Repeated exposure to the oft celebrated work of their writers and film-makers may not make it any easier to read the Latin American male mind. The macho world view many of them present can seem predictable and childish to readers and viewers from other parts. Even Nobel laureate (as of 2010) Mario Vargas Llosa is not immune, in Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter most notably. The titular heroine, the narrator’s Bolivian ‘Aunt’ Julia, shapes up in the early stages as a character of potential depth and interest, but progressively – as seen through the eyes of her much younger paramour, the moonstruck Mario – comes to more closely resemble a cardboard cut-out, the flesh and blood manifestation of every Lima boy’s wet dream. The story of this pair is intertwined every other chapter with that of another Bolivian, one Pedro Camacho. The enigmatic scriptwriter of the title, he grinds his fingers to the bone churning out absurdist radio theatre narratives at a prolific rate of knots. For a considerable time they leave his audience entranced only for this to eventually change into mystification. Many readers of the melange that is this novel may have a similar reaction to Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter or, worse, find it as instantly forgettable as Camacho’s zany narratives. Melodrama permeates both art and life to such a degree that the one can often appear indistinguishable from the other? Figure that out for yourselves. But if this is the author’s point he takes many pages to make it. At any rate, world literature can be thankful Vargas Llosa did not ‘typecast’ himself with this exercise in nostalgia. Aficionados may find it worthwhile. Others may prefer to pass and go straight to one of his more substantial works. While on the subject, The Bad Girl deals more meaningfully with the theme of the head over heels boy / man trying to reconcile himself to an elusive, eternally obscure object of desire. And for all her ‘badness’, at least she is a heroine with some oomph.