Located across the U.S.-Mexican border in Ciudad Juarez, Mariscal Street (otherwise known as the Boulevard of Broken Dreams) harbors Donald O’Donovan’s quintessential character, Jerzy Mulvaney, as he unsuccessfully courts the Tarantula Woman—a prostitute named Ysela with a tattoo of a tarantula on her left shoulder blade. She is just one of many women in one man’s unapologLocated across the U.S.-Mexican border in Ciudad Juarez, Mariscal Street (otherwise known as the Boulevard of Broken Dreams) harbors Donald O’Donovan’s quintessential character, Jerzy Mulvaney, as he unsuccessfully courts the Tarantula Woman—a prostitute named Ysela with a tattoo of a tarantula on her left shoulder blade. She is just one of many women in one man’s unapologetic and aimless existence in Mexico where each day brings another round of whorehouses, drunken stupors, odd jobs, eruptions of violence and encounters with equally directionless individuals.Not since Charles Bukowski’s Factotum has a transgressive autobiographical novel touched upon with such rawness the everyday realities of a modern-day American desperado. Yet somewhere in the midst of all the strident nihilism, O’Donovan’s alter ego, Jerzy Mulvaney, manages to stumble upon an ambition of sorts: to become a real Mexican. “I wanted to destroy whatever remained of my identity, my American identity; to melt down into a primal being, because the greatest thing is to be unknown, anonymous, and truly free.”Rather than a work of fiction, Tarantula Woman is a refreshingly honest document that subtly addresses such essential subjects as life, love, death and the challenge of simply being....
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Tarantula Woman Reviews
Donald O'Donovan... I owe you an apology.. On March 2nd 2011, you sent me a copy of your novel Tarantula Woman. It was an interesting title and the story sounded bery interesting, but at the time, the description of it just didn't jive to start reading it. I never sat down and got involved with it. Other books took precedence and eventually it was shuffled to the bottom of a tall tall 'To Be Read' pile.4 years and change later I ran across it in my Kindle library. I don't know what caused me to start reading it. Some universal churn pushed it from the underside if the TBR, and placed it in my view. I did not reread the blurb for it, nor did I look up the topic matter. I just blindly opened it and began reading.I owe you an apology because this novel was freaking excellent. It was a gritty flesh filled drunken Mexican word fest, I read and re-read passages. I forced those around me to slog through key sections which were beautiful both with or with out the context of the plot. I was consistently making mental comparisons to classic literature. The strongest similarity was to Hemingway's "The sun also rises". Amazon blurb mentions Charles Bukowski, I can see the reference, but am stuck on my own perception. There is no formidable plot line that leads the reader down a clear cut path of good and evil. No quaking Everest sized eventuality (besides death itself) which forces the universe to conform and play nice with the characters. Tarantula Woman is a debauchery filled booze fest, with humanist characters trying to live given the cards dealt and the cards they have drawn from the deck themselves. They siesta in the shadow of society.For those new to the book, Jerzy Mulvaney is a perpetual layabout. Holed up in a border town, Cuidad Juarez Mexico, he floats about in a drunken battle against consciousness and responsibility. Mariscal Street, the red light district, is his primary stomping ground. It is here that he hangs his hat on which ever bed post he can gain access too. He scrapes by fueled by odd jobs here and there. He is an aspiring author whose only current writing is the translation of letters from Spanish to English. This allows the letters from prostitutes to be mailed to their American beau's and potential saviors..Jerzy's story begins with a wide range of these women of the night, but nothing really matters till he meets Ysela. The part time love and companion of local boxing legend, Ysela strings Jerzy along, dragging his heart along like a stone in the dirt. Neither of them are faithful, neither of them will ever be satisfied with life, they are a perfect pair.Jerzy himself is a connoisseur of the flesh. The man recounts in graceful detail the curves and crevasses of each woman he is acquainted with. If you approach the story with the wrong mentality, there is a risk that some readers may misread him as being a misogynist. Quite the opposite really. This man dedicated his very being to the occupation of spending time with these women, of making them smile, of learning their likes and dislike. He will do everything to please them with the exception of marrying them, only Ysela the Tarantula Woman could bestow this honor on him.The book takes a turn when Jerzy decides to buckle down and do right by her. He gets a job in the local crate factory to save money. There are a number of very dark passages in TW. Descriptions of the Coffin factory are particularly so, but very beautifully presented. In a nutshell - "Here I am at the crate factory, and I am getting ready for the coffin factory." Paragraph after paragraph of finely crafted metaphor.I salute you sir.READERS BEWARE:Skip the last three pages. Turn off your kindle, or tear them out of your paperback. They are a sham. I have no idea why the author added them and they do the story as a whole a bit of a disservice. Placing this novel in a box and slapping a nicely wrapped bow on it is something the authors editor should have advised against. Jerzy's story should have remained as rough cut as it was presented throughout. It was a real disappointment, and it happened to be the very last thing I read.--Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author for review purposes. If it was shit, I would have advised such. This one just happened to be worthy of a super positive review.https://toasttoasted.blogspot.com/
This is a story about an American man living in Juarez, Mexico. He has a job translating and writing letters in English for his clients in Juarez, who are mainly whores. Aside from them being his clients, he is also frequently theirs.It seems the author does have a personal experience with Juarez, or at least Mexico. He details the city and the characters well. However, other than that, he does not really seem to have a very intriguing story line. The book goes on and on about the main characters exploits with different whores. Other than that, the main character never seems to have any money, but always seems to have plenty of drink and women.I did find it fascinating to imagine this life that I have no idea about, this life in Juarez, one of the more dangerous cities, and it’s seduction to Americans who can easily go over the border and enjoy what it has to offer. The author makes Juarez seem like a fun and exciting place to be, whereas I always pictured it as a mixture of gangs, violence and drugs.I was also interested when he spoke a little about the Mexicans trying to marry an American in order to get a green card. In one passage a girl he liked at the time wanted to marry him but he wasn’t ready so she tried to sneak over the border through a culvert. It rained really hard and she and several others got washed from the culvert and caught by the authorities. Again, the struggle intrigues me. I like to be able to feel what others feel and by reading this section of the book, I had an idea of how hard it must be.I think this author is trying too hard to be a modern day Hemingway. Just like Hemingway, the focus of the book is on booze and women. The only thing he is missing is fishing or bullfighting or some other manly sport. However, as fun as booze and women can seem, I think it is missing an actual story. You can’t have an entire plot based on getting drunk and getting laid.In conclusion, I would have to give this book 2 out of 5 stars. Although the characters had the potential to be very interesting and several of the scenes were eye-opening to me, it did not have a very developed story line.Note: I received this book free from LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
'Tarantula Woman' is a book which reeks of sex. And it's not sanitised, airbrushed sex, either - it's animalistic, sometimes violent sex, described by a narrator who lives in a world of whorehouses, drunkenness and hopeless dreams. But what a narrator Jerzy Mulvaney is: you can open this book at virtually any page and find a series of effortlessly convincing phrases, transporting you to 'the Real Mexico', with 'the pulse of the music, the drinks poured down the gullet...the heat-damp-touch-throb excitement, the gut-level sex-joy, and the trumpets of the mariachis showering despair over it all.'For the most part, Jerzy's story is brilliantly told, and the range of characters we meet are never less than fascinating, from Angel Mike, the macho bartender, to Reymundo, the cross-dressing hairdresser, to Ysela, the deeply religious prostitute from whom the novel gets its title. It's only towards the middle of the book, where an incongruous 'dear reader' style of narration appears on occasion, that O'Donovan breaks the spell he has cast.That's not a major criticism by any means and, a couple of minor structural issues notwithstanding, it's the only one I really have. The 'heroes of love' that populate this gritty and philosophical novel make it one of the most grimly entertaining things I've read for some time, and I'll be recommending it widely.
Each of Mr. O'Donovan's books is so different from the other, but each has in common some exceptional writing. You slide down his long, flowing sentences into a world of relentless mayhem, in this case the joyful life of being dead broke and semi-homeless in Juarez, real Mexico. These books are always great huge slices of life; there's no plot in the classic sense, but the dizzying momentum of the storytelling keeps you moving through he story as well as any plot could. I almost want to say that you don't so much READ this book as you EXPERIENCE it. It's fast, it's slippery, and it's wild. And it's a lot more fun than it sounds.
This is a dark meandering biographical tale told from perspective of a jack of all trades and a master of none. Its a drifters tale of love and loss, and desire and pain, and ends being a chapter in the life of an author.