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MochaMike

MochaMike

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The Carnivorous Lamb (Little Sister's Classics) - Agustin Gomez-Arcos Actually, 4.5 stars, but why quibble?

It’s taken as long to write a review for this book as it did to read it—I keep starting and stopping, starting and stopping; in the same way I kept picking it up and setting it down, I start writing and stopping over and over. Anyway, …

Fascism. What is it about fascism that has captured the attention of some of my GR buddies? They’re reading books on the subject; LIKEing each other’s reviews; queerying each other about the subject and other books. I can’t get away from the topic. Javier Mariás’ Your Face Tomorrow: Fever And Spear (vol. 1) and vol. 2 and vol. 3 flash back to the era of Franco’s Spain, Little Ashes, a film about the relationship between Federico Garcia Lorca and Salvador Dali (the dick) couldn’t avoid it, Lorca’s In Search of Duende is working its way up my TBR list, and now, in my one respite from reality, my monthly foray into the undemanding world of genre-reading (the monthly recommendations of Queereaders) I’m confronted with this novel. There’s no escaping the subject all of the sudden. What’s next for me—Hemming-freakin-way? I think not. Oh, and just in case you’re interested, this was a great choice made by the group—something outside the genre-tedious mold. Outstanding!

So what’s to like about The Carnivorous Lamb? Well, there’s:
1) The language
2) The transgression
3) The language
4) The love/hate relationships between family members
5) The language
6) Clara, the Everything
7) The language
8) The cataclysm
9) The language
10) The disappointment and the ecstasy
11) The language
The narrator’s story is framed by his anxious/dread-filled anticipation of and preparation for the return of a lover he hasn’t seen in seven years and the lover’s eventual return. Constantly addressing his thoughts toward the returning lover, the narrator describes his tight-fisted, eyes-clenched entry into the world only to open them after 16 days to fixate on his brother, to the horror delight of his mother who quickly relinquishes parental responsibility for the infant to his five-year-old brother who assumes his role as primary care provider with a passion.
Did she not understand that I put off opening my eyes as an act of courage, so as not to mix up the world I was coming from with the one I was to live in? … And that love, more alive than ever, can never die because it comes from the purity of sin. It was born in you and me the day the gates of heaven swung shut, far back in some time only our genes remember.
His hatred for his mother (unlike Mother/Son relationships over-generalized by some Freudians to account for gay boys) predates his birth and grows throughout his formative years:
Fully aware that we were fast running out of money, Mother worked hard to give me expensive tastes when I was a child, the better to underscore the misery of my adolescence. When it comes to revenge, we all have our own style. Mother’s ran to delayed action, like a time bomb. She was a terrorist, in her fashion.
While bitter resentment of his mother grows, his father is isolated, his intimacy with his brother intensifies, he’s exposed to a punishing republican tutor and a disturbing priest who prepares him to receive the Sacraments—each of which are transgressed with his beloved brother—and the entire family is watched over by the omnipresent, longsuffering, household maid Clara.

It would be easy to assume the narrator is a passive recipient of the actions of others, but he is not without strength and his own forms of aggression:

My mind had enjoyed the freedom of solitude and the isolation of thought for far too long. It already knew what it had to destroy. At any cost.
Franco’s Spain is not merely setting and background to the story; it’s fundamental. It dominates the lives of everyone whose stories are revealed. TCL is the author’s commentary on life in Spain during the era and suggests his motivation for self-imposed exile in France. The novel stands as cultural commentary on Franco’s regime and an indictment of the Catholic Church by using shock and transgression to their maximum affective opportunity.

The cheesy cover belies the content, the extraneous supplemental material seems present more for a type of justification of (a receipt for) the novel’s legitimacy, unfortunate copyediting can be distracting—hence the 4.5 stars. There’s no indexed entry for the novel in Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, however there is a two-page entry in the slightly more recent The Gay Canon: Great Books Every Gay Man Should Read. If you’re a fan of shock-and-awe fiction, if there’s no love lost between you and the Catholic Church, if you like fiction that can turn from heartbreak to humor to transgression to romance over the course of just a couple pages—well, then, this might, might just be one for you.