The name did not indicate a literary devotion to cocaine’s least fashionable form. It was meant, revealingly, as onomatopoeia, as if English orthography were the natural vehicle for the representation of primitive sound. (NAFTA followed a similar logic, supposing a northward flow as the natural direction of capital.) The group’s formation would not become audible until two years later, when the crackeros, joined by Ricardo Chávez Castañeda and Miguel Ángel Palou, issued a manifesto at a cultural center in Mexico City. Theirs would be "totalizing" novels, they promised, "profound and severe with their readers." They liked Beckett and Calvino and Cervantes and Sterne and the giants of the "Boom": Cortázar and Fuentes, and García Márquez before "magical realism" became a sort of fragrant ghetto enclosing Latin American fiction. Despite the phonic violence of their name, they announced, "There would be no rupture, then, but continuity. And if there were any kind of rupture, it would be only with the chaff, the pernicious Gerber’s of the moment…the cynically superficial and dishonest novel." In other words, they swore to write good books. "If something is happening with the Crack novels," the manifesto winked, "it’s not a literary movement, but simply and fully an attitude."
It was also shrewd PR, an attempt to stake a claim in a publishing industry that had begun shifting drastically in the 1980s, consolidating into a few big and largely Spanish-owned houses variously infected with the virus locally known as bestsellerismo. We might call it Oprah-ism. It had become harder than ever for young writers of literary fiction to break into the globalized and sales figure-obsessed market, so Volpi and his comrades published novels nearly simultaneously and issued their manifesto to coincide with the releases. Each book was tagged with a crimson promotional label identifying it as a "Novela del Crack." The crackeros, for all their rebel posturing, were making a bid for inclusion.
The move was not, initially, well received. Mexican critics remained unimpressed until 1999, when Volpi’s fifth novel, In Search of Klingsor, won the prestigious Premio Biblioteca Breve, awarded by the Spanish publisher Seix Barral. Volpi’s sales exploded; In Search of Klingsor was translated into nineteen languages; the Crack manifesto was reprinted in Spain by the Barcelona-based cultural journal Lateral; Spanish presses discovered the novels of Volpi’s less celebrated colleagues. Volpi was appointed cultural attaché to France, Padilla to Britain. Crack had gone global. At home, not everyone was buying it–in 2003 Elena Poniatowska was still mocking "Kid Volpi," and the critic Rafael Lemus has dismissed Volpi’s novels as "airport literature"–but abroad, Crack had become the Nike of Mexican literature.