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United States of Banana Paperback – 8 Nov 2011

2.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossing (8 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611090679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611090673
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 986,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

A native of Puerto Rico, Giannina Braschi is an influential and versatile writer of poetry, fiction, and essays. She was a tennis champion and fashion model during her youth in San Juan, before moving to Madrid to study with the Spanish poets Carlos Busoño and Claudio Rodriguez. She lived in Paris, Rome, and London before settling in New York, where she has taught at Rutgers University, City University, and Colgate University. She holds a Ph.D. in Golden Age Spanish literature and has written on Cervantes, Garcilaso, Lorca, Machado, Vallejo, and Bécquer. Her cutting-edge work in Spanish, Spanglish, and English has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, el diario, PEN American Center, Ford Foundation, Danforth Scholarship, InterAmericas, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, and Reed Foundation. She currently serves as a literary judge for the PEN Book Awards.

Customer Reviews

2.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected this book because I thought the cover blurb was intriguing.
However I didn't last long. After a couple of chapters I decided that this wasn't for me. I was hoping for a readable satirical novel, but couldn't relate to the style at all. It is written in a surreal style that will only appeal to a minority audience. I flicked ahead and saw that throughout the book further unreadable weirdness awaited.
Maybe this work does have a deep artistic and intellectual merit. However, if so, it is completely lost on me.
Beware - this is not a work that will appeal to mainstream novel reader.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Though wary of anything whose main descriptor is 'cutting edge' I thought I'd give this a spin.
The release of prisoner Segismundo, who has languished in prison for a hundred years has unexpectedly seismic implications for the very notion of liberty, and poet and novelist Giannina Braschi uses this fantasy to explore a post 9/11 world and the fracturing of America as it struggles to incorporate a huge influx of Latin American people and culture.

Or at least I think she does...

However, the ideas of this novel are to me subsumed in an infuriatingly eliptical style that seems obsessed with its own cleverness where each sentence is a post-modern parlour game. An example;

'Who would you betray?'
'I would betray none, except I would betray you for betraying me by asking me to betray'

These caprices can be fun and playful, but on every line? on every page?
Pretty soon my overiding reaction was 'KNOCK IT OFF!!'

This allegorical style and delight in unconventional prose can be a wonder when in the hands of a Pynchon or Rushdie, but here, just like a film who's shaky camerawork is meant to convey 'energy' and 'disorientation' but in fact just makes you sea-sick, this book becomes tiresome pretty quickly.

Or maybe I'm just not clever enough, and find myself getting annoyed by someone who seems to be just showing off how clever THEY are.

Whatever, the novelist's attempt to mesh the narrative with that of Hamlet is telling.Now there was an author with great ideas, with an extraordinary and inventive grasp of language.

I shall have to content myself with being clever enough to enjoy that!
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Who is this that draweth nigh? Is it a mediocre poet on a bandwagon? What does it mean to *be* portorriqueno rather than, say, Icelandic or Maltese? In London such distinctions are as meaningless as sartorial or sexual preferences, but they are scarcely more meaningful when states are at war. And what is this confection? Meditation or rant? Truth or fiction? Argument or spat? Soul-baring or dog's dinner? The latest phase in Braschi's project to valorize the Puerto Rican or at least Nuyorican literary footprint and, no doubt, seek tenure starts with a bang (9/11); from then on the only way is down. This is *not* a novel, as it says on the back, but a 280p dialogue (not, I think, actable - it's barely readable) preceded by a monologue, disjointed but none the worse for that, where Braschi riffs half-heartedly on Hamlet and foreignness ('we are born uneven') while never quite revealing herself. I love first person narrators (you know where you are with them) but she gets away with things no man could. 'My hierarchy of inspiration is the daemon, the duende, the angel, and the muses.' Eek - an angel AND an Oxford comma! At least hearing her unmediated voice for once we can feel her presence, savour her skill; for that she gets, grudgingly, a 3rd star. Just occasionally it reads like a translation. Which is absolutely fine. But who, frankly, cares - as the author claims to - whether Puerto Rico is nation, colony or state? Nationalism, when it gets power is always and ever bad (I'm tempted to say, like all isms) and you don't critique one nationalism, rather defensively I might add, by bigging up your own. If someone has invaded you it'a all right to invade them? I don't think so, Giannina. (And there was me thinking this was about the Lessons to be Learned from 9/11.) For an alternate taste of bizarre, sweaty Nuyorican, try Duke, the Dog Priest, by a Brazilian who, like Braschi, sounds a bit French. Confused? You will be
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By JoMaynard VINE VOICE on 15 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a Latin American arty type book. Unfortunately I ordered it because the blurb and cover made me think it was going to be rather more fun and less weighty than it is.
The first half of the book has a series of accounts of September 11th, these are graphic and harrowing, and should come with a health warning. Especially for people like my husband who were there. I do wonder if the Author really was, or maybe its just different ways of dealing with tragedy between the Anglo-Saxon and Latin American.
The second half is a script, between the Author and Characters including the Statue of Liberty. I have to admit I didn't make it very far, as I had already lost the will to go further in the first half.
If you don't like realism, and do like this kind of heavy literature, you may like it. I didn't.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8ef90090) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8efacc0c) out of 5 stars Book is VERY difficult 2 Nov. 2011
By Beth Cummings - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am rather disappointed in this book because it is written in such a peculiar style that I just couldn't get myself to finish it. I almost never leave a book half-read, but this one lost me when the author, the Statue of Liberty, Zarathustra and Hamlet began conversing with each other. It is a very witty book, but the humor and satire require extensive knowledge of "Hamlet," "Thus Spake Zarathustra," as well as knowledge of Puerto Rican culture and history. It would be an interesting book to study for a class, but for general, enjoyable reading I can't recommend it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f210f3c) out of 5 stars Food for Thought! 27 Jun. 2012
By eatquestnyc - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a curator of culinary underground adventures for serious food fans in New York City, I loved this book for so many reasons. Style of presentation, zest, originality of course. It's Braschi after all. But what turned me on was how unglamorous but delicious staples such as bananas, powdered donuts, sardines, and potatos find their way into political manifestos and absurdist fantasies. The American worker for one is a canned sardine squirming in the can of sludge, oil, vinegar, and menial labor, begging for water and working its tail off inspite of no water. No matter how hard that sardine works, he never finds his wings to fly from the can, poor lil thing. Meanwhile, the potato is the key to understanding democracy in the United States of Banana. There is a prisoner trapped in the dungeon of the Statue of Liberty after 911. The government doesn't want to rescue him because they want to prove that liberty exists by the absence of liberty. They charge to see him but never free him reasoning that they dough they make on the tourist trap is worth more than the price of liberty. To prevent a revolt, the government gives the citizens of liberty island three options to vote for: Wishy, Wishy-Washy, or Washy. If they vote for Wishy, the prisoner goes free. If they vote for Wishy-Washy, he stays where he is. If they vote for Washy, he is sentenced to death. Every four years the citizens vote for Wishy-Washy. It's like a potato, the narrator argues. You can choose to have it fried, mashed, or baked, but anyway you serve it it's all the same potato. Brilliant, if not somewhat a cynical take on democracy. Biting humor throughout.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f451144) out of 5 stars United States of Banana 28 Dec. 2014
By Yma Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Giannina Braschi’s United States of Banana puts genre in a blender and pours it with seamless liquidity into a novel of exceptional innovation. Set in post-9/11 New York, the book follows Hamlet, Zarathustra, and Giannina as they set out to free Puerto Rican captive Segismundo from the dungeon of the Statue of Liberty where he has been imprisoned by the king of the United States of Banana for one hundred years. The king remarries, releases Segismundo, and as a conciliatory gesture, offers passports to all Latin American citizens. An act of benevolence which upends the global power paradigm and reverberates through the international community with destabilizing effects.
United States of Banana is a hybrid work, mixing post-modern fiction, play format, sociopolitical commentary, and stretches of prose with an evocative carousel of language and philosophical ruminations. It is an English language and literature lover’s dream! Cliché is (or should be) the bain of every writer. In Braschi’s hands cliché becomes critique which repeats and accretes with such intensity that it acquires depth and sinister implications greatly in excess of its daily use. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off catapults the reader into stinging indictments of capitalism and its injurious effects on well … everybody.
“…home is in the head – (but the head is cut off) – and the nest is full of banking forms and Easter eggs with coins inside. Beheaded chickens, how do you breed chickens with their heads cut off? By teaching them to bankrupt creativity.”
Braschi plays clever havoc with the language around Puerto Rico’s status as a protectorate (de facto colony) of the United States. The statuses are referred to as Wishy, Wishy-Washy, and Washy, independence, protectorate, and statehood respectively. She engages with the question in many ways, but arguably the most unique approach comes from dialogue sequences in play format. My favorite conversation is between Cuba, The Statue of Liberty, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and the United States of Banana during a meeting at the United Nations. Fiction fans who are interested in Latin America and its complex political relationships with the United States must read this.
Then there are the places where Braschi eviscerates language and reconstitutes so it is recognizable but released from its moorings. For example, a skull becomes a “prop for glasses.” Or, “I always fulfill my deadlines because they are the lines of death, and I can never skip what was meant to die by deadline. And that is my goal. To die when I get to the deadline.” The magic is as much in what is written as what is held back or implied. United States of Banana is a galloping romp through semantic fields and an invigorating contribution to postmodernism that never loses its sense of irony or humor.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8efb37e0) out of 5 stars Not for the faint of heart, but only for the brave in spirit 25 Oct. 2014
By Roset - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
A book of stunning wisdom and endless suffering, but a suffering mixed with delight at a world gone horribly wrong. Braschi writes with the fury of someone grasping words floating in the air. The urgency to jot down her visions and the lessons learned from them is magnetic. Rarely have I been gripped by the throat by a book as I was with United States of Banana. Many of the reviews here seem not what to make of this tome to the isolation of not just being an immigrant but specifically a Puerto Rican immigrant. We boricuas have a way of expressing ourselves that is unique to our history. Many Puerto Rican-American writers try to inhibit this unique voice, but Braschi shows no such fear. She is idiosyncratic yet entirely human. As a fellow boricua writer who grapples with our history and our present, with the loneliness of exile but the joy of being a member of humanity, her words spoke to me on a deep, personal level. I cannot wait to read her other books. Hers is an original vision that cannot be denied, love it or hate it.

Jonathan Marcantoni
Author of The Feast of San Sebastian, PEN Member, and creator of The YouNiversity
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8efb3ef4) out of 5 stars Oddly Compelling 27 Jun. 2012
By Mare King - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This modernist collection of stories is oddly compelling. Morphing into essays, then poetry and drama, there is something for anyone looking for different insights. Adding up to more than the sum of its genres, this book takes on the fall of the American empire post 9-11 through a myriad of genres and viewpoints. Lovers of vanguard poetry and fiction will appreciate that the plot is beside the point. The book is composed of a chorus of voices, not unlike the Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, only graphic and reality-based. Iconic dramatic characters from Hamlet, Zarathustra, and Life is a Dream mingle with modern day characters and politicos such as Fidel Castro, Obama, Hugo Chavez, and the author. A powerful slant about the powers of the world shifting after the tragedy of September 11th. Brave and thought-provoking!
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