Books: Volkswagen of Fools

A CHANGE OF SKIN by Carlos Fuentes. 462 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $6.95.

The secret of staying awake through A Change of Skin, the fifth novel by Mexico's Carlos Fuentes, is to approach it as if it were a long, pretentious art movie. It should be read passively, with a relaxed eye toward its techniques, composition, shifts in style. And there should be frequent trips to the popcorn machine. A cheerful open-mindedness is essential because, for all its gothic appurtenances, the novel is a free-swinging romp, a virtuoso performance by an urbane writer who exuberantly deploys a variety of literary tricks—and...