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On THE LAST MATADOR, by Marc Newman

Published on October 6, 2013

Wall Street and the bull rings of Spain have more in common than most people think. Both spotlight high-stakes struggles in a macho environment where bravery and originality can be greatly rewarded, or can end up in disaster — and both cultures are great settings for drama. Marc Newman’s The Last Matador draws its strength from the juxtaposition of these two worlds, and from the vivid details he captures of each.

The novel follows the fortunes of trader Henry Rothman on Wall Street, and his instant engagement with the bullfights he attends in Spain. Rothman sees the connection between the risks and challenges of his world and that of the corrida, but he recognizes a purer struggle between the toreros and the highly trained bulls they face. Cruelty is certainly a central theme in this novel; though Marc Newman’s portrayals of bulls in combat are neither gory nor salacious, the bullfighting scenes are wrenchingly accurate.

Human cruelty is on show as well, from the fierce egotism of the trading floor to the wounds only a long-married couple can inflict on each other. The novel doesn’t flinch from showing characters at their worst, but the complexity of the characterization saves us from suburban melodrama. The Last Matador is a fascinating read, bridging Hemingway and Cheever in its approach to laying bare a flawed man’s battles.

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