not been crushed by the Monster, deconstructed the Monstruo's very monstrousness and lived to tell its secrets.
“An impassioned and melancholy history of Mexico’s most complex, boisterous, and exhilarating city.”
San Antonio Express-News
“Meticulously researched and imaginatively reported, "El Monstruo" is not your typical history book. No dry, crinkly prose here. As it does in Ross' journalism, Mexico erupts, like PopocatÈpetl, from the page.”
San Antonio Express-News
“Like having the world’s best guide show you around.”
"Ross’ book is part people’s history, part Gonzo journalism, with a wry and humorous style."
“El Monstruo is a valentine to place and useful chronicle of an epoch that has seen Mexico’s people find their voice…Ross’ quarter-century as witness does us the invaluable service of putting events to come in a context to understand them.”
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
“Vividly impressionistic survey of a fascinating urban panorama, El Monstruo makes for addictive reading.”
Kirkus Reviews STARRED REVIEW
“Monstrously entertaining and tenderhearted…”
“…a brave, stirring love letter, cautionary tale and travelogue…”
Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums
“From a window of the aging Hotel Isabel, where he has lived for almost a quarter of a century, John Ross sings a lusty corrido about a great, betrayed city and its extraordinary procession of rulers, lovers and magicians.”
Iain Sinclair, author of Lights Out for the Territory and London Orbital
“Coruscating and necessary. Here is one of those rare books that convinces from the first sentence: a writer embedded in his writing, wholly present in the subject, leading us with savage grace to the heart of the beast.”
Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
"John Ross is uncompromising in his dedication to the poor, the downtrodden and the victims of empire. He is not welcome on the television talk show circuit frequented by journalistic elites and political players, nor is he invited to the cocktail parties of the rich and powerful. He is most at home among the people in the slums and barrios of the world. John Ross is the personification of the peoples' reporter, a troubadour for justice who has chosen to cast his lot of conscience with those who have the will to live and the heart to resist against all odds. Simply put, John Ross is the Robin Hood of journalism."
John Ross has been living in the old colonial quarter of Mexico City for the last three decades, a rebel journalist covering Mexico and the region from the bottom up. He is filled with a gnawing sense that his beloved Mexico Citys days as the most gargantuan, chaotic, crime-ridden, toxically contaminated urban stain in the western world are doomed, and the monster he has grown to know and love through a quarter century of reporting on its foibles and tragedies and blight will be globalized into one more McCity.
El Monstruo is a defense of place and the history of that place. No one has told the gritty, vibrant histories of this city of 23 million faceless souls from the ground up, listened to the stories of those who have not been crushed, deconstructed the Monstruos very monstrousness, and lived to tell its secrets. In El Monstruo, Ross now does.
There are 23,000,000 stories in Mexico City, 22,999,997 busted dreams, and 2 or 3 tales of overweening ambition and craven success: John Ross, the great chronicler of Mexico, tells them all
El Monstruo is a valentine to place and useful chronicle of an epoch that has seen Mexicos people find their voice
Ross quarter-century as witness does us the invaluable service of putting events to come in a context to understand them.” Denver Post
About the Author
John Ross was the late author of the acclaimed memoir Murdered by Capitalism, which was praised by Thomas Pynchon and chosen as a San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year. Prior to his death in 2010, Ross was based in Mexico City for two decades. His reporting has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Nation, Texas Observer, and Counterpunch, to name a few. He is the winner of an Upton Sinclair Award and an American Book Award. Bruce Brugmann, editor and publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, called him "a terribly unusual talent”, while the Village Voices Tom Robbins had a few choice words: John Ross. Live like him.”