A Cock-Eyed Comedy Paperback – Nov 1 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Spanish literary trickster Goytisolo exhibits fine satirical form in this bawdy, fictional tale of a Catholic cleric's sexual wanderings across history and borders. Father Trennes, the novel's determinedly priapic, oft-incarnated subject, lives in present-day Spain as a leader of the church's profoundly conservative organization, Opus Dei, but in this mischievously sacrilegious story by the author of State of Siege and other fabulist delights, the good father is a very bad boy. One exultant chapter recounts his "prayer meetings" with a series of swarthy immigrants, "firm as a steel spigot" or endowed with "a lethal jack-in-the-box." In another, he's savoring the delights of "secret dwellings"—among them the Parisian movie palace men's rooms and the bathhouses of Manhattan. The author (who pops up frequently as a character, as do other literary figures including Jean Genet and Manuel Puig) is mindful that reckless sexual pursuits can lead to the illness that has killed friends and fellow writers. But beyond that poignant lament, Goytisolo's hyperbolic frolic through a ribald sexual landscape is an awful lot of fun, if often confusing. This certainly ranks among the acclaimed Spaniard's most overtly lusty gay-themed fables, and Bush's playfully colloquial translation adds plenty of zest. (Feb.)
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Although living in voluntary exile in France and Morocco for 45 years, Goytisolo is one of Spain's most cherished and prolific writers. With this novel, he remains as playfully innovative and wickedly subversive as ever as he lambastes conformity to organized religion, a longtime target of his for its sterile denial of erotic and spiritual freedom. Lifting its main character, pere de Trennes, from a novel by Roger Peyrefitte (another caustic critic of Catholic orthodoxy), Goytisolo's metafiction transmigrates Trennes through several centuries of literary production and religious hypocrisy. Most controversial in Spain will be his biting (yet often hilarious) attack on the founders of Opus Dei, the right-wing Catholic movement that he has elsewhere described as the Calvinists of Spain. A lifetime of chafing against Spain and orthodoxy has kept Goytisolo raw, and this selection may alienate those readers who are both highly sensitive to farcical attacks on sanctimoniousness and erudite enough to process the author's subtle and copious literary references, where much of the author's irreverence proliferates. A must for larger European and queer-lit collections, however. Brendan Driscoll
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