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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig 
23rd-Feb-2006 01:45 am
It's rare moments like this novel that I wish I had kept up my Spanish better...

Puig, Manuel. Kiss of the Spider Woman. Trans. Thomas Colchie. 1979. New York: Vintage, 1991. (First Spanish Edition: 1976)
Summary: Valentin, a political prisoner, and Molina, a gay man in for "corruption of a minor"/statutory rape, share a jail cell, passing the time with Molina's retellings of his favorite movies. Unbeknownst to Valentin, however, Molina has been put with him by the powers that be in order to extract information from him about his fellow revolutionaries--with the reward for Molina being early parole so that he may care for his hypertensive mother. The two men fall in love instead. In the end, Molina does not give anything away but is paroled anyway and attempts to secretly make contact with the revolutionaries...only to be killed. Valentin, meanwhile, has been interrogated within an inch of his life.
Comments: Hands down the best gay prison fantasy I've ever read! *coughs* Ahem. Seriously, though, this is a gorgeous, gorgeous novel. The near-exclusive use of dialogue/interior monologue makes for an intensely personal, yet simultaneously distancing, reading experience. (Though if someone could explain the purpose of all those freaking footnotes, I'm all ears.) At times, the two men read like Puig's alter ego sock puppets as they espouse their respective life philosophies. For example, Valentin is an ardent feminist, and he extrapolates his political sentiments in order to conclude that the female-identified, passive Molina deserves to take shit from nobody. It highlights for me how the author has connected freedom for one minority group as freedom for all. But, at other times, what ISN'T being said is more intensely realized for the reader than what actually is. The romantic moments, especially, are unforgettable. It positively broke my heart when Molina didn't even want to go free if it meant leaving Valentin, the one true love of his life. Molina's film plots, told in great detail, append the events in the novel perfectly; Molina dies in a way similar to one of the females in his film, shot by a revolutionary who perhaps wanted to silence him. I'd like to believe that he chose, if not strictly anticipated, his death; he claimed to want to die, and, in any case, he was living for his mother, not himself. If his love was to end, why not his life? Everything ends eventually, though Valentin, at least, is alive to regret during delirious fantasy telling Molina to contact the revolutionaries. Talk about a depressing conclusion.
Notes: trade paperback, 21st printing
Rating: 9.5/10 - Definitely one of those "Where have you been all my life!?" reading experiences.
23rd-Feb-2006 09:02 am (UTC)
this is a brillaint, brilliant novel. i love puig's style. now you can try his heartbreak tango, which is also amazing....
23rd-Feb-2006 11:41 am (UTC)
Did you know that one's out of print? >_< I checked last time you mentioned it...
23rd-Feb-2006 12:12 pm (UTC)
god, if i'd known, i'd've been more careful about lending it...
23rd-Feb-2006 12:16 pm (UTC)
Actually, most of his work is out of print. I'm sure I could get a copy used...but I'm never eager to pay through the nose on shipping costs for some dog-eared book.

*curious* BTW, what's your take on all those psychoanalysis footnotes in Kiss of the Spider Woman?
24th-Feb-2006 02:49 am (UTC)
that's an excellent question - one of the things i liked the best about the novel was the footnotey bits...i took the psychoanalytical ones to be a kind of ironic look at the "treatment" of homosexuality, and also as kind of underlining the futility/absurdity of attempting to quantify or analyze love. it's made more interesting by molina's being a bit of a stereotype himself.

of course, it's been a while since i read the book, but i do believe it's time for a reread...
24th-Feb-2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I was trying to figure out whether or not those footnotes were supposed to be taken seriously or not. Psychosexual-analysis makes my nosehairs curl, though it seemed to me like Puig was both diagnosing his characters and using the novel as an excuse for a soapbox. Could be that Latin America was a bit "behind the times," too--which would help explain why he did it.

it's made more interesting by molina's being a bit of a stereotype himself.

BOTH characters are stereotypical. ^_^
24th-Feb-2006 02:03 am (UTC)
::Adds to list::
28th-Feb-2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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