To an extent I'm envious of Ben. Sifuentes-Jáuregui: Transvestism, Masculinity, and Latin American Literature is exactly the kind of book every graduate student of literature wants to write. It's literary but accessible. It's simultaneously a continuation of and departure from influential previous work that has been done in related areas. And it's endlessly quotable. "Transvestism", he says, "is an act that penetrates and tampers with those who witness it. . . . [it] is about the raw touching, gentle tampering, and, literally, fucking up of any fixed notion of genders."
Who, I ask, can improve upon that?
The book is divided into chapters that each analyze particular works that address, in Sifuentes-Jáuregui's loose definition of the term, literary transvestism. The chapters on Los "41", Alejo Carpentier and José Donoso are tops; whether or not you're interested in those texts/authors, you'll find plenty of worthy and quotable theory. His take on Sarduy is unusual -- he argues that at the heart of the Cuban writer's literary transvestism there is, always, a definitively male body, and that most interpreters of Sarduy are mistaken in their response to his work -- but it's nonetheless an instructive contribution to the conversation. My only complaint, and here is where I opt for four rather than five stars, is that the last chapter, which addresses Manuel Puig's famous Kiss of the Spider Woman is, in the end, more unorthodox and ... sensationalist? ... than helpful. I don't envy an author who takes upon h/imself the task of analyzing such a canonical and already over-analyzed text, but I certainly don't agree with Sifuentes-Jáuregui's approach here, which seems to read the book in as eccentrically psychoanalytical terms as possible.
But that's a small complaint. And certainly no reason to throw out the fine work that's done in the book's first chapters. I probably wouldn't recommend Transvestism to casual readers of Latin American literature, but if your interests in the field are of the scholarly inclination, I imagine you'll find this book a fresh and illuminating addition to your bookshelf.