Something Like a Dream

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Reviewed by James Tipton

Good Reading

A Mexico novel by Robert Richter

Something Like a Dream
By Robert Richter
Available from Amazon Books: Paperback
Also on Kindle and other electronic formats

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Robert Richter’s remarkable novel, Something Like a Dream, begins like this: “I am outside myself again and watching the charred body of Cullen Bryant Springfield, slung on the back of a burro, coming down the mountain toward us as I make love to his wife.”

This is one of those irresistible beginnings that intrigues us and immediately seduces us into what, in Richter’s novel, becomes a rather incredible journey. It begins in Vallarta and then quickly takes us much farther north into the land of the mysterious Huichol people and “their diminishing sierra territory in Nayarit, Jalisco and Zacatecas, Mexico.”

Cotton Waters, a former political activist, “of dubious legal status in both Mexico and The States,” is living the life of a beach bum near Puerto Vallarta, where he hustles business as he can as “manager of a Mexican west coast Lost-and-Found,” occasionally busy “helping some people get lost and finding others — if the price is right or the cause is worth it.”

This story all started when the silhouette of the beautiful Corina Springfield, head of the huge Springfield Foundation in Boulder, Colorado, “appeared in the afternoon doorway of Juan Carlos’ Iguana Bar on Calle Quince.

Cotton, was better known to the locals as “Algo” (Spanish for “Something”) because the cantina crowd had shortened the Spanish word for cotton from “Algodón” to Algo. He was easy prey. Corina was beautiful, “Like Pacific waves breaking and you can’t stop from watching and listening to them all afternoon.”

She was in search of her long lost husband, Bryant Springfield, a product of the ’60s “when life was a union of the chemical and the spiritual,” and who had appeared in a Life Magazine photo arm in arm with Dr. Timothy Leary. Until he disappeared into the peyote culture of the Huichols, he had headed the Foundation.

They are pursued not only by a reporter intent on doing a story on the lost Bryant Springfield and the old radicals for The Boulder Camera but also by far more sinister people intent at all costs on keeping the whereabouts of the drugged-out husband unknown.

But Algo was convinced Corina “could make anyone come home.”

Some of the passages are lyrical, the stuff of poetry, like this passage after Algo first makes love to Corina: “I buried every part of me in Cori Springfield’s cries and whispers and embraces, as lost and found as I could be, fulfilled and enfolded by darkness and the Mexican mountains, and then I slept intoxicated with need and satisfaction and release.”

Something Like a Dream is one of those rare novels that lift me up into a superb literary experience. The discovery of such a fine novel is both a joy and at the same time perplexing to me that it has not reached a broad audience.

Much of the novel, which takes place in 1982, is about the Huichols and Richter means “to introduce the reader to the Huichol people, their culture and religious life centered on peyote visions….”

I was particularly satisfied with how Richter, in the midst of this Huichol culture, wrote about his narrator’s dreams and his peyote visions. For the Huichol, “the sacred and the secular are the same world, real and physical, enrapturing and mystical. Body, mind, and spirit; corn, deer, and peyote; nothing separates the idea from the daylight or the dream. It is all the same.”

Robert Richter, who lives in southwestern Nebraska, “has a relationship with west coast Mexico that goes back forty years” and has written extensively about Mexico and Latin America. I, myself, have lived in Mexico more than ten years and I can attest to the authenticity of much of the Mexico he presents.

This novel is must reading for all who enjoy fine literature. It will be of particular interest to those who love Mexico and live here or travel here.

As in the finest of adventure stories — from The Odyssey to the present — Robert Richter´s protagonist, Cotton Waters, “Algo,” is a seemingly ordinary man, not particularly successful in the eyes of the world, who for complicated reasons accepts a journey that has extraordinary challenges and that will change him forever.

In a passage about Huichol pilgrimages Richter writes that: “It is simply the task of life, to journey and to celebrate the journey….”

Published or Updated on: October 23, 2014 by James Tipton © 2014
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