i was just reading my delight of a book, readers' advisory service in the public library, and the chapter i was reading was the one on "appeal". basic...morei was just reading my delight of a book, readers' advisory service in the public library, and the chapter i was reading was the one on "appeal". basically, appeal is how you describe a book to a patron based on its salient elements: pacing, characterization, story line, frame/tone, and style. the idea is that by using these descriptive elements, we can recommend any book to any person, whether we have read the book or not, whether we know anything about the genre, based on the appeal of these elements to the reader and always always always making sure to avoid "judgment words"; focusing simply on articulating the bits and pieces for the best and most appropriate readers of the books.
i'm not going to do that. not here, not with you.i was going to, for practice - going to go through all the marvelous things this novel has to offer a reader, but instead i'm going to do something librarians aren't supposed to do. i am going to impose my taste on you. that's right, bitches. and i am going to ask you to trust me. i know we don't really know one another, but let me give you my résumé of trustworthiness: the other day, a child dropped her stuffed giraffe and her parents didn't notice. even though i had just been saying - "i want that giraffe, yo", i picked it up and gave it to the mommy. SEE HOW TRUSTWORTHY I AM?? one time i found a wallet on the subway. it was the wallet of some japanese tourist, and there was all this american money inside, and after trying to call the number on the credit card (which was all crazy-japanese-language, and the american division was no help - same with the bank), i ended up going allll the way to the japanese embassy to drop it off. SEE HOW I CAN BE TRUSTED WITH MY GOOD NATURE?? i am very good at keeping secrets (even the really juicy one i heard about you. YES, YOU). i will not read your diary, and i will not steal your boyfriend/girlfriend...
but mostly, i can be trusted in my book sense. i'm not going to push my byron fictionalizations on you - i know that these are just personal fetishes, and they are crappy crappy sensationalist novels. same with my teen-survival and aftermath books. even though i sometimes like some crap, i know when something is good. and this is good:
he became a surgeon because he was afraid of knives. he got married because he was afraid of women. he had a child because he was afraid of responsibility. now, his marriage over and his child no longer speaking to him, he turned off all the lights in the house because he was afraid of the dark.
look, i'm just some chick with a mouth like a sailor who was recommended this book years ago and i took a chance and it turned out to be one of the best books i ever did read. i paid 2.38 for it on abe.com.
there is nothing more boring than a junkie. a drunk will put on a good show; stumble around, maybe vomit explosively, and most drunks, even serious dr...morethere is nothing more boring than a junkie. a drunk will put on a good show; stumble around, maybe vomit explosively, and most drunks, even serious drunks, manage to retain a certain charm which allows them to successfully cadge drinks. cokeheads and speedfreaks are capable of carrying on conversations, even if half the time it is difficult to follow their logic. but at least they're trying, and you can always just watch their teeth grind. people on hallucinogens (do people still do those anymore?), all you need is a flashlight and a wall, and they can entertain for hours. but junkies. they are just really obstacles to step over on your way to the bathroom - not entertaining at all. selfish, really. and junkie fiction is usually the lowest of the low in terms of entertainment value. either it's shock value "look at what people are willing to do for a fix" tales, or glossily redemptive "look at my transformation". yawn.
that being said, i fucking love this book. and i've given up utterly on its ever coming back into print. there were rumors of her writing a second book, which have also seemed to evaporate. so i give up on that, too. and i ordinarily wouldn't dig this book because it is, it's a drug narrative. but it's about all manner of self-destructive behavior and squalor but with moments of heartbreaking tenderness. and yes, the narrator is very articulate which is odd for a junkie, but it's not the same kind of articulate in-your-faceness that is in, say, calamity physics. it's not treacly or perky. it's nihilistic self-loathing jewish rage. it's a sexually brutal entanglement with a plumber, a misplaced religious/racial identity, the obligatory AIDS-character, the power of chain gang music, and lesbian peach pie.
but nicole richie's novel is still in print. amazing.(less)
why are books allowed to go out of print?? especially quality books, while ghastly interchangeable pastel chicklit books are allowed to be churned out...more why are books allowed to go out of print?? especially quality books, while ghastly interchangeable pastel chicklit books are allowed to be churned out to clog the shelves year after year? this one particularly surprises me, because it's steven millhauser, ftlog. all of his other books are in print, he's got a pullitzer; what more do you need to keep one lousy book in print? i'm noticing more and more as i am ordering for the store that publishers just aren't able to keep things in print anymore, or are making only very small batches of certain backlist titles. one week, three or four "table books" will no longer be available, then they will come back, then be unavailable again. it makes me sad because on the one hand - i want them to go out and have a chance to sell, on the other hand, i want to protect them as though they are the frail endangered species,the Last Copies, and not let the others get their hands on them. sometimes it works out - obscene bird of night came back into print in a big way and i immediately ordered an unreasonable amount of copies just in case, as though i am preparing for some literary apocalypse and the store is my book bomb shelter. but this book i have never been able to get in the store, and it is my favorite millhauser, which makes it difficult for the readers advisory part of my job. "yes, millhauser is good, but you should really try to find portrait of a romantic - its the very best". honesty loses sales.sigh. mike didn't like this book, but reading his review made me realize how much it really is like fortress of solitude, without any of the popular culture references. when i read this book, f.o.s. was not even a thought in young lethem's head, so i never mentally compared the two. now i want to read them over back-to-back. i loved both books, millhauser's is just a darker, more fantastic, magical-realismy version. young boys and their suburban death-fascinations. this book should almost be required reading for middle school boys. (less)
i need to read this again i need to read this again i need to read this again.
i can see it up there on my shelves, trapped between Songdogs: A Novel and...morei need to read this again i need to read this again i need to read this again.
i can see it up there on my shelves, trapped between Songdogs: A Novel and Brightness Falls and in my, "i should review all my favorite books, especially the ones it will be frustrating for people to be able to get," burst of energy, here we all are.
and i am wanting desperately to read this again.
this book should be among the seven wonders of the modern world. yes, we all love the chunnel - it is superfast and all, but this is a superfast chunnel of words. this book will make your mind come. it is astonishing.
but it is not for everyone, truly.
it is not a tidily told tale that will wrap up at the end. it is a book you have to both work with and work for. but it isn't complicated in the way that finnegan's wake is - i personally never got the sense that someone was deliberately trying to make me angry. it is more ambitious in the way that house of leaves is, or infinite jest. it sprawls, massively, like a panda bear on its back showing you its goods. but it isn't going to perform for you - you are going to be responsible for making a lot of the connections yourself. i found it way more satisfying than house of leaves, and pretty much the equal of IJ, although i have only read this one the one time. (i need to read this again.) it has a lot of that lynchean "why don't you tell me what this is about attitude, which makes it both a taunt and a challenge, and leaves a rush of accomplishment singing through the veins.
reading this is like when you are young and stoned, and you are walking down the street, overhearing snippets of conversation, reading graffiti, hearing lyrics of songs coming from out of windows of cars going by and you start picking up on patterns, man, and how all of this surrounding noise relates to you - the center of the universe, naturally, and you start coming up with silent theories about what everything you are seeing and hearing is trying to tell you. only this time, it's all real. this is carefully balanced. this is like a game of memory, and these are echoes and reverberations throughout, like in sea came in at midnight. but this book is more disjointed, more of a mist of words you just happen to find yourself in. i have a pretty big aversion to clever for clever's sake, and this one never felt that way to me, it is simply clever. it is a book i just came across on my own, read it, and felt like this was something life changing and necessary that spooked me a little. i read it pretty much right when it came out, just based on the title and premise alone, and it was only years later that i realized what a cult this book had surrounding it. and what mysteries lay cloaked around its authorship.
i need to read this again. i should stop writing this and go read it, but i gotta read a couple of other books first...
but i vow to read this again before the end of the month. one of you people should track it down and read it with me. (less)
this review is for all of the people "following my reviews". i dont know who you are. you dont message me or comment on my reviews, or vote for them....morethis review is for all of the people "following my reviews". i dont know who you are. you dont message me or comment on my reviews, or vote for them. i dont know what you are getting out of this relationship. the only thing i can think of is that you are waiting for me to make the first move and review something just for you. so here it is: read this book. this is one of the best books i have ever read, and it is out of print, (although its sequel is still in print - go figure) so you are going to have to work for it. and once you have it, you are going to have to work a little bit more to get everything out of it you possibly can. even though i am going through a phase with the teen and baby books, this is where my heart is. its not a long book, but it is a deceptively intricate and layered book, which will unfold like one of those vagina dentatas and snap you up. it does for me what i thought house of leaves was going to do for me, until that ended up being ultimately unsatisfying like a nicely-wrapped empty box. this book is the real deal. i cant give up plotpoints, because the real shivery cerebral excitement comes from slowly understanding its echoes and the seams. now stop following me and go read it.(less)
anne hebert, where have you been all my life?? and why are you all out of print?? and why did i buy you years ago and only pick you up now?? i declare...moreanne hebert, where have you been all my life?? and why are you all out of print?? and why did i buy you years ago and only pick you up now?? i declare again: canadians are one of the worlds best story-telling communities. i have rarely been disappointed by a canadian. and its not just blood-pride, if ayana is wanting to chime in. because its everything: the pacing, the novelty of narrative structure, the descriptive passages... unless im just more attuned to it because of some long-buried ancestral tug. but then why do i also respond so well to nigerian and irish fiction? why am i using this "review" to muse about something so extratextual? am i just in canada-lust right now because of the leonard cohen concert? regardless, and more on point, this book is excellent. i will seek her books out like i did with maritta wolff and jonathan carroll and liz jensen and all my other favorite out of printers. and i will have a tea party. in canada. so. (less)
this is a book i spent much of my adult life trying to find, and my friend found it in a matter of months. just a coincidence, mind you, nothing to do...morethis is a book i spent much of my adult life trying to find, and my friend found it in a matter of months. just a coincidence, mind you, nothing to do with my lack of skills... i loved this book as a child, and still do, mostly because of how hard it was to get - but i respect its playing coy - a dignified stance for a book about a monster who loves to swing...(less)
okay - it is time to write a proper review for this book, particularly since i have been recommending it like crazy over the past few days, and since...moreokay - it is time to write a proper review for this book, particularly since i have been recommending it like crazy over the past few days, and since it is out of print, i should at least make the effort to try to explain why you should make the effort, yeah?
but damned if i know where to start. cover-blurbs compare it to james baldwin and faulkner. is that a start? i haven't read baldwin, and i haven't liked the one faulkner i did read, so let me dig a little deeper...
it is a luminous example of the lyricism of the afro-canadian literary tradition. yeah, that's true, but what a chunkily pompous sentence to describe this whirlwind of a book that sweeps you away with its bluesy prose and brutal and violent episodes. but not gratuitously violent. see what i mean?? i'm all thumbs and redundancies and backtracking when it comes to trying to make you read this.
all i can tell you is how he makes me feel. he destroys me. just punches my heart over and over and then rubs it all over with whiskey poetry. if you want examples of his writing, i have "reviewed" about 5 books of his poetry, where i basically just typed out his poems because he is a much better writer than me, and he can sell himself. he just needs to be back in print to do so. read him read him read him.
kathy, alan, and bill have written more relevant reviews of this that should be read, and i am so glad they listened to me and took a chance and wrote good reviews about this secret gem of a book, because i am too in love with it to even begin to tell you why.
hardly a "proper" review after all, but i am hopelessly inept.(less)
caveat: if you are approaching this "book review" because you are interested in reading this book,and are looking for an informed opinion, you should...morecaveat: if you are approaching this "book review" because you are interested in reading this book,and are looking for an informed opinion, you should probably go read someone else's review. this is a review-challenge for a book i read at least fifteen years ago and remember very vaguely, and the parameters of the challenge, while fun, are not particularly useful to content-seekers. are you still reading this?
the challenge, from mariel to me:
Mariel My challenge!
I choose James Gunn's The Toy Collector.
Unless someone wants to chime in an additional ten things you'll have to do all of these to compete with Greg. Each is worth ten points.
Do a photo essay of action figures (any kind of toy) starring as the main characters of this book in a poignant moment.
Translate a paragraph into google translator and then back again into English using google translator.
Pick a fight with one of the brothers. Extra ten points if there are pictures.
Write about the book as if it were an episode of Law and Order or The Wire.
Make a cry for help.
Ask at least five rhetorical questions.
Do a top ten list of reasons why James Gunn wishes he was Joss Whedon.
Give advice on how they could've made a better drug selling business model.
Have a Waynes World moment over toys.
Be girlier than any thread of a Greg review. Extra ten points if there are pictures.
caveat deux: if you think this novel is about a gentleman who collects sex toys, you are incorrect. it was a total bummer to me to learn that it was just about some comic-book-nerd who hoarded superhero action figures instead of bangmaster 6000's and blow-up mollys.
live and learn... and consider yourself warned.
1)alfonso, you are a turd.this is not necessarily part of the anti-shout-out, it is just a fact i am stating unsolicited-like.(that being said, it does not mean it should not be counted)
plot synopsis run through google master linguist:
This is a book about a man who loves Collecting Toys so much that he Risks it all to be able to afford to continue adding to his collection. He Steals pharmaceutical drugs from the hospital in which he is to sell only to finance its Addiction to Toys. A victim of the continued infantilizatyon of adult men in our culture, he continues to play as a child in both its social and private life as he Fantasizes on Toys at every opportunity instead of facing his problems as an adult.
why does the yiddish translator capitalize those words??
2)greg - those shoes make your butt look big
care for a taste?
so the veterinarian fixed the bird. he rubbed some ointment on the wound and, on my suggestion, added a couple of stitches there as well. he dressed the broken wing in a sling of cloth. he braced the leg with two tongue depressors and wrapped it in tape.[image error] when the job was finished, the vet handed us a bottle of medicine and said to place it on the wound twice a day to check any infection. he passed us some extra slings. evelyn charged the seventy-five bucks to her mastercard. the vet nodded good-bye as we left. the weather wasn't quite as hot as it had been. we got into evelyn's volvo and moved up broadway toward my apartment in harlem. the pigeon wheezed twice, loudly, and died.
and alfonso's sock puppet montage:
look at all the drugs i have stolen!! would you like to buy these drugs, kindly red panda?? now i have all this cash money!! what shall i buy?? [image error] toys, naturally!! i do so love toys!! they call me the toy collector, did you know that??? [image error]
it is easy to make a photo montage of toy tableaux because i have so many toys myself. why do i have so many toys?? where do they all come from???seriously - why do i have so many toys?? greg was here the other day to hook up my dvd player (woot!) and he looked around and said "you have so many cute things here." his tone was envious, but the fact remains that i have so.many.toys.here. they are everywhere: on top of my stacks of books, on my bed, on my computer desk - i have a problem - everything in my house that is useful must also be cute. why do i have this compulsion to surround myself with toys?? i am not at the point where i am selling drugs to finance my toy habit, because my toys are cheap, but it is still an unseemly habit.
SOMEONE SAVE ME FROM MYSELF!!!
my new year's resolution is to stop buying toys and other childish things. [image error]
and tar - i am going to kick your ass!! i don't even remember your role in this book, except that you are a brother and i feel like that makes you worthy of an ass-kicking so if you get one step closer with that rom spaceknight action figure i am going to burl you. don't point that thing at me, sir!! don't make it go all "cambloo cambloo" at me!! do you know who i am??i will sock you in the everlovin' face, i tell you!
DO NOT TRIFLE WITH THE KAREN!!!!
i need to interject here. karen doesn't know i am taking this over but when we were in the womb she used to totally kick me and bite me with her tiny toothless fetus-mouth like how cops beat their wives so the marks don't show. she was a criminal mastermind then, always trying to get me to go along with her schemes, and i was like, "we aren't even born yet!! patience!!" and then she would just bite me and sorta growl deep in the back of her babythroat.i have always tried, since then, not to piss her off; staying in the background so very few people even know i exist, but that girl is a self-hating-twin and she is nothing but bad news. please do not encourage her behavior.
3) eh!, i think you have a drinking problem and should stop being such a sex-toilet. you are living your life like some sort of kardashian and it is unfeminine. so, for you:
girlie interlude-intervention! [image error]
4) ariel. everyone saw what you did and they are all talking about it and we are all going to kick your ass on friday. you are just a terrible ungenerous person.
law and order interlude:
jesse l. martin is on the phone for this entire scene, leaving jerry orbach to interview the suspect. (why is jesse l. martin always on the phone??
"so, you like to play with dolls, eh??"
"they aren't dolls, they are collectible action figures"
(makes that jerry orbach face that looks at once exhausted and amused) "hey, it's all geek to me..."
elliott stabler, inexplicably, enters the room.(do dolls count as "special victims"??) "so, you like to keep your toys in boxes?? that make you feel powerful?? like a big man???
suspect quakes with fear - he knows elliott is going through his third divorce from the same woman and is likely to snap for no reason in particular.
olivia benson saunters in the room wearing a tight sweater and a forced-sincere expression, "maybe you felt like you were keeping them safe?? so no one could hurt them or break them?? is that what you were doing??"
"yes, that's it - i...i was just protecting them! i am their GOD!!!"
from the background, sam waterston yells "justice!!!" and a noise that sounds like "dunh dunh"
look, i don't know how to move product. i have seen the wire, but i don't know that i could write a better business plan than this hospital orderly. i know about cutting the product and i know you probably should get a cool orange couch, (wouldn't that couch be gross after the first rain??)but it's a tricky business, and it involves guns and burners and hoppers and g-packs, and i just don't have the fortitude or the vocabulary to sustain it. instead, i am going to share some tips i have learned from retail. i am sure they are equally applicable to the sale of narcotics. make exciting endcaps. people like to see the merchandise. keeping it all bottled up will not show off its pretty colors and shapes. people love mosaics. make pretty patterns with similar-colored pills to lure in the visually oriented. put pills together whose goals are compatible: appetite suppressants next to uppers, viagra with heart medicines - make a bouquet garni of pills, wrap them in those little mesh bags they put jordan almonds in at weddings and tie a little ribbon around it.offer a membership card which gives its holder discounts on the narcotics they most frequently use, and also send emails periodically to entice them to broaden their narcotic experience. "hey, member, have you tried clomiPRAMINE hydrochloride?? it is pretty awesome and this week only, save 15%!!"
embarrass greg?? sure, i would love to. greg gave this movie five stars on netflix.com:
various reasons james gunn envies joss whedon:
1) james gunn's creations have never inspired a graphic novel spin-off 2)ain't nobody dressing as his characters for halloween 3) "james" vs "joss"... one rhymes with "lames" - one rhymes with "boss" 4)joss whedon: wrote the screenplay to serenity. james gunn: wrote the screenplay to scooby doo. 5)james gunn's audience is "people who go out of their way to buy out of print books." joss whedon's audience ranges from young saucy teenage girls to straight white middle aged men with d&d cloaks in their closets and everything in between, excluding myself. 6) [image error] [image error] 7)astrologically, joss whedon is a cancer:they are excellent business people and investors because of their intuitive and psychic ability and their creative forward thinking mind, they are able to predict future trends. they attract wealth very well. james gunn is a pouty leo: if leo's audience does not provide the needed appreciation, leo is too proud to ask for it and they will suffer a hurt ego, but no one will ever know and they will suffer in silence. The secret of the leo is that they need to be needed.(and he is still waiting on that second book deal) 8) no one ever mistakes joss whedon for tim gunn, and then has a disappointed face when their mistake is corrected. 9)joss whedon is older and could probably still win at arm-wrestling 10) [image error]
pause for more photos: [image error][image error] (i googled pseudo-witty jokes, so i know these are accurate - the first one can count as an additional rhetorical question, so - score!!)
i encourage you to take a stand against alfonso's reign of terror w/r/t book challenges. don't vote for this review, lest it encourage him to greater heights of whackassery: cut off a limb and take a picture of it being used as a bookmark for this book! what is the greenest thing you have ever thought about while pooping?? or some other bizarre shit. it needs to end here - they just don't make the review field large enough to sustain this madness.
i don't know if this counts as a dirty secret, but i learned last night that it is unusual to like this song, but i do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUn0vv.... i am not the kind of person who has secrets that they have never told anyone - i am kind of a blabbermouth with no boundaries or sense of what people want to hear about. i tell complete strangers that i wet myself when i have seizures because i think it is funny and i have an underdeveloped sense of shame. oh, and i like this song,too - but i'm pretty sure it should be shameful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6WwjX.... but i am singing along now and no one can stop me - and i am making wizard-y gestures with my hands - wait it's going to get all guitar-y now -shhhhoooommm. oh, and i love chris deburgh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kNwvI.... i appreciate the theatrical elements of "rock and roll". also, littry.
and finally, i just want to take a moment to apologize for my ancestors. they lived in france, they had sexual intercourse, they moved to canada, they continued to breed and continued to be french and their children were canadian and continued to be canadian and i suppose they could have moved again - perhaps somewhere like finland or bruges, but they did not. and eventually, i came squirting out with my fingers and toes (and tail) and i was just filled with so much frenchness. and canadianness. and i could have changed - i could have stopped at any time. but i chose not to. and for that, i sincerely apologize. for my "decent."(less)
finally! a book that romanticizes male infidelity!! shhh ladies, in our places, now... here's the thing - this book has a great story - particularly i...morefinally! a book that romanticizes male infidelity!! shhh ladies, in our places, now... here's the thing - this book has a great story - particularly in the way it describes locations- therefore 4 stars. however, it has some of the most unrealistic characters imaginable. there are some major inconsistencies in the main characters emotional obliviousness vs. his very intense social awareness. he demonstrates a very heightened sensitivity in certain scenes but seems unaware that having different wives in different corners of the world might somehow backfire and cause tension. but i am a sucker for a well-told story, so i am overlooking some flaws tonight.(less)
a lot of this book is funny; humor is directed against things that i dislike in short-form bursts that can be read even while walking down the street....morea lot of this book is funny; humor is directed against things that i dislike in short-form bursts that can be read even while walking down the street. but there are less satire-y pieces that are just good writing, like uhf and the fun we tried to have. and then there are pieces that i think you have to be mykle hansen to understand; i get the feeling there are all sorts of references that are not for me. but its okay because the bits i do understand are well worth it.(less)
okay so i am actually going to write a review for this now, so all you people who voted for the BLURB on the back of the book might want to revisit th...moreokay so i am actually going to write a review for this now, so all you people who voted for the BLURB on the back of the book might want to revisit this and make sure you still like what i'm saying here. because it might get unsavory.
"if love is wanting what's best for the other person - and romance is wanting the other person - then this is the ultimate romance novel. it should be a warning to men: when women lack a sense of self, everyone is in danger." - gloria steinem
this book is still great, many years after i read it for the first time.
let's face it - you see the name of the book, you see what shelf i have slapped it on - it isn't too big of a surprise to announce flat-out that this is a book about cannibalism.specifically, cannibalism of one's love-object.
the book itself addresses bloodstains and death and the deceased lover on page 4, and cannibalism specifically on page 19. these are not spoilers.
this is a story of obsessive love taken to the utmost, and turned into sacrament, into the appropriation of the entirety of the beloved. and it is a flat-out jaw-dropper.
sometimes i wish there had been some insurmountable technical obstacle to stop us from drowning in each other. we were like two desperate, surrounded terrorists, barricaded inside an isolated house and determined not to fall into the hands of the authorities alive. in the end they shoot each other in the mouth. this destructive energy, with which we isolated and absorbed each other, had emerged at our very first encounter, an energy on which we both fed and which could only grow and become increasingly insatiable.
how is it that marguerite duras is the reigning queen of the cerebral erotic and this lady can't even get her book to stay in print? it is completely unfair. to me, this is the height of eroticism, this fills in the holes duras seems to stubbornly insert between her characters with her porous prose. this is the ideal love story for a nineteen-year-old girl obsessed and hell-bent on self-destruction.
the character in this is not nineteen, but twenty-nine, but when i was nineteen or twenty-one and hell-bent on becoming my lover,to close us off from the rest of the world and just live inside each other, this was the book that spoke to me.
but i have to disagree with ms. steinem with the blurb that i chose to reprint here. upon reading this book again, i don't know how this character can be said to "lack a sense of self." she is a relatively successful woman - with a published book of poetry (although two unpublished), she has left her native poland to come to new york to work on her doctorate, she has successfully obtained men she has wanted and refused men she has not. this is no puppet. and as for the final act - it is she herself who makes this choice, a decision he has been judged by her to be too weak himself to make.
she has a very strong sense of self. and her self is hungry.
on the one hand, yes:
all my desires were directed toward, subordinated to, the one desire to be with him, to be together forever. two naked, smooth souls which at one moment would completely dissolve and become one. i felt that not a single part of me had autonymy any more. i was without weight, without substance, as if i had been sucked empty. i depended on him, on his desire, touch, chance smile, on the warmth deposited in the small recesses between us. i knew that i did not exist without him.
and yet, if anything, jose is the one without a sense of self. he is married, away from his pregnant wife and child in brazil on a research grant in new york to continue his research into, what else? - cannibalism. although he is not given a voice between these covers, he seems to be pulled between the two women, rarely making any firm declarations or decisions. he is acted upon time and again. he loves, he is beloved, but his resolve is weak. eventually, he slips into complete stasis, as his time in new york runs out and he will have to go back home to his family.he retreats, he does not act.
and then all decisions are taken away from him.
is his infatuation as deep as her own? is she just a fling to him? she always says "we" when she talks of their love, but does his love run as deeply as hers?
to think about the future implied life without jose, and as soon as we met that had seemed absolutely pointless. we could not continue to live apart. we had both been aware of this sentence almost from the beginning, although we had not fully understood what it meant. in entering this apartment, we were both entering another life. our previous lives suddenly turned into the distant past which occasionally upset us, bothered us and dragged us down towards some kind of invisible abyss.
the infatuation appears to be mutual, but we are only given half the story.
this is a story of two lovers who came together by circumstance in a country not their own, without a common language. all their interactions are in english, a "borrowed language," their backgrounds so untranslatable. in this arena, their bodies become their mutual mode of expression.
i laughed and said i had never seen the jungle, except in movies, and that it seemed menacing enough on the screen, like some sort of huge man-eating organism. he consoled me by saying he had never seen snow except in the movies. the dirty slush of new york had been his first experience of it and there was no way i could conjure up for him the crisp snow on a mountain slope, a window caked with hoar-frost or a frozen forest. but it did not console me. when he mentioned a river, i would imagine a green or lead grey surface of water. to which he would respond that rivers are yellow or green like emeralds, and for a moment, it was a game. if only we had the time, perhaps we could have overcome this rootedness in separate languages. i think it can be done. but then he would have been somebody else, and ours would have been some other relationship.perhaps the inadequacy of words and our fear of losing our way in the labyrinth of language, our fear of misunderstanding, actually fed our mutual hunger for the body.
their lack of a shared language causes jealousy:
...in those few moments my fear grew into hate, into the strong silk thread of hate. i saw myself tightening that thread around her throat, which was spilling out words for the last time, the bewitching unknown portuguese words which were forming an impenetrable circle around jose.
but they always come back to each other through the bonds of food and sex, the two frequently paired.
so you see, there was no choice.
this is an utterly gorgeous story of obsession and the drive to keep one's beloved close, to actually internalize the lover inside oneself.
however: (view spoiler)[what a fucking waste, right?? the only parts of him she actually eats are his fingertips and some arm-flesh?? there were practical reasons, sure, but come on, girl - starving children in africa and all that - finish your meal! (hide spoiler)]
i mean, obviously i have given a lot of the story away, but i maintain that these are things evident from the outset, and the joy of reading this book is her sparkling prose and the journey the character takes, not the destination.
seriously - find it and read it. it is (do i dare??) delicious.