The main story between two cellmates, one gay, the other straight, how their relationship evolves is engrossing. AndA mix of Auster, Gaddis, and DFW--
The main story between two cellmates, one gay, the other straight, how their relationship evolves is engrossing. And many of the films Molina, the gay character, tells his cellmate are also interesting, though it takes some getting used to as it keeps breaking up the narrative in the beginning. I do, however, have reservations about the footnotes, which consist of dry/dull (though rather clear) academic disquisition on homosexuality. Though they do help illuminate—albeit only by a little bit—what happens to the two characters, they were definitely hard to read, and I question their usefulness/purpose in the overall narrative. They weren't funny like DFW's footnotes or directly relevant or present a meta story like in Danielewski's House of Leaves, and so even though they might have presented some theoretical underpinnings of the psychology behind the characters, I wonder if Puig couldn't have done it differently, made it less of a painful slog of a read.
Having said that, though, the last narrative move—the dialogue within Valentin and the switch of roles—was quite interesting and connects the story to the footnotes in some interesting ways (the footnotes talk about gender roles and societal norms, and here at the end of the story, we see a reversal of roles).
Hardly. Engrossing? Well, yes, it did pull me through 432 pages of dense and complicated Roman history, 98% of which is told in a narratA masterpiece?
Hardly. Engrossing? Well, yes, it did pull me through 432 pages of dense and complicated Roman history, 98% of which is told in a narrative instead of rendered in scene. Even the rare scenes of dialogue are stripped of live actions of the characters and I was more than a little disappointed in not being able to get to know the historical characters in flesh, as it were.
Another weakness was that there really is no overarching narrative arc. It's mostly Claudius recording the vile, messed-up, dysfunctional family members' wicked acts and himself not doing much. Granted, it purports itself to be an autobiography, and it should be judged according to what it claims to do, but toward the end I was growing weary of so many characters coming in and getting killed—though there are surely "mad but interesting" anecdotes, like Claudius's mother starving her daughter to death to punish herself—and I would've appreciated more direction and story arc.
Overall, I did learn some ancient Roman history and I was entertained, so it was a good read, but good in the way potato chips are good—you end up eating too much and get sick of them. ...more