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Posted July 1, 2009
Slow slow start
I have a really hard time reading Sandra Cisneros' books. They all start off so slow. I enjoy the storyline, but they are slow reads for me. I didn't like how much she mixed English and Spanish words and the form that she chose to do it. I speak both languages and I think she did a bad job with this bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 31, 2002
The queen ain't got no clothes, or Y el mentado rebozo?
Cisneros's talent has been confirmed by Mango St and Woman Hollering Creek,her two major fiction offerings from the past, and by the poetry in Loose Woman, loaded with an exquisitely conjured and tooled language that puts her among the very best American - not just chicana - poets of our day. Given the talent I believe she owns, Caramelo is a big disappointment. It can't be called a novel, because it lacks the unity and resolution of theme that would make it one. It is instead a collection of vignettes which would tell the story of three generations of the narrator's family - (the redundant repitition of the fact vs. fiction dialectic is irrelevant chatter, and does nothing for the integrity of the book) - but which contains precious few examples of fine writing among the eighty-odd little pieces. Much of the text gags on forced metaphors and "curio shop" descriptions and sentiments - contrived and colorful and meant to appeal to "tourist" readers from outside the culture. Another bad habit, in my opinion, is the penchant for transliterated Spanish terms rather than sensible translations. This is a device which now and then does produce the third dimension of a funny nuance or flip in meaning, but usually not. The book is not a novel, for the same reason a table full of appetizers does not make a banquet. In this case, most of the appetizers are bland and carelessly thrown together. Too bad, because the linquistic talent, and heart to match, which could have been applied in the first two-thirds of the book does not fully appear until the last part in a few vignettes dealing with moments from the narrator's adolescence. In these the language is exquisite, the humor is wicked and takes no prisoners, and that uncanny reach Cisneros has into the depths of the other self, into her heart of hearts where we find universal compassion, does happen. Unfortunately, these episodes make up only a fraction of the book. What is proposed at the book's incipience as its major, if not the major, unifying device in the narrative, a legendary "caramelo" style rebozo which has survived as a near-sacred relic through the family saga, never really achieves that place, and is eventually misplaced or forgotten somewhere in the heavily padded text. There are inconsistencies and hollows, as well, in some of the characters, from episode to episode. For example, The "Awful Grandmother," a personage which should have by book's end stood large and commanding, if not felicitous, ends up more of a caricature bereft of the valor and nobleness of heart suggested in moments from her young life. I am not surprised by the plethora of smoochy reviews from Cisneros loyalists that have greeted the book, but I am very surprised by the absence of her talent in it. As a chicano who believes we have barely begun to explore the potential inherent in a literature of our people's experience, on a truly world-class level, I feel that the kind of uncritical, "sheltered" reviews our few big writers usually get are an insult to us, implying, "We don't expect any better." What's more, a less than high standard is set for the young literary talents among chicano youth. I wish I could hold up Caramelo before the young chicana/o writers among my students and say, this is the level of writing you should shoot for, but I can't.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.