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Lucille Kerr's Suspended Fictions: Reading Novels by Manuel Puig cannot be faulted on the formal level. The fluency with which the narrative techniques of four Puig novels—La traición de Rita Hayworth, Boquitas pintadas, The Buenos Aires Affair, El beso de la mujer araña—are presented is matched by the usefulness of the annotative endnotes. The introductory discussion of the politics of parody affirms Gonzalez Echevarría's high estimation of her work. Moreover, the edition includes translation from the Spanish passages cited, a practice that on the spot amplifies the potential audience from specialist to any reader interested in Puig's work.
And yet contradictions impair Kerr's argument. The first: Kerr states that for Puig language comprises reality, that forms of discourse constitute experience of the world. It follows that everything in a Puig novel has truth. Yet Kerr does not allow languages their realities, nor does she give to the various discourses in a Puig novel each a kind of truth. Toto's "fantasies," his "re-writings" and "re-inventions," are his facts. Such a sentence as "We cannot resolve the relations among those other subjects and Toto because we cannot determine absolutely their positions or opinions" indicates the extent to which academic training resists ontological shiftiness and involutedness, even though these are recognized as the realities of Puig's subject matter.
The second contradiction: the texts Kerr interprets are devoted to the subversion of authority and, in that subversion, run counter to the tone of confidence of Kerr's critical discourse. Novels in which the author subverts authority in an effort to evade domination are not well served by a language that invokes enforcement. The reader Kerr posits "has" to "readjust continually"; the reader is "forced to become aware of the text itself." Kerr seeks but does not find "the truth" and assumes the ambivalence she detects is subject to "resolution." If so, psychoanalytic criticism is indicated, but Kerr relegates psychoanalytic criticism to very occasional summary paragraphs and concerns herself with questions of "authenticity." Puig explores the emotional realities in the production of fiction and draws his reader thereby through some highly anxious places in the heart. Kerr gives no indication that she has visited them.
Kerr makes note of the crime suspected in the The Buenos Aires Affair and the crime staged to cover up the suspected crime. But other crimes she does not note: emotional deficiency of character (and, by extension, reader); and "crimes" that appear only through symbolic obliquity, such as the unreal and yet pointed imagery of the loss of an eye.
Geisdorfer Feal's Novel Lives: The Fictional Autobiographies of Guillermo Cabrera [End Page 701] Infante and Mario Vargas Llosa provides a useful summary of theories of autobiography and an artful application of theory to interpretation. Anyone interested in theories of autobiography would do well to look at this book, in which an urbane and lucid style expresses a sophisticated critical consciousness. Yet those close and rewarding readings of Cabrera Infante's La Habana para un infante difunto and of Vargas Llosa's La tía Julia y el escribidor also reveal a disconcerting equanimity, as if in acceptance of sexist and class attitudes. Although Geisdorfer Feal treats Cabrera Infante's play with his own name as masturbation, she does not elaborate on the absence of social consciousness in the "mazes" of "word games." Whether or not the novelist's craft elevates pornographic components into "sexual fiction" is a concern noted, but not with much seriousness, by Cabrera Infante, who has projected himself in the unnamed macho author, Goat...