Monday, December 04, 2006

Boudoir Noir

This is not your conventional book review. Here, you will find a book recommended within a piece of flash fiction. And here’s a disclaimer, no one has paid this author, or given this author any freebies. She’s just giving a good book a quirky plug.

This story is entitled “Bedtime Stories for Women Who Smoke Cigars”

This past weekend, Riva Djinn paid a visit to the Independent and Small Press Book Fair at 20 West 44th Street. She is quite familiar with this landmark building that houses the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman. As a matter of fact, Riva Djinn used to teach English Composition for the K. Gibbs School in this very building. The school has long since moved to 40th Street, and Riva had to quit that job after a scandalous encounter of the stink-bomb ilk, not to mention the times she urged the students to petition for curriculum reform. Boy, is she glad those days are long enough over that she can smirk and shrug them off and deny she ever lived through them. Abandoning her participation in the socialist revolution is a bit harder to sweep under the rug, but that’s another story. Returning to the present, Riva spends an entire Saturday in this building’s charming library, wandering from this table to that, chatting, and picking up business cards, free buttons, magnets, catalogues, etc. Enough loot so that, later, in The Ladies, she has to ask the attendant, “Do I have too much propaganda on my puss?” No? So Riva picks up another button and another card, while all along she is vowing to herself not to pick up any men if she can’t pick up any women.

The only weakness Riva allows herself to give into is her habit to impulse-buy all books printed by independent and small presses. She can’t help herself. On principle: she just MUST buy books that have never been shoved down her throat by overbearing marketing schemes. But then what was with all the buttons and magnets, etc. at this event? She wondered.

By listening to her own Reader’s Intuition, Riva finds and buys a book entitled Adios Muchachos, written by Daniel Chavarría, translated by Carlos Lopez, and published by Akashic Books, 2001; 245 pages.

The cover features an image of Alicia—the daughter of a Cuban foreign-service man—on her bicycle. Alicia’s tennis shorts, unbuttoned! Alicia’s ass, un-retreating. Alicia’s lips & eyes, uncanny!

In her bedroom, Riva studies the cover art over and over until it urges her to light a cigar, get between the sheets and begin reading. Riva soon discovers that Alicia is as smart as she is sexy. Below are a couple sentences that entice Riva instantly:

“When Alicia decided to become a bicycle hooker, her mother agreed to sell a ring that had been in the family for five generations. She got $350 for it, and for $280 they bought an English mountain-bike, one with wide tires and lots of speeds, on which Alicia launched her hunt for moneyed foreigners.”

Adios Muchachos is set in Havana, Cuba during the Special Period. This picaresque novel is full of plenty of scenes featuring Alica’s ample ass up, up, up on that bicycle seat. But we also see Alicia excel at her studies with an Italian professor who is thrilled by Alicia’s quick fluency in Dante’s language. The narrative flows as smoothly as Alicia’s plans of seduction. We follow Alicia’s adventures; we receive salsa lessons that loosen the tightest of foreign butts. Meanwhile, Victor King, a European millionaire, promises to boost the Cuban nautical tourism industry by overseeing a project to root out buried treasure left by sunken Spanish galleons from the 16th Century. While Alicia plants patriotic kisses, sweetly commenting on the terrible effects of the U.S. embargo and the fall of the Soviet Union, King’s plans spawn an absorbing mystery that contain plenty of well-drawn sex and bloody murder scenes. This is noir extraordinaire! The narrative pace turns and picks up when Alicia breaks one of her cardinal rules: never sleep away from home.

Riva was told that Chavarría’s novel won the prestigious Edward Award. Riva thinks, awe hell, it should have also won the Pulitzer, the Nobel, and the Man Booker. Then she thinks, hey do they give a prize called the Man Hooker; if so, this novel certainly sweeps that honor.

If Riva Djinn ever puts down this book, it will be between her thighs.

When Riva reads to the end, she fires up another cigar, turns back to the first page, and starts reading all over again. Adios Muchachos is a great way for Riva to pass her time before the messenger boy arrives again to replenish her supply of the smuggled goods.

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