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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUIG M., Kiss of the Spider Woman Vintage (New York) 1980 pp 281, 19 April 2007
By 
Blue Yates (Staffordshire UK) - See all my reviews
Puig's masterpiece is the story of trust and betrayal that takes place in an Argentinean prison in the 1970s. The two main characters are Molina, imprisoned for homosexuality, and Valentin, a political revolutionary. To help pass time, Molina recounts the stories and memories of his favourite movies. The first of these is the classic noir 'Cat People', and further movies concerning the Resistance in Nazi-occupied France, Zombies and others. This vehicle gives Puig an opportunity to tell stories within stories. Much of the book is written as an exchange of dialogue, more like a piece of drama than a novel, and also includes footnotes that discuss the nature of homosexuality as a psychological condition.

This Freudian environment, with the addition of Puig's astonishing mixture of forms, gives the book its backdrop. Over this background Puig tells us a story of how Molina and Valentin are drawn together by circumstance and then forced apart by fate. In terms of both form and content Kiss of the Spider Woman is a breathtaking and powerful work that is destined to become a modern classic.

Translation by Thomas Colchie
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unlikely friendship, and some plot twists..., 15 Aug 2006
"Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1976) is a novel written by Manuel Puig (1932-1990), an Argentinian playwright, novelist and screenwriter. Its subject is controversial, as it delves upon themes such as sexual identity, violence and torture. All the same, I think reading it is worthwhile, as it is one of those books that tell a story that comes alive to the reader...

In case you haven't heard about "Kiss of the Spider Woman", I will tell you a little about its plot. The main characters are Valentin and Molina, two men that share a prison cell, during the Argentinian dictatorship of the late 1970's. Molina is a sensitive soul that happens to be an homosexual, and Valentin a revolutionary that despises the fact that Molina has no political ideas (and is confused by the notion that someone can choose to be gay). Due to the fact that both share the same cell, Valentin and Molina spend some time talking to each other about their ideas and feelings, something they wouldn't have done in any other circumstance. Despite their differences, an unlikely friendship will begin between them, a friendship that may well turn into something more. However, there is more than one twist that will surprise you in this story, even though I won't tell you about that in order not to spoil the surprise.

On the whole, this is an engaging book that is likely to interest the reader, but that is not adequate for children, and that won't appeal to those that don't want to read a book that deals with homosexuality. I liked the way in which Puig told Valentin and Molina's story, and that is the reason why I give it 3.5 stars...

Belen Alcat
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Reality . . . Isn't Restricted by This Cell We In", 3 July 2008
This was Puig's fourth and best-known novel. It was published in 1976 and translated into English three years later.

Much of the book consisted of dialogue. It, and the shifting from the daily routine of the two main characters in prison to the descriptions of the films, was usually entertaining and kept my interest. The author contrasted the two personalities and their ways of thinking -- political and sensual, engaged and escapist, living for the future and living for the present, "masculine" and "feminine." He showed the two men opposed at first, but moving to accommodate each other as the book progressed. For me, this was shown especially well at the end.

The range of films described was also interesting. Obviously, one can relate the characters in the films -- with their double lives, terrible secrets, covert missions, the search for love and the need to believe in it, love overcoming betrayal and hardship -- to the two in prison.

The amount of space in the book given to films, and later on to the popular songs in the last film, was part of Puig's usual concern, how people use those forms to escape from reality but also elevate their lives, how their understanding of themselves is guided by the forms, with their "tremendous truths."

Toward the book's end, the characters either began speaking the language of the other or acting something like the other. The author also seemed to suggest that an ideal relationship, whatever the members' gender, was one where people kept no secrets from each other. All these things were enjoyable.

A few lengthy interior monologues in the novel weren't understood, and the over-long footnotes on Freud, Reich, Marcuse, Brown and others, or the description of wartime Berlin, often seemed dated and over the top. Much in them concerned the theorists' calls for a new morality and revision of the idea of human nature. Several set up the idea of "perversions" as threats to the "basic repressive principles fundamental to the organization of capitalism." And discussed the need for men to liberate the women locked in the dungeons of their psyche and restructure their views of sexual normality. These footnotes suggested that one of the men, Molina, might be a revolutionary element in his own way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a tapestry of intrigue, 26 Oct 2007
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As other reviewers have stated, this book is set in a prison cell in Argentina . The 2 characters are an unlikely pair, Molina an effeminate homosexual and Valentin a member of a guerrilla organistion. It is a tale of their growing relationship, that the enforcement of the prison cell has foisted upon them.

It is an easy book to read,and while it deals with complex issues, I never felt overwhelmed by them.

From Molina's first story about the Panther woman, who is afraid to kiss her husband, in case she murders him, the theme of love, fear and betrayel are set.

Puig has written a brilliant book, that deserves all the acclaim it has gotten. It will leave you thinking, not only about who we love, but also why we love, and I mean to include ideologies as well as people.

The sub text of Freudian's take on homosexuality is interesting too.

I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good book, but it does have an adult theme, so be aware of that.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected twists - amazing book, 18 Dec 2006
Thoroughly post-modern in approach and incredibly innovative, I read this cover to cover in one sitting. Excellent plot development and deliberately disconcerting polyphonic structure with genuinely surprising twists in the tale. Don't be put off by the original (and 'difficult') structure - this book is well worth perservering with.

Wonderful stuff!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 17 May 2014
By 
Iosaiph (Gloucester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kiss Of The Spider Woman (Arena Books) (Kindle Edition)
A book for our times, when repression, torture, inhumanity and prejudice remain the footfalls of our inner lives and our political discourse. Lift your head, read this book and take time to think.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, 20 May 2013
By 
jacr100 "jacr100" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This book has a lot going on in its slender size. On the surface it is nothing more than the story of two prison inmates (Molina and Valentin) in an Argentinian jail. However, Puig uses the simple setting as a base with which to explore multiples - in plot, narration, form and metaphor. It's a book that richly rewards your attention, but without at any time being overbearing.

The main plot is the passing of time between Molina and Valentin as they get to know each other - culminating in them becoming brief lovers. The counterplot concerns Molina (a gay window dresser) betraying Valentin (an uptight revolutionary) in exchange for early release. A further five plots exist in the re-telling of movies to pass the time. These are all told by Molina and serve as extended metaphors (and forewarnings) for the reader. There are also copious footnotes by Puig on the nature, and reasons for homosexuality. On top of this the author also peppers the text with streams of consciousness that at times are linked to the proceeding passages and at others have nothing to do with them. The book finishes with yet another form of address - that of a diary excerpt kept by a police official on Molinas movements. Oh and Puig doesn't write this book like any other piece of fiction - it reads almost entirely like a play - first one person talking and then the other. While all of the above may leave a reader fearing to pick this book up, I would advise that they do exactly that. There is definitely a lot going on, but it's all managed expertly by the author and at no point did I feel overwhelmed or confused - in fact I rather enjoyed the effort that Puig was forcing me to exert. Each new trick or twist richly rewards the effort.

The overall style is fairly simple, and it could be argued that actually, in real terms, not a lot happens. However, as a reading experience, there are few that I have come across that compare to it and fewer still that have left me with such a sense of satisfaction. When Puig is clever, you acknowledge the brilliance rather than condemn him as pretentious - and I think that's a very difficult job for an author to execute. In fact the only thing I can complain about is the cover of the version I was reading. It looked laughably bad - almost as if I were reading a trashy Mills & Boon effort. If only my fellow commuters wouldn't be so quick to judge, for they are turning their nose up at a new favourite of mine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant literature!, 17 April 2013
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This review is from: Kiss Of The Spider Woman (Arena Books) (Kindle Edition)
I chose to read this book because I was going to Argentina for a holiday. The book has an Argentinian author and it concerns the harsh political regime in that country, not so long ago.
The style is wonderful, easy to read, amusing and unique and yet, at the same time, it describes imprisonment and torture. You have to read it, to feel the full impact of Puig's raw and 'punchy' style. You'll be thinking about it for a long time after you finish!
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