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Kiss of the Spider Woman

Kiss of the Spider Woman - Manuel Puig Kiss of the Spider Woman (or El Beso de la Mujer Arena) by Argentine writer Manuel Puig (pronounced Pooch) is the first Argentinian novel I’ve read. The novel is set during Argentina’s Dirty War (or just before it?) and deals mainly of the relationship between two contrasting prisoners sharing cell 7. It is an unusual novel because it does not have any direct narrator. Instead, the entire novel is written in the form of dialogue, interspersed by streams of consciousness, with long footnotes and a few fictional government reports. The writer also chooses not to write the names of the two main characters before their “lines” (as is usually the case with plays) and instead just uses the dash to denote the start of the other character's words or even a different strand of dialogue by the same character. The effect of this simple technique is quite remarkable and allows you to follow the development of both characters and their relationship in a fluid almost trance-like state. This is perhaps what I enjoyed most about the novel.The second aspect that I enjoyed was that a considerable part of the dialogue consisted of the more cultured older prisoner Luis Alberto Molina (a homosexual and a pedophile) narrating films to the younger Valentin Arregui Paz (a heterosexual Marxist revolutionary). Over the course of the book five movies are told, sometimes over a period of days. These include two horror classics by Jacques Tourneur:Cat People (1942) and I walked With a Zombie (1943. Both the narration and the effect of the stories on both characters are quite entertaining.The more squeamish might find some of the scenes described (in dialogue of course) to be disgusting (when Arregui is sick) and the footnotes are exhausting. I'm not sure if Puig's point here is to explain homosexuality in an objective and scientific way or simply to add some explanation for the actions of Molina. Either way, it's a bit too much (I guess being footnotes, you could always avoid them although thinking that I’m missing out on something, I find this hard to do).Overall though, it's a good novel and perhaps after another read I might give it a higher rating (it did lose me in the middle, didn't like the ending, footnotes and the sex). The escapism via the telling of movies (just like the escapism with mundane treats in One Day in the Life of Ivan D.) is a good addition to the prison genre and well worth the read.