Simon & Schuster, $23.00, ISBN 0-684-84389-7
Historical Fiction, 1998
José Raúl Bernardo has written a story that is inspired by the life of the late Cuban poet and revolutionary hero José Martí. Set mostly in Guatemala, Cuba, and Mexico City in the late 1800s, this story tells of our hero, Julián, a poet and a revolutionary who… uh… let’s start again.
Mr Bernardo sets out to pay tribute to his idol and ends up pandering to the same old oversexed, one-dimensional Latino hunk stereotype that is never this cringe-inducing since that The Mambo Kings male-penis-worship swill craze. The bulk of this story revolves around poor, poor Julián, who is hurting so badly because he can’t choose between his betrothed Lucía and his girl on the side, Sol. And it’s a difficult choice, I must say, because the author fleshed out the women so distinctly, I can tell them apart so easily, the way I can tell peas in a pod apart. Lucía is beautiful and she worships everything Julián does and says. Sol is beautiful and she worships everything Julián says and does, and oh, she also lies on the bed naked in the opening chapter because we all know Latino babes are like hot-hot-hot, right, Mr Bernardo?
All the women worshipping “handsome, innocent” Julián (the author’s own words, not mine) – gosh, what an agonizing existence! What a dilemma. Kids are starving, Cuba’s up in arms, but who cares? Julián can’t choose between two Latina Barbies! What is the world coming to?
Of course, in the end, Julián gets neither woman. Why? Because he is a Man, and he must be made a Martyr. No sissy stuff like snogging happily ever after in the chains of fidelity and monogamy for manly hunks, no, because we know all that the testosterone that is swelling up those powerful, jutting erections of theirs is just too explosive to contain. Every woman wants a piece of this hunk! Every woman wants to sleep with the Cuban hunk! And Cuban hunks will DIE rather than be happy in love, because baby, they are all Don Juan de Marcos, Romeos of the lost millennium, and…and…
Sorry, I think my brain just melted while trying to take in all the ridiculous male machismo crap Mr Bernardo crammed into this so-called “tribute”. Thanks for trivializing José Martí’s life into an episode right out of Sweet Valley High. The only saving grace here is the pieces of poetry, which are the true erotic and romantic stuff here (some of them really chill my spine), but my enjoyment of those pieces is soured by all the masturbatory crap in this story.
Mr Bernardo may believe that Julián is a true romantic, but he’s just reinforcing the stereotype that Latin Americans, like the French, are people who take sex too seriously that they forget to stop psychoanalyzing and making stupid deep remarks. Just ride the orgasm wave, silly! If a man is attracted to two women at one go, why bother turning him into a statement? A horndog is still a horndog. It’s that simple, really.
And I must warn those hoping to find another The Mambo Kings – the sex here is really pathetic. One brief sequence and then it’s take-off time, literary premature ejaculation in all its glory. Well, what do you expect when a guy writes about how great his sex is? This is NYT-sanctified locker room talk by self-important literary figures, done up in pretty poetry here and there. And just like the kind of men who believe themselves to be the greatest lover of all time, Silent Wing leaves the reader feeling really underwhelmed – “That’s it? How disappointing. I’m expecting to feel it more.” Hmmph.