Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Insatiable Spiderman - Pedro Juan Gutierrez

"He doesn't like your books."
"He says that they're indecent."

Years ago, I'd read "Dirty Havana Trilogy" of Pedro Juan Gutierrez. I distinctly remembered the overdose of sex and filthy writing about sex through out that book, Presented as the Havana neighborhood in its actual glory of poverty , of desire, of sex and the alcohol in its true colors, the book caught the attention of the worldwide readers, despite the overdose of all that was said above. The instiable spiderman, is the return of the old theme with the same protagonist , his own alter ego, Pedro Juan.

Now living a simple life( after being removed from hs job as a journalist) amongst few novels in publication and his other interests of women and painting, 50 year old Pedro Juan is doubting whether he is loosing his interest in life. His relation with his wife is in the decline ( he can not bring himself to kiss her, let alone having a nice time with her). Reminiscing in his attic, during the day while his wife is away at the Pizza joint to work ( because that pays more than her qualification as a microbiologist), the lonely writer, painter have the memories of his earlier adventures ( especially with women) in his company. Between alcohol , cigarette and ogling the enormous rear of black women, he doubts himself of his capabilities as a man. The person whom he confides his issues re-assure him that this is natural at this age, but he himself managed to retain his potent until 76 years. Spending his time between his unsatisfactory wife and his gossipy mother( as he often visits her) while not writing or painting, Pedro Juan , reflects on the present day Havana and its poor/middle class population.

This is not a plot driven novel, nor it has any pretense of a mega novel of Cuban existence. The 160 pages of fantasy , desire and sex - despite the claim of 'slice of Cuban Life' , does not really impress you. Various caricatures of people who make a short visit in the novel are interesting, but they are all peripheral to the central character and his general boredom with life. The possibilities of sex is everywhere. Book starts with a rape scene in NY, there are orgies in the park, a quicky round the corner, prostitutes, every second person he meets in the way had some relation with him in the past ( some for 3 years, some much longer and some for a few hours), there are visiting expatriates, people who come to Havana from other part of Caribbean looking for rum and dance, masturbation and whole lot of dreaming all associated with sex. To the "Insatiable Spiderman' who is on prowl through the streets of Havana, every thing revolve around the possibility of sex and desire. Sex is substitute to every thing. In a society under oppression, a society living in constant poverty and moral degeneration, sex , alcohol and dancing are the ways of bringing out the hidden anger and anxiety in public.
"Don't be stupid. Wake up, you're in Cuba. The poverty we've got now will be the same in twenty years, in thirty years. This chit doesn't ever get sorted out."
I'm not a great fan of filthy writing, which is abundant in this book, may be a little lesser extent to "Dirty Havana Trilogy" (Dirty Havana Trilogy was much more complete that this as a book). However, whenever he is out of these area of filthy writing, we see a brilliant writer trying to show his mettle. There are many fantastically written paragraphs at many places, which leaves one bewildered, on why hasn't he used this capability to some better effect.
"..bacause you are looking to shock and you are boring. You always write about the same shit, about poverty and crap like that."

The Insatiable Spiderman (2002)

Pedro Juan Gutierrez ( translated from Spanish by John King in 2005)

Faber and Faber

163 Pages

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