The Paradox Of 'Lady Matador's Hotel'
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Now to a new novel. Its called The Lady Matadors Hotel by Cristina Garcia. Our critic Alan Cheuse says it is the writing, not the plot, that makes the novel rewarding.
ALAN CHEUSE: In The Lady Matadors Hotel, a novel just over 200 pages, Cristina Garcia packs together a group of characters who could easily populate an epic. A Japanese-Mexican-American female bullfighter, whos come to the capital of an unnamed Central American country for a round robin competition with some other lady matadors. There are some vengeful left wing guerillas, some military men in town for a convention and businessmen and lawyers, waiters and poets and pregnant mistresses, most of them in residence at a luxury hotel.
The matadora wants to win the competition. The guerillas want to assassinate a particularly horrifying military man - and the plot gets off and running. But what makes this novel so appealing is quite paradoxical. For all of the characters and their motives, it actually has little narrative drive, but instead creates its effects by force of language, by metaphor and the plumbing of the minds and hearts of Garcias major characters.
Heres how she describes one of the characters, a local Korean factory owner whos convinced that nothing that happens in public is of any truthful value.
Whatever drama and meaning life holds, he thinks, takes place behind closed doors or deep inside the bloody chambers of the heart. Thats where Garcia takes us for most of the action, into the bloody heart and fraught psyche of a woman plotting a revenge murder. Into the twisted mind of a weight-lifting general. Into the promiscuous and happy-go-lucky spirit of the female bullfighter who, even after shes gored, plans to fight again only a few days later. Her bull-fighting costume, her suit of light, lends sparkle and shine to this paradoxical and delightful and somewhat dangerous near-prose poem of an epic.
BLOCK: The Lady Matadors Hotel is by Cristina Garcia. Our reviews is Alan Cheuse.