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A Cuban Summer Paperback – September 2, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
There is sex with prostitutes, some more appealing to Tony than others, and there are dates with exciting American girls who will kiss and make out a little. Then there are Cuban girls, who don't go on dates without a chaperone. Tony is all for the American way, yet his ultimate goal and probable future is to meet a Cuban girl about his age, go to monitored dances, perhaps kiss a few times, then marry the girl and stay married forever. This is the charm of the book, to see the world of romance and sex through the eyes of someone restrained by a complex set of rules, all of which he questions.
Here's how it works with his partner on the dance floor: "He could try to get Carmen to dance closer by applying a small amount of pressure with his right arm, drawing her towards him, but this would only be met by an equal and opposite force. Newtonian physics, Cuban style."
It's a graceful book that often had me laughing, and that swept me back to my own boyhood. To this day, the sexual drive of young boys is rarely looked upon with any favor. But we were all subject to it, and all had to work out our own accommodations. Tony de la Torre, by American standards, is a precocious boy, but he has little guile and less cruelty. From start to finish, we're rooting for him.
(One unfortunate note: Capra Press has done a shaky job with this admirable little book. The printing on several even-numbered pages is faded on one side, and there are too many typos. On one page the desserts are flans, on another they're flanes. On one page it's Cris-Craft, and five pages later it's Chris Craft. Is it Benny More, or is Benny Moré correct? It's Moré, and we need a copy editor.)
Parents, do you know what your 13-year old son did this summer? Surely Tony's did not in 1954, when the mores of Cuban high society resembled those of 19th century Spain--chaperones, weekly confessions, nannies, formal dinners, debutant parties, country club dances--more than those of the United State just 90 miles to the north, where Elvis Presley was rocking and rolling and James Dean was rebelling.
Alas, all's well that ends well, and so it did for Tony, while spending the lion's share of his summer, as he did every summer, with his family at his grandparents' vacation house on Varadero Beach. Here Tony, overcoming his near paralyzing insecurities, wins the heart of and secures his first kiss from a proper young Cuban girl, his "first love," and in so doing determines that true love trumps unrestrained licentiousness. A sweet revelation indeed!
In reading A Cuban Summer, I found myself laughing hysterically, principally at Tony's riotous behavior, but also at memories of my own adolescent "first love."
Unconcerned by the strictures of school, religion, or parental rules, all to bend in his favor. There is a decidedly Spanish Main swashbuckler-in-training flavor to most of Tony's adolescent pranks. And those which might backfire are easily skirted or squirmed out of. After all, most everything is done and taken lightly: a sensitive young soul hemmed in by rules wafted off by breezes of permissiveness. Elders and servants conveniently stand by to expedite, even unwittingly, the tasting of experience, more often than not, sexual. Tarts, strumpets, whores, and harlots come by and go away, casually enough that lasting traces merely wash off, all soon forgotten.
Then love, with more purchase on the imagination, engages his soul in seeking answers for his eager heart. But there are always pending questions, sublimated desires, and faded dreams, The answers cannot be found at the confessional, leaving an enraged priest to scream his fury at the haphazard doings of the adolescent.
Boleros on the beach tell us how pain can be assuaged by distance. And as young hearts pursue their rites of passage aftermaths, a window opens into the future, that hope can spring eternal yet again.