Synopses & Reviews
Mark Sundeen needed to stage a comeback. His first book was little read, rarely reviewed, and his book tour was cancelled. So when a careless big city publisher calls with an offer for a book about bullfighting, Mark assumes this is his best and last chance to follow the trajectory of his literary heroes.
To be sure, Sundeen has never been to a bullfight. He doesn't speak Spanish. He's not even a particularly good reporter. Come to think of it, he's probably one of the least qualified people to write a book about bullfighting, even in the best of circumstances. But that doesn't stop Mark Sundeen.
After squandering most of the book advance on back rent and debts, Sundeen can't afford a trip to Spain, so he settles for nearby Mexico. But the bullfighting he finds south of the border is tawdry and comical, and people seem much more interested in the concessions and sideshows. There's little of the passion and artistry and bravery that he'd hoped to employ in exhibiting his literary genius to the masses.
To compensate for his own shortcomings as an author, Sundeen invents an alter ego, Travis LaFrance, a swashbuckling adventure writer, in the tradition of his idol, Ernest Hemingway. But as his research falters, his money runs out, and the deadline approaches, Sundeen's high-minded fantasies are skewered by his second-rate reality. Eventually, Travis LaFrance steps in to take control, and our narrator goes blundering through the landscape of his own dreams and delusions, propelled solely by a preposterous, quixotic, and ultimately heartbreaking insistence that his own life story, no matter how crummy, is worth being told in the pages of Great Literature.
"The Making of Toro" is a unique comic classic, a hilarious poke in the ribs of self-important "literary memoirs," and also a sly, poignant tale of the hazards of trying too hard to turn real life into high art.
"Sundeen's alter-ego Travis LaFrance, a Hemingway-esque swashbuckling hero, a man's man, a much tougher, braver, and simpler man than poor old Sundeen. LaFrance is a hilarious concoction of ultra-manly cliches and Sundeen's excuse to live a more rebellious life vicariously. The first voice, however, of The Making of Toro
is that of the character Sundeen, hapless and often self-delusional, and unwittingly very, very funny." Georgie Lewis, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
"Well-turned ambiguities, delivered with the steady patter of a late-night TV host's extended comic monologue." Kirkus Reviews
"Books like this are written only once or twice in a century. Thank god." Hunter S. Thompson
"Mark Sundeen dips his pen in the blood of the bull to make literature full of life and lust. Also, he makes his mom sound nice." Sarah Vowell
author of The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Mark Sundeen is on the verge of the big break his writing career needs. A big-city publisher wants him to write a book about bullfighting. Who cares that he's never been to a bullfight and doesn't know anything about the sport. He doesn't even speak Spanish, but somehow he feels was born to write this book.
Sundeen rushes to Mexico only to discover that bullfighting -- to the extent he can understand it -- is not the glamorous and Hemingwayesque sport he'd expected. With his money running out he evokes his alterego, Travis LeFrance, a swashbuckling writer with the brio and talent to ferment mere reality into something grand and literary.
The result is a hilarious and poignant memoir of what happens when you try a little too hard to make real life into high art.
Hunter S. Thompson meets Dave Eggers in this hilarious memoir about the tension between life and art, utter literary failure, and even some bullfighting. Photos throughout.
About the Author
Mark Sundeen is the author of Car Camping and lives in Utah.