STELLA MANHATTAN by Silviano Santiago

STELLA MANHATTAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In an attempt to use Manuel Puig's successful formula of Kiss of the Spider Woman -- homosexual liberation mixed with South American politics -- Brazilian novelist Santiago fails miserably. Eduardo cia Costa e Silva is a young gay Brazilian whose family is well-connected to the military government that runs the country in the late 1960s. Because of an embarrassing sexual encounter (which, like all of the sexual scenes here, takes place offstage), Eduardo is sent off to Manhattan, where he is given a job in the consulate. He adopts the campy alter ego Stella Manhattan and enjoys (we are told) the freedom of gay life in New York. He is watched over by his gay Cuban neighbor and the military attachÉ, who is both a friend of his father's and a notorious leather queen. An old Brazilian friend turns up in Manhattan to teach, having recently come out of the closet. Part of a coalition of liberal intellectuals who are helping leftist guerrillas, he tries to convince Eduardo to turn against his protector, the Black Widow. It seems that Santiago wasn't very confident about his story, interrupting the narrative with a postmodern chapter on the progress of his novel. He has good reasons to feel uncertain -- largely because there is no evocation of Manhattan in 1969, especially gay life at the time. Instead, there is plenty of meditating on the cleanliness of Eduardo's apartment, which is more interesting than the endless pages about the political situation of Brazil in the 1960s. The translation is as stiff and awkward as the static plot, a plot that seems to conclude in a death by boredom, the major threads having crawled towards some kind of hoped-for confrontation only to stop in a very unsatisfying and pointless manner. A waste.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.