A Gripping Novel
I love second hand books. I ordered a copy of Luisa Valenzuela's Black Novel With Argentines from abebooks.com. It was a former library book with dustcover. It cost a couple of bucks. And it arrived quickly, bearing stamps "No Longer Property Of Tacoma Public Library" inside the front and back covers and on the plastic dustcover. This is not what riveting books are supposed to look like. Those are supposed to be comfortably sitting on shelves in the Tacoma Public Library, and in other public libraries, and are not supposed to end up in the discard heap. Maybe, I thought, it's just not in vogue in Tacoma. After all, I reasoned, what do I know about literary tastes in Tacoma?
Tacoma's loss is my gain. This 1990 novel is dark (hence, the title), riveting, sensual, and full of horror. It's not set in Buenos Aires; it's set in a New York City both the author and I know only too well, in the era when the East Village was Bohemian and Alphabet City was a war zone, the two being divided by macabre Tompkins Square Park. The books begins with an inexplicable murder of an actress by an Argentine writer living in the City, and it then travels in circles into the world of the New York fringe inhabited by his lover, her unusual friends and acquaintances.
Because Agustin, the writer, and Roberta, his lover, are both writers, they discuss writing. But Roberta, who is "working" on a novel, and Agustin, who has manuscripts and a grant, do not practice their craft. Their writing has been suspended. It's hard to know for how long. And their talk about "writing with the body" leads to more not writing. And angst. And more talk. You could easily shoot somebody for no reason.