Translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott
AMERICAS AND THE CARIBBEAN
These are strange times, and I’m struggling to focus on the distractions of reading or watching TV, while running some kind of impromptu home school and holding down my job, while I still have it (hoping it outlasts this mini apocalypse). My last few posts were written in advance, in more normal times, so I’ll be gradually moving into the (hopefully very temporary) new era with my subsequent posts.
But for now, here’s my review of Mexican novel Loop, chosen by my friend Emily for book club (which had to move online at the last minute – really not the same as chatting with wine and delicious food around a big table).
I found Loop to be quite a weird book (I’ve had a run of weird books, at a time when, more and more, I just want a nice comfort read). It’s a kind of wandering series of vignettes that cover the narrator’s obsession with a particular kind of notebook and her meditations on themes as diverse as dwarves and swallows, as she waits for her boyfriend to return home to Mexico City from Spain following the death of his mother.
The novel was first published in Spanish in 2014 as Cuaderno Ideal (Ideal Notebook), and was published in its English translation in 2019. The book is littered with classical references, as the narrator sees herself as a sort of Penelope, writing a looping series of observations, full of literary references, as she waits for her Odysseus to return. She seems a bit cut off from the outside world, and although interactions with friends are described, they are somehow screened off, and her friends seem to exist only in relation to the narrator. We learn, too, that she is recovering from some kind of accident, which is, however, eluded to only tangentially.
I found the book’s structure intriguing, challenging and frustrating in more or less equal measure. There’s no plot to speak of, it’s a sort of sequence of disconnected musings, with repeated themes, as she waits … overthinks … then waits.
I suppose I prefer more conventional prose (although I have been captivated by some very unusually structured books in the past). Either way, this novel just didn’t grab me, although I did enjoy the notebook obsession – I’m rather partial to stationary myself.