Customer Reviews


39 Reviews
5 star:
 (21)
4 star:
 (14)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for the footnotes
Since there are already so many reviews for this excellent book, I will limit my contribution to a few comments on the footnotes. They are not mere postmodern flourish, nor are they superfluous. They function in several ways. First, they mark a certain reception of psychoanalytic theory in Argentina. Secondly, although in the beginning they correspond to the story (in the...
Published on March 31, 2004 by xxfirexcrackerxx

versus
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the footnotes ruined it for me.
KotS-W is a conversation between two inmates, a gay window dresser and a revolutionary. I was biased from the beginning, but against the blurb writer. The window dresser is described on the back of the book as self centred but charming, but in no way does he come across as self centred, unless you pick on something late in the book (which would be a spoiler so I won't...
Published on October 16, 2009 by Abeer Y. Hoque


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars for the footnotes, March 31, 2004
By 
"xxfirexcrackerxx" (NYC, New York, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
Since there are already so many reviews for this excellent book, I will limit my contribution to a few comments on the footnotes. They are not mere postmodern flourish, nor are they superfluous. They function in several ways. First, they mark a certain reception of psychoanalytic theory in Argentina. Secondly, although in the beginning they correspond to the story (in the tradition way that footnotes do -- as elaboration on a point that cannot be contained in the narrative) they begin to loose their direct correspondence as the story continues. This "unraveling" corresponds to the unraveling of the framing device (most importantly the telling of stories), which traditionally is a narrative structure that functions to hold sexual desire at bay. In other words, the footnotes lose their hold as the characters become closer, sharing more personal facets of their lives, and eventually becoming sexual. In this way the footnotes subtend the narrative in such a way as to track sexual desire and the confusing and contradictory aspects (and theories) that attend to it. I think it is essential to read the footnotes along with the narrative since they add to Puig's experimental narrative style. If they are confusing, that is the point. Unexpected desire, like love, always is.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read this, read the book!!, January 18, 2001
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
This book was recommended to my by a very enthusiastic friend, and I must say, having finished the book, I understand why. Roughly, the story is about two men in prison: Luis Molina, the homosexual window dresser, and Valentin Arruiga Paz. That, however, only begins to describe it. It's also about movies: Molina tells the plots of movies, partially to pass the time, partially because these movies -- living these movies -- is his escape. He prefers the movies from the forties and fifties, with the real divas, short hair, lots of blood-red lipstick . . . The movies aren't just time-passers, either: they reflect the events of the book.
The style is one of the most outstanding features of the book. It is almost entirely in dialogue, with some brief spates into play-format and a couple of police reports. It varies with the setting. There are also a couple of sections in stream-of-consciousness, where one receives Molina's movies as he thinks of them, no bothering with sentences. It all contributes to a wonderful effect.
I have, however, heard, that although this is the only translation available, it isn't the best. For example, Molina refers to himself as a woman throughout the book in the Spanish version. Although this isn't as possible in English, one could have made more of an effort, to preserve the feel of the original.
So go learn Spanish (if you don't know it already) -- but read this first!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the all-time greats..., November 14, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
We tend to divide ourselves into groups: male, female, gay, straight, conservative, liberal... KOTSW reminds us that, underneath all of the labels, we are all human, and we can all change for the better when we want to. The simple power and beauty of this story overwhelmes me each time I re-read it. Puig created a pure microcosmos with his tale, and let it develop beautifully. I've gone through two copies in English, and my Spanish copy is in tatters. KOTSW is one of the most important stories of the latter half of the century, and should not go ignored.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and tragic love story, September 21, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
This is a beautiful book, and I must say that it is much better than the movie. From watching the movie, you get the sense that Molina tells the movies only to pass the time and entertain himself, while the fact that Molina IS the movies that he relates - that he lives the movies in his mind, that they have always been an escape for him, an escape from the prison in which he always finds himself, whether physical or societal - is emphasized much more significantly in the novel.
This is a story of immediate feeling and passion, of the harshness and smallness of life, the desire for transcendence through the love of and for another, and the power that the imagination ultimately has over reality. In the end, Valentin gives in to Molina's philosophy, unable to stand the cruelty and torture that he undergoes as a jailed revolutionary. And for Molina, you feel that even though his one true experience of love was momentary, it was enough to give his life meaning.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NO ONE OPPRESSES THE OTHER IN THIS CELL, September 18, 2001
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
Kiss of the Spider Woman was a book I had always wanted to read but never did. Then a friend was studying it in his university, and when he finished it, he loaned the book to me. Unfortunately the continuity of the story was interrupted when I reached the halfway point because he asked for the book back for a number of weeks (he needed it for finals). So I think the book is definitely not one of the sort you can start and then pick back up again in a few months. You need to have some concentration to be engaged in the story. It also helps to have some background and context to place the story in.
Almost the entire story takes place in a jail cell between a revolutionary, Valentin, and a homosexual window dresser, Molina, who has been put there to attempt to learn secrets from his cell mate to undermine the revolution. As the story progresses, though, a very strong bond between the two inmates develops. Molina tells stories about films he has seen in order to pass their time together, and they begin to discuss the films, then philosophy and finally life. They share a very reluctant, slow-growing friendship but eventually grow quite close, intimately close. Their friendship is unlikely but is developed with great consideration by Puig, making it believable and plausible throughout each stage. The two men learn to care about one another and show immense compassion for one another.
The movie descriptions are what bind the two together, bring out their common elements. Valentin grows sad at the end of each movie, having grown attached to the characters, much as the reader does with this book. They debate, "It can be a vice, always trying to escape from reality like that, it's like taking drugs or something. Because, listen to me, reality, I mean your reality, isn't restricted by this cell we live in." Always the idea comes again-their dreams, hopes and feelings live on outside the cell and within the cell they are still free because they cannot be oppressed there.
The story develops further through the use of simple conversations between the two men. You learn that Molina sees himself as a man and believes in traditional values: two people falling in love and marrying for a lifetime. Valentin, who is young and considers himself revolutionary, believes marriage and monogamy are wrong, bourgeois deception. Valentin exclaims, "There's no way I can live for the moment because my life is dedicated to political struggle, or, you know, political action, let's call it. Follow me? I can put up with everything in here, which is quite a lot... but it's nothing if you think about torture..."
At some point both men grow sick from the food but refuse to go to the infirmary. Although some of these moments during the mens' illnesses are rather disgusting, they are plot devices to illustrate the growing compassion and intimacy between the two men. While one is quite embarrassed at having gone to the bathroom in his trousers, the other reassures him that it is fine, he will help him clean himself. While Valentin is ill he exposes his "bourgeois inside" revealing that he is still truly in love with Marta, his one true love who left the revolution to love him. He does not really love the woman for whom he left Marta. He went with the second woman because she was the leader of their revolutionary movement.
Prisoners are allowed to have provisions brought to them by family once a week, but Molina's mother is sick and cannot come. Valentin will not tell his mother she can come because he does not want her to feel obligated.
During Valentin's illness we discover that Molina is working with the prison to get Valentin to divulge revolutionary secrets to him. It appears that Molina originally went along with that plan in order to win freedom for himself, but eventually comes to care so much for Valentin that he does not really pursue information as ardently as he could. Molina gets the prison to provide provisions like what his mother would bring in order to fool Valentin into believing his mother is better. He also lets Valentin know that he may soon be getting out of prison. During this period of Molina nursing Valentin back to health, Valentin comes to trust Molina quite deeply, and eventually the two of them physically consummate their relationship, which becomes an ongoing occurrence. ("They no longer see themselves as men or women or themselves but as people who are `out of danger'").
Finally the day of Molina's release approaches, and he has agreed to do some things on the outside for Valentin. By this time it seems clear that he does not intend to give information to the prison officials. However, of course, the prison keeps Molina under surveillance once he has been released. The last film Molina tells Valentin about parallels their own situation in a sense. The film has a prostitute who is only a prostitute in order to feed the man she loves. This is remarkably similar to Molina's "selling his soul" to give the prison information... but he only does it to keep Valentin alive and healthy.
Molina eventually asks Valentin for a kiss-the one thing they have not shared. Molina is "a spider woman that traps men in her web". Molina tells Valentin, "Valentin, you and my mom are the two people that I've loved most in the world."
And they never see one another again. Naturally a story like this has no happy ending to offer. But the book is so well written and so engaging that you will not mind wiping a few tears from your eyes.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Reality . . . Isn't Restricted by This Cell We Live In", June 14, 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unlikely friendship, and some plot twists..., August 15, 2006
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
"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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A post modern flourish, September 30, 2003
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
Some very thoughtfully written responses (Rebekah, reader from Seattle, Jenna, pjmittal, et al). And some good synopses as well (be careful though, Erika's, while well written, is a bit of a spoiler).
Since the above topics have been so adroitly covered, I won't dwell on them. But I couldn't resist seconding Stephanie Zuercher: one of the most interesting things about this novel is the choice Puig made to use dialog, almost exclusively, to tell the story. As you read consider this technique & the fact that you still get an excellent picture of the setting. Masterful prose styling. & very original. I can't think of another writer that's done the same (but I'd be interested to hear if anyone else can; please throw the author's names/titles my way, as would love to read them).
& for those that didn't understand the use of footnotes or didn't like them--it's merely a post modern flourish (perhaps an homage to T. S. Eliot's _The Waste Land_?). Ignore them till you reach the end then go back and read them. Or ignore them entirely. But read the book. It's an A+
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very visual gay "Thousand and One Nights", March 28, 2006
By 
Antonio (Bogotá, Colombia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
Having watched the 1985 film starring William Hurt as Molina and Raul Julia as Valentin, I always intended to read the novel itself. Since this is the first Puig novel I've read I was astounded at how incredibly visual it is. The descriptions of faces, dresses, furniture, buildings and landscapes are so rich as to be almost unbearable. It did me make feel as if though I were partly blind, missing all these features that a writer like Puig conveys so well.

The story first: Molina (a gay middle aged child molester) and Valentin (a middle class young revolutionary) share a cell in an Argentinian prison during the dictatorship around 1975. Valentin is a rational man who uses his captivity to improve himself through reading, whereas Molina is a phantasist, who seeks to evade his squalid surroundings by elaborate rememorations of movies. Eventually, Molina narrates the movies to Valentin, usually cutting off at key suspense points because of bedtime. The movies are of the B- sort, but very appealing. They include 1940s horror/suspense, a Nazi propaganda musical so over the top that it is almost pornographic and probably far more effective qua propaganda than the actual movies of the period, musical drama/fantasy, a "tele-novela" (soap opera)-type Latin story about upper class revolutionaries, blacksploitation voodoo in some unidentified Caribbean island and a Mexican 1940s musical around a particularly appealing genre (the bolero). Initially Valentin tries to analyze the movies through rationalist (Marxist and Freudian) lenses, but eventually he surrenders to fantasy and allows himself to enjoy them as love stories, which they all are. Both Molina and Valentin are quite sparse about their own stories, but we find that Molina is a mamma's boy who can only play a passive sexual role, and that Valentin is an educated, upper-middle class man who, in spite of political correctness, prefers women of a similar background rather than committed revolutionaries.

Just below this level of story-telling, there is a darker, more realistic one: Molina has been promised an amnesty if he gets useful information from Valentin about his subversive group. He is a stool-pigeon. And the prison warden is slowly poisoning Valenti?n's food, so that he will have to take prescription drugs that will make it easier to break his will and get him to confess. However, Molina seems to fall in love with Valentin and eventually stops cooperating with the authorities. Valentin incurs in some lirical but remarkably shocking (to this reader) sex with Molina, who agrees to cooperate with Valentin's subversive group in spite of his lack of political ideas. Molina is released and is eventually killed when he attempts to liaise with Valentin's people. Valentin is tortured and physically broken in prison, but he manages to avoid giving his comrades away by taking refuge in fantasy, as Molina taught him.

How does the book compare to the movie? William Hurt is perfect as Molina, whereas Raul Julia overplays the "macho" side of the Valentin character, and makes him sound less educated and of a lower class than he is in the book. The visuals conjured by Molina's storytelling may not be reproduced in an actual movie, and they are as rich as anything by Lezama Lima or Cabrera Infante, Cuban writers to whom Puig is indebted. The book is full of cinematic references beyond the obvious ones. Molina and Valentin are like a latter-day Laurel and Hardy, or like Sancho and Don Quixotte. Molina is emotion, intuition and feeling, whereas Valentin is reason and logic. They are like a divided self, that can only be complete when both sides are joined. This union destroys Molina but strengthen's Valentin. Molina seduces Valentin both sexually and emotionally, but Valentin turns Molina into an instrument of his political will.

A peculiarity of the book is its extensive footnotes concerning the origin and true nature of homosexuality, a veritable romp through Freudianism and its offshoots, including revolutionary sexual politics so dated that it brought a smile to this reader's face. I can't imagine why they are relevant to this book, but I enjoyed them and learned a few things.

Overall this is an enjoyable, well-written book, but I didn't especially enjoy the sexual parts, although I'll grant that they were relevant to the story and as tastefully written as it can be managed given the characters' circumstances.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE definition of masterpiece!, December 10, 1998
This review is from: Kiss of the Spider Woman (Paperback)
Geez...Do you know what masterpiece means? Let me tell you the *true* definition: it means The Kiss of the Spider Woman!!!
This story is moving, sad, tragic, fantastic, exciting, entertaining, incredible, *everything*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can peek into their inner-selves through their thoughts, dialogue, action, philosophy...etc. If you haven't read it, READ IT. It's just superb!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Kiss of the Spider Woman
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (Paperback - April 3, 1991)
$15.00 $12.48
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.