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Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino

Reviewed by Ryan Eliassen

Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino By Julián Herbert, Translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney, Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press 2020, 176 pages, $16, paperback

Full disclosure, this book caught my eye with the title, and it is the reason why I chose to review it. Along, with its eye-catching title the bright yellowed colored cover is labeled with an old western styled “Most Wanted” font makes the cover of the book go along nicely with the title. Written by Julián  Herbert, and translated into English by Christina MacSweeney, the book offered many surprises and is definitely worth a read that will have you flying through its 176 pages.

As for the work itself, well it is as excellent as anything I have reviewed. The 10-story collection (The Ballad of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, M.L. Estefania, White Paper, NEETS, The Roman Wedding, There Where We Stood, Caries, The Dog’s Head, Z, and Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino) offers a diverse set of storytelling based around Mexican history and culture. The whole time I was reading I felt like I was in wherever the story was taking place. Which the place that I was imagining in my mind was somewhere in Mexico. Herbert does an outstanding job of showing the life (both good and bad) of what it is like to be from Mexico. His characters are one of the main things that work throughout his work. They are all relatable, new, groundbreaking, and they feel like real life.

The number of different styles in this collection of stories is something that makes it really easy to follow along and want to keep reading more. The pace of the stories is sometimes serious and grabs your attention, but in other parts you will find yourself more laid back and enjoying Herbert’s sometimes weird humor. The storytelling and different ideologies of storytelling makes this a must read. There should be something within the 10-story collection that everyone should end up enjoying. I also want to add that you’ll find Herbert uses a few different genres—such as fiction, essay, and part poignant cultural commentary.

My personal favorite story of the collection is the final one, which happens to be the title of the book. “Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino” is a ride. The narrator in the title story is a film critic who has been kidnapped by a drug lord named Jacobo Montana who is the head of the Sierra Madre cartel. Montana happens to look exactly like Tarantino, so he then wants Tarantino dead because of this. But first he wants to learn everything there is to know about him, and he wants the kidnapped critic to teach him. What happens after is something you will have to read because I do not want to spoil anything. But I can promise that it will be thrilling and will leave you believing is it one of the reasons why the collection is great.

The most interesting and intriguing story that was “Caries”. While doing some research before writing this review I found that Caries had some similarities to fellow Mexican contemporary Valeria Luiselli, whose debut novel The Story of My Teeth catapulted her to fame. I liked this story because of the section of the story that is sheet music. I just liked this aesthetic choice and it tied in nicely with the story because of the story being about a man who discovers sheet music.

This collection of stories will have something for everyone. Herbert’s style of writing makes for a very interesting read that will have you wondering what is going on, in a good way. Herbert’s style has different shades of being serious and sometimes being funny, he sometimes will push the line of “should this be the content I should be reading?”. But if you can look past and make it a point that you want to set out to read something new and unique then I would say that “Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino” is the perfect book for you. Lastly, I will say that that “Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino” will give you unique insight into contemporary Mexico and its culture. For someone like me who is from the northern parts of the United States I definitely appreciated.