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2016 Book Discussions > Loquela - General Discussion, Spoilers Allowed (March 2016)

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message 1: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
This thread is for discussion of the entire book (spoilers welcome).

A few questions to start us off...
- What did you make of the structure of this novel?
- What themes or motifs emerged as you were reading?
- How did you react to the nebulous/slippery nature of the story?

Feel free to add your own questions/comments.

message 2: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
I was giving the book more time to sink in before commenting, but am finding that nebulous/slippery nature is making it even more fluid as time passes. I also started to reread the different sections independently, but that was making it too much like homework for English 101. I'd love to draw a giant graph with lines connecting the characters and events, but I'm way to lazy. It will definitely get a reread in the future, but I’ll leave it to future literary scholars to draw the map.

In a near futile attempt to keep the various incarnations of the characters separate, I started thinking of them with superscripts: Carlos-1 is the Carlos of The Recipient, the presumed writer of the novel of which Carlos-2 is the main character. Carlos-3a is the swineherd character of which Carlos-2 previously wrote while Carlos-3b is the Carlos that Violeta wrote about etc. This was useful in a limited way, but by giving everyone designations, the feedback / fluidity between the characters is lost. Should the person who looks like himself in Carlos-1’s dream be Carlos-1a, or is he a Carlos-2a, or a bit of both, or neither? Should “He Who Is Writing the Novel” be designated Carlos-2a, or Carlos-2b, or be kept completely separate? Eventually, I gave up and just enjoyed the ride.

The structure is what makes all the connections and feedback (and confusion) possible. Like the Corporalization Manifesto itself, I think the idea of there being the feedback between characters and writer(s) may be more important than the specific details of that feedback. As long as we see it exists, we can accept that the albino is and isn’t Violeta who is and isn’t a version of Elisa. Or not.

message 3: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
I took a very similar approach to you, Whitney, through about half of the book--trying to delineate the characters, to give them some sort of dividing lines. But I'm thinking that the point of all this if Labbé was successful was to blur these lines to the point where the reader can no longer make these distinctions. The lines are blurred beyond repair. And then there's Carlos-0 (the author)...

With Carlos in particular there seemed to be a movement from his name to a letter (almost in reverse of some of the female characters), so that in the beginning he was always referred to as "Carlos" and as we get closer to the end he becomes "He Who Is Writing the Novel" and then eventually just "C". Make any sense of that? Continued blurring of the lines? The author/writer becoming a character?

message 4: by Whitney (last edited Mar 07, 2016 10:32AM) (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
It's in "The Sender" chapters where "He Who Is Writing The Novel" is referred to. I think only once or twice does the writer (Violeta-x) of those chapters refer to Carlos by name, and then when she is referring directly to the 'you' to whom the chapters are directed. Since it's Carlos-2 who is the intended recipient of the letter / manuscript from Violeta we could assume he's the "you", but then "He Who Is Writing" would have to be Carlos-1, which doesn't make a lot of sense. The lines need to stay fluid.

Is "C" referred to in The Sender chapter? I thought it was only in The Recipient where letters are used for names. I had the idea "C" was another version of Alicia / Elisa.

Another way that a character is distinguished is by whether there is a reference to "The Albino Girl" or to Violeta by name. The term 'Albino Girl' is mostly used in The Novel and The Recipient, and is only called out a couple times in The Sender, in which cases she immediately transitions into the writer of those chapters. Here's an example of that: "Then you took my hand and told me to be calm, that in the novel a woman appeared walking on the beach, looking somberly at the sea, and it was me—little because you saw me from far away—the albino girl, who would carry out a culminating role in the History of Corporalism."

There is also "The Little One". I really didn't get much of a handle on who she is supposed to be, although that was (yet again, I think) intentionally vague.

Here is one section I highlighted which relates directly to the fluid distinctions of the characters:

That day his cousin told him that his female characters would never speak differently than Elisa, because he never listened to anyone else. Carlos defended himself by saying that was how he preferred it, that all the men have his face, that all the women be slight and distant like his girlfriend. Why lie: in those two-hundred-and-some-odd pages there was no city other than the one in which he lived, no one else walking its streets but the two of them, though they were disguised consecutively as detective, as killer, as writer, as albino girl, as beggar, as old woman.

message 5: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments I'm halfway through now and glad to know it is not just me who cannot keep track of which Carlos is which, let alone Alicia v. Elisa. And who is J?

I am still plugging away but have to say I am not compelled to read this book. I'm not letting myself start another non-audible until I finish it or I'll never finish! I guess that means I'm reacting a bit negatively to the slipperyness of the story and the structure of the novel!

message 6: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
I think the harder you try to pin anything to a character or the plot, the more frustrated you're likely to become, Linda (just my opinion).

Whitney, did you find that as the names/nicknames increased, so did the outright distortion ("The Little One" you mentioned being a perfect example.)? I believe you're right that one-letter names were only used in The Recipient chapters. I want to look over my copy of the book a bit more before responding to your other points. (Great passages by the way--thanks for posting!)

A bit of an aside... What's with the Latin American writers and the violence against women? Just a reflection of society or something else going on here?

message 7: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Marc, Thanks for the suggestion - I've made it to 65% but the frustration remains! If I don't fall asleep, I'll try reading on the plane tomorrow!

message 8: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Done. Still frustrated and confused but it seems whichever Carlos was writing the novel wrote what was happening and once writ, that was it, i.e., it could not be changed. Does that connect to the corporealism idea of the comeback of the authors and the dying of the readers? This book wants me to think harder than is justified for the story it is telling me.

message 9: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
Honestly, I'm not sure. I kept thinking to myself that in a sense, the characters in this story are creating the author. It's a bit like a reverse of the Droste effect in visual art (like the little pictures or stories are creating the larger story or overall picture). Or think of those nesting matryoshka dolls. Does that make any sense? Or, more importantly, does that tell us anything about the story or just how it functions?

There're a couple lines from one of The Recipient chapters (pg. 24 and 26 in my paperback copy) that seem relevant:

"how can I forget that what I'm writing isn't my diary but the diary of another, which in turn forms part of a detective novel or a study of death."

"What is a diary if not a retelling, an attempt to give narrative significance to a life that has no order? A deception."

message 10: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments So what should the reader take from this book?

message 11: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
Way to ask the easy question :p [Note extreme sarcasm in case that didn't come across.]

I think Whitney touched on one of the main themes (love) with the quote in her post above (message #4). I can only speak for myself, but I thought this book had an interesting take on the obsessive nature of love, the way it changes your perspective and maybe even the actual way you see people. There's a lot in this book about writing itself (and that's not even touching the numerous references to other writers and works). Certainly, a reader could "take" all these things and more from the book and still not like or enjoy it. It's odd--I enjoyed this book quite a bit, but I have a fair amount of trouble talking about it... Like trying to hold on to a wet piece of hand soap.

Other themes or issues the book raised for readers?

message 12: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Marc wrote: "Way to ask the easy question :p [Note extreme sarcasm in case that didn't come across.]

I think Whitney touched on one of the main themes (love) with the quote in her post above (message #4). I ca..."

Apologies for letting my frustration ask an impossible question, although I would like to ask it to the author!

I thought the quote Whitney provided in #4 was one that went to a major point about the novel but I never would have summarized it as "the obsessive nature of love!" When you did, I read it again and can see that, with the obsessive qualifier. Perhaps I did not like it so much because I could never get to know the characters! The only part I liked was the last section by the Sender, where I started to get a sense of who the girl that was killed was and to like her. I think I can analogize this to how I react to Picasso's art. When I saw the development of his art at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, I found I liked his art until the end, when it became so abstract for me that I could not relate it to anything real. I like the art of Georgia O'Keeffe but dislike that of Jackson Pollock. For me, this book was like trying to find meaning in a Jackson Pollock painting!

message 13: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
At the risk of providing a bit of a cop out, I'm going to offer one of my favorite quotes from Nabokov: "...one cannot read a book; one can only reread it", which in my mind always applies to the best of literature. Books that reveal all of their secrets on first reading in general lack some level of depth. I think Loquela is a book that will reveal itself better in rereadings.

As stated (in humorously strident tones) in the Corporalization Manifesto, the goal of the movement is to eliminate the text and 'resuscitate' the writer. It also states that the reader will know of the existence of the work of art by the evidence of its creation. What we have in Loquela is those documents attesting to the creation of the work of art, and what we need to tease out is that work of art itself. I think Marc has hit on the gist of what that work is. So beneath all the layers of modern literary thought and experimentation what we have is essentially a love story, the oldest story of all.

message 14: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
Whitney, I think there's a lot of humor in this book that we haven't really mentioned. What role does humor play in this book?

Also, imagination. What significance does Neutria have as an imagined place?

message 15: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Imagination I see; humor I don't.

message 16: by Lenore (new)

Lenore Gay (lenorehgay) | 9 comments Hello, I have just joined so haven't read the book. I read through the comments trying to get a sense of the book. I'll try to catch up with the next pick.


message 17: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I'm giving up on this one. It's been on my nightstand all month, and I keep telling myself I will go back to it, and . . . I keep finding other things I would rather read. I made it about halfway through, but I kept feeling confused. I thought maybe I should go back and start over, but that was even less appealing than trying to just finish it. Now we are almost at the end of the month, and I have read next month's book, and I still can't get to the end of this one. I think maybe this was just the wrong time for me to try to read something this slippery.

message 18: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
Welcome to the group, Lenore! If you have not already done so, you can vote on our Open Pick for May here: https://www.goodreads.com/poll/list/59543-21st-century-literature?type=group
(We ask that you only vote if you plan to read & participate in the discussion.)
We have a Welcome thread if you'd like to introduce yourself here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2070148-welcome---introduce-yourselves-here?page=6

It's a pretty experimental novel, so I'll be curious to see if it's just timing for you, Casceil, or it's just not your cup of tea.

I would say this essay/review does a nice job of both summarizing the book and providing some context (for both a reader's joy and frustration):
Choose, in the Imperative (Carlos Labbe's Loquela)

message 19: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
I also found a general interview with the author in Spanish and English:

message 20: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2316 comments Marc, thanks for the links. I just read the article and wish I'd read it before starting!

message 21: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2632 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Marc, thanks for the links. I just read the article and wish I'd read it before starting!"

Glad it was of interest, Linda. I just came across it yesterday--it's really the best essay/review I've read thus far on the book.

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