KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN by Manuel Puig
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KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two men--Valentin, a young Marxist held on political charges, and Molina, a 37-year-old window-dresser convicted of pederasty--share a Buenos Aires prison cell. Why? Because the warden assumes that Valentin will negligently spill information about his fellow revolutionaries to Molina, that Molina will then pass along this info; and Molina fosters the warden's assumption. But quite the opposite turns out to be the case: Molina in reality acts as Valentin's mother/protector, nursing him over terrible diarrhea caused by purposely-tainted food and feeding him instead from food packages gulled from the warden. Molina also entertains Valentin by telling about old films he's seen: voodoo cheapies, Nazi propaganda romances, trashy Mexican melodramas--a continuity that battles jail time, a soothing, ongoing ribbon of images that gives the book a satisfying meta-narrative quality. And in time, Valentin responds to Molina's kindness and lack of demands; the relationship grows organically, through benevolence and desperation, with a top crust of sentimentality that soon gives way to reveal Puig's real intent: the interlocking of Valentin's position as a victim of political repression with Molina's sexual persecution. All of this works, and the theme emerges just as it should, clearly but quietly. Why then did Puig feel the need to belabor this political/sexual parallel in a fussy, essay-like footnote that appears in pieces throughout the book, explicitly constructing a theory for gay liberation with references to Freud, Marcuse, and Dennis Altman? This eccentric, gifted writer should have trusted this book--and wise readers will trust it enough to ignore the footnotes--because it is his richest, least mannered work yet, especially well served by the spare tact of Thomas Colchie's translation.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1979
ISBN: 0679724494
Publisher: Knopf