Out of Their Minds: The Incredible and (Sometimes) Sad Story of Ramón and Cornelio by Luis Humberto Crosthwaite

A bizarre and entertaining tale of two Mexican norteño musicians guided by God–and the price they pay for their fame.


Luis Humberto Crosthwaite’s Out of Their Minds, a novel first published in Spanish in 2001, is a motley collection of fictional interviews, dreams, dialogues and sketches. It’s centered on Ramón and Cornelio, a couple of bored kids in Tijuana with a bajo sexto and an accordion. Then God speaks to Cornelio, offering to write his songs for him, and the duo known as los Relampagos de Agosto (a sly reference to Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s satiric The Lightning of August?) takes off.

Greeted onstage by screaming women throwing underwear, their world explodes in undreamed-of decadence and groupies. Fast forward a few years, though, and Ramón and Cornelio’s lives are sadly riddled with drugs and superficiality. Unsurprisingly, the two lifelong friends no longer see eye to eye, and the rock-and-roll lifestyle has dimmed their fire. Where they used to lie awake at night and discuss the perfect girlfriend (she must have pretty feet), now their wives have left them and Ramón talks to his accordion instead.

In the ever-shifting perspective of this strange world, where God worries about producing fresh material (“he doesn’t want to be judged as a repetitive God, with few ideas”) while a friend of Cornelio dies over and over again, the duo’s career arc clearly references the Beatles–but places them in Mexico’s norteño music scene. Wry, lyrical and frequently funny, the story of Ramón and Cornelio is indeed incredible and sometimes sad; but the music plays on and we continue to revel in it.

This review originally ran in the May 24, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 6 blurry nights.

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