Donald O'Donovan... I owe you an apology.. On March 2nd 2011, you sent me a copy of your novel Tarantula Woman. It was an interesting title and the story sounded very interesting, but at the time, the description of it just didn't jive to start reading it. I never sat down and got involved with it. Other books took precedence and eventually it was shuffled to the bottom of a tall tall 'To Be Read' (TBR) pile.
- Tarantula Woman (Donald ODonovan)
- 172 pages
- Open Books
- ISBN-10: 0615722849
- ISBN-13: 978-0615722849
4 years and change later I ran across it in my Kindle library. I don't know what caused me to start reading it. Some universal churn pushed it from the underside if the TBR, and placed it in my view. I did not reread the blurb for it, nor did I look up the topic matter. I just blindly opened it and began reading.
I owe you an apology because this novel was freaking excellent. It was a gritty flesh filled drunken Mexican word fest, I read and re-read passages. I forced those around me to slog through key sections which were beautiful both with or with out the context of the plot. I was consistently making mental comparisons to classic literature. The strongest similarity was to Hemingway's "The sun also rises". Amazon blurb mentions Charles Bukowski, I can see the reference, but am stuck on my own perception. There is no formidable plot line that leads the reader down a clear cut path of good and evil. No quaking Everest sized eventuality (besides death itself) which forces the universe to conform and play nice with the characters. Tarantula Woman is a debauchery filled booze fest, with humanist characters trying to live given the cards dealt and the cards they have drawn from the deck themselves. They siesta in the shadow of society.
For those new to the book, Jerzy Mulvaney is a perpetual layabout. Holed up in a border town, Cuidad Juarez Mexico, he floats about in a drunken battle against consciousness and responsibility. Mariscal Street, the red light district, is his primary stomping ground. It is here that he hangs his hat on which ever bed post he can gain access too. He scrapes by fueled by odd jobs here and there. He is an aspiring author whose only current writing is the translation of letters from Spanish to English. This allows the letters from prostitutes to be mailed to their American beau's and potential saviors..
Jerzy's story begins with a wide range of these women of the night, but nothing really matters till he meets Ysela. The part time love and companion of local boxing legend, Ysela strings Jerzy along, dragging his heart along like a stone in the dirt. Neither of them are faithful, neither of them will ever be satisfied with life, they are a perfect pair.
Jerzy himself is a connoisseur of the flesh. The man recounts in graceful detail the curves and crevasses of each woman he is acquainted with. If you approach the story with the wrong mentality, there is a risk that some readers may misread him as being a misogynist. Quite the opposite really. This man dedicated his very being to the occupation of spending time with these women, of making them smile, of learning their likes and dislike. He will do everything to please them with the exception of marrying them, only Ysela the Tarantula Woman could bestow this honor on him.
The book takes a turn when Jerzy decides to buckle down and do right by her. He gets a job in the local crate factory to save money. There are a number of very dark passages in TW. Descriptions of the Coffin factory are particularly so, but very beautifully presented. In a nutshell - "Here I am at the crate factory, and I am getting ready for the coffin factory." Paragraph after paragraph of finely crafted metaphor.
I salute you sir.
Skip the last three pages. Turn off your kindle, or tear them out of your paperback. They are a sham. I have no idea why the author added them and they do the story as a whole a bit of a disservice. Placing this novel in a box and slapping a nicely wrapped bow on it is something the authors editor should have advised against. Jerzy's story should have remained as rough cut as it was presented throughout. It was a real disappointment, and it happened to be the very last thing I read.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author for review purposes. If it was shit, I would have advised such. This one just happened to be worthy of a super positive review. If I were a time traveller, I would go back in time an force myself to prioritize this novel for reading. I would also place some bets on winning sports teams, and maybe exercise more.