Saturday 5 January 2019

Book Review: Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (Literary Fiction/LGBT)

Title: Kiss of the Spider Woman
Author: Manuel Puig

Publication Date: 1984 (1976)
Literary Fiction/LGBT
Bought Copy

Sometimes they talk all night long. In the still darkness of their cell, Molina re-weaves the glittering and fragile stories of the film he loves, and the cynical Valentin listens. Valentin believes in the just cause which makes all suffering bearable; Molina believes in the magic of love which makes all else endurable. Each has always been alone, and always - especially now - in danger of betrayal. But in cell 7 each surrenders to the other something of himself that he has never surrendered before.

Kiss of the Spider Woman is a beautiful novel that combines an experimental, high-culture structure with pop culture-inspired content. The films Molina describes to Valentin reflect their own lives, and both men change over the course of the book, through their interactions with each other. The book touches on themes of politics and gender theory, yet it never feels like a heavy read, and the story draws you in the more you get to know the two men. Or perhaps I should say man and woman, although whether Molina is gay or trans depends on how you view him. I, personally, do read him as trans in the book, but less so in the film, and less again in the musical, which is interesting. In any case, Kiss of the Spider Woman is a key work of LGBT literature, and ahead of its time in respect to its acceptance of gender fluidity and open attitudes. Well worth a read. (Then check out the film and musical too!)

As an aside, my friend Alina Popescu and I will be discussing this book in detail in a livestream in early February, so keep an eye on my Twitter account for more information about, and links to, that as we get closer.

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