Thursday, September 22, 2011

What We're Reading

Good Offices
by: Evelio Rosero

It’s a short and taut novel. Good Offices by Evelio Rosero, out earlier this month on New Directions, puts on full display the fallibility of man; in this instance man’s failure lies in man’s resignation. The main character is a hunchback named Tancredo. His greatest fear is becoming a wild animal by succumbing to his primal instincts of love and happiness and rebellion.

Abuse of authority seems to be a sentiment that often pervades Rosero’s literature, in conjunction with the haunted characters that impel the narrative. Tancredo is the puppet of the Catholic Church and, in so many definitions, Tancredo is a slave of the Catholic Church and it is as his character encroaches upon enlightenment that we see the story progress.

There are many surreal moments in the narrative that are given verisimilitude by Rosero that could bring shame to documentary. He is unforgiving and brutal in his treatment of his villains. While some scenes are somewhat surreal, there is nothing fantastical about the book, except the fantasy that Rosero is likely living through his book of really giving it to the bad guys.

Tancredo is not alone in his captivity. The goddaughter of Father Almida, Sabina Cruz and the Lilias join Tancredo in his repression. The Lilias are three elderly women that are responsible for cooking food for the poor, huge meals of which Tancredo is in charge. Each day’s meal belongs to a group of the depraved masses: old people, the blind, whores, families and street kids.

It is the lunch in which Tancredo must feed the old people that seems to haunt him most.

“…sooner or later he raises his head and it seems he is still in the company of all those faces with their toothless, drooling mouths, which open ever wider and swallow him up, one arm after the other, one leg after the other; they gulp down his head at a single go. They do not devour him with their mouths alone: they devour him with their eyes, those eyes, dead eyes.”

When Father Almida is forced to leave for one night, over which Mass must be held, Father Matamoros fills the void. Matamoros, not without his own nefarious inclinations, gives the church’s inhabitants a glimpse of freedom. It’s a door that, once opened, cannot be shut. The most extreme means will be taken to keep this door of freedom ajar.

This is a love story perverted almost beyond recognition, along with a social critique, pleasantly lost to the gripping nature of the compelling plot Rosero has created in this short book. He does more in 119 pages than I’ve seen most authors accomplish in their huge volumes that double as free weights.

-C. Hogue
Kitty Snacks editor, Michael Bible, talks to Michael Kimball on htmlgiant about his new book Simple Machines....’s-simple-machines/

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What We're Reading

The Halfway House
by: Guillermo Rosales

Two novels by Rosales are still in existence. The Halfway House is one of them. The rest of his work was destroyed in 1993 moments before he committed suicide at the age of 47. Guillermo Rosales was a schizophrenic, living in mental institutions after his exile from Cuba, which is where he gathered the material for this novella.

There’s a lot of misery packed in a mere 121 pages. The Halfway House gets in deep—to the most crepuscular depths of humanity’s capacity for evil. It’s a cousin of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—the cousin you were never allowed to hang out with growing up. The Halfway House is a dark, dark horse.

Here’s a panoramic view of hell on earth. 

-C. Hogue