Brenda's Reviews > Destiny and Desire: A Novel

Destiny and Desire by Carlos Fuentes
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Feb 06, 11

bookshelves: first-reads
Read from January 20 to February 05, 2011

** spoiler alert ** "Elvira Rios, the whore with the bee, my current ball-and-chain, Lucha Zapata, paled in comparison with this woman-object, this beautiful thing, attractive, sophisticated, elegant, and supremely desirable...." (183).

"...basically there is no whore who does not aspire to matrimony. It infuriates them that men don't call them 'women' but 'broads.' Being a 'broad' is being a whore, trash, tamale wrapper, mole pot. Being a 'woman' is being a girlfriend who can become a wife and mother" (205).

"...Asunta stopped being Dulcinea-Iseult-Heloise and became a base fetish, to the extent that her photograph at the head of my bed occupied, a quasivirginal spot, and I say 'quasi' because on a few nights I did not resist the temptation to masturbate looking at her face (upside down, it's true, given that my jerking off occurred while I was lying in bed and Asunta's image hung vertically, held up by a tack) and surrendering, in the end, to solitary pleasure, forgetting Asunta, reproaching myself for my weakness though repeating that line about 'Things are known to Onan unknown to Don Juan'" (271).

I could go on...Fuentes' narrator certainly does. Obviously, this novel would never be considered "chick lit," though it could certainly be classified as "dick lit." Of course, with a word like "desire" in the title, a reader should probably expect preoccupation with lust objects. And that's all the female characters ever manage to become. The women are either "a cross between the devouring Aztec goddess Coatlicue and the national patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe" (356)--or "a doll without will," "a wounded bird" (108)--or "a jealous Medea" and "enveloping Gorgon of power, queen of an empire that would slip from her hands if she did not endow herself with bloody eyes, a terrifying face, and hair made of serpents..." (404-405).

The males aren't much better. The friends who serve as the central characters, Josue' and Jericho, are Castor and Pollux, Cain and Abel. Fuentes tells us so repeatedly. I'm not convinced that one can create archetypal characters by having their narrator harp on about their mythic correspondences.

Still, I did manage to finish the book, hoping that Fuentes' plot would eventually rise to the level of the best efforts of Umberto Eco and Arturo Perez-Revertez. These two authors usually manage to construct mysteries worth solving, despite the ubiquitous presence of female characters who could have been lifted from the pages of Bram Dijkstra's _Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle Culture_. However, by the time Fuentes gets around to revealing "who-done-it," I could care less. Although I am usually a very patient reader, I found myself exasperated by the onanistic digressions of Fuentes' narrating character.

These characters do not engage in conversations. They make speeches at one another--and, frequently, the reader learns that significant actions have occurred outside narrative. The plot seems to be building up to a crisis that the reader expects to witness, to share only to discover that, after much build-up, something vague has happened between paragraphs or during the turn of page.

But, maybe I'm being unfair. This novel is narrated from the perspective of a bodiless head. I think it's supposed to be the one that usually attaches to the neck; but, by the end of Fuentes' text, I'm thinking poor Josue' is suffering one radical castration.
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