A tale of alienation, love, suspense, imagination, and literature set on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Simone tells the story of a self-educated Chinese immigrant student courting (and stalking) a disillusioned, unnamed writer who is struggling to make a name for himself in a place that is not exactly a hotbed of literary fame. By turns solipsistic and political, romantic and dark, Simone begins with the writer's frustrated, satiric observations on his native city and the banal life of the university where he teaches--forces utterly at odds with the sensuality of his writing. But, as mysterious messages and literary clues begin to appear--scrawled on sidewalks and walls, inside volumes set out in bookstores, left on his answering machine and under his windshield wiper--Simone progresses into a cat-and-mouse game between the writer and his mystery stalker. When the eponymous Simone's identity is at last revealed, the writer finds in the life of this Chinese immigrant a plight not unlike his own. Traumatized and lonely, the pair moves towards bittersweet collaborations in passion, grief, and art.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 152
Weight: 204 g
Dimensions: 213 x 137 x 15 mm
"Lalo explores the intersection of art and pain in this gorgeously written novel about two outsiders, drawn to one another by a desire to use art as a surrogate for emotional intimacy. . . . Simone is a novel of mysteries. . . . Underlying the novel's mysteries is Lalo's exploration of the symbiotic relationship between art and suffering. Art is not a panacea for pain . . . . Rather, pain nourishes art. . . . But by the novel's close the writer understands that his relationship with Li cannot be sustained without the two sharing their deepest pain and vulnerabilities, an intimacy that cannot be created through art alone."--Lori Feathers "Rain Taxi "
"Simone is a clear-eyed vision of the Puerto Rican margins--some of them, and not the ones usually found in contemporary fiction, which also makes it all the more effective. Both the literary and the personal are handled well here. . . . It can seem an oddly structured novel, yet it works--especially as a whole--surprisingly well, and the shifts in Lalo's narrative make for a story that doesn't simply chug along predictably from the outset but expands, in breadth and depth, into an ultimately rich, rewarding work."--M. A. Orthofer "Complete Review "
"Simone has the stuff of the great literary works . . . . The novel is a good example showing that literature in Puerto Rico, like the history of the country, is made of paradoxical relationships of love and hate, of liminality and darkness, most always in the contingency of the contradictory. But, in any case, without opposites there is no progression; without antithesis, there is no synthesis."--Elidio La Torre Lagares "Nagari "
"There is something magnetic with the names in Simone. . . . The condition of strangeness is radicalized. All are equally foreign in this San Juan, the narrator as well as Li. . . . The relationship between the narrator and Li can also be read as an exploration, not without pathos and self-absorption, of the abyss that separates them. If a writer has to be, as we read in the novel, 'an athlete of defeat, ' the same requirement would seem to be true for lovers, doomed to run toward a goal that, they know, never arrives on time."--Lucas Mertehikian "Los Inrockuptibles (Argentina) "
"Although at turns a passionate love story and a political and social commentary on life in Puerto Rico, Lalo's Simone primarily concerns writing: the singular word that he uses as the first sentence of his novel. The sparse narrative unflinchingly depicts two lonely and uncertain lovers as they meet and try to make sense of their pains through writing."--World Literature Today
"Simone is reminiscent of Albert Camus's 1942 masterpiece, The Stranger, a study in alienation and impotence. . . . Certainly a thought-provoking book. The descriptions of Li's abysmal circumstances--she lives practically in servitude--shed light on an almost unknown aspect of Puerto Rican reality. We are far more used to reading about the plight of Puerto Ricans in New York than about minorities in San Juan. Lalo's dark portrayal of a sunny Caribbean city turns the conventional urban novel on its head, and his characters' blistering condemnation of the book industry and the notion of Hispanic unity is bound to raise eyebrows. . . . Lalo's distinct perspectives make Simone a surprising adventure and a worthwhile read."--Barbara Mujica, Georgetown University "Washington Independent Review of Books "
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