Thursday, February 05, 2015

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976) is the best known novel of Argentinian writer Manuel Puig. This feels like such a tragic tale to me. I'm counting this towards the 2015 Read Harder challenge as "A book by a person whose gender is different from your own".

from the back of the book:
Kiss of the Spider Woman is a graceful, intensely compelling novel about love and victimization. In an Argentine prison, two men share a cell: Molina, a gay window dresser who is self-centered, self-denigrating, yet charming as well; and Valentin, an articulate, fiercely dogmatic revolutionary haunted by a woman he left for the cause. Both are gradually transformed by their guarded but growing friendship and by Molina's obsession with the fantasy and romance of the movies.
List of the films one prisoner re-tells to the other over the course of the book:
  • Cat People (1942)
  • A Nazi propaganda film with a love story plotline
  • A race car film
  • I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
  • A love story between a newspaper reporter and a gangster moll
favorite quote:
In a man's life, which may be short and may be long, everything is temporary. Nothing is forever. ... It's a question of learning to accept things as they come, and to appreciate the good that comes to you, even if it doesn't last. Because nothing is forever.
The Guardian says,
The novel is primarily written as dialogue, but also uses lengthy footnotes, official reports and stream-of-consciousness internal monologues. This experimental style rejects the use of a narrator, forcing the reader to take on this role. The dry and academic footnotes citing the latest psychological scholarship on homosexual behaviour (including one fictionalised report) are set in sharp contrast to the vibrant and complex character of Molina that they purport to explain. These footnotes have the effect of jolting readers out of the story so that they remain critically engaged.
Kirkus Reviews says it is " it is his richest, least mannered work". The Paris Review has an interview with the author.


  1. Haven't read the book but the movie is one of my all time favorites


    1. I've never seen the movie, but I remember when it came out. I was picturing William Hurt and Raul Julia as I read.

  2. I loved the movie, it was so touching. I had a huge crush on William Hurt when I was younger, it began with "Eyewitness", then "Altered States", "Body Heat", "The Big Chill", and "Gorky Park" (which I saw when I was in Iowa, I remember it being the only time I got homesick as some of it was filmed in Stockholm). Then came "Broadcast news" and he just seemed less sexy all of a sudden. Raul Julia was good too, but he had a whole different kind of beauty; and died much too young.

    1. Raul Julia is so beautiful in the Addams Family movies and is absolutely priceless. A couple of years ago I told a young woman in a local media store he was dead, and she refused to believe me. It is hard to believe.