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.