Welcome to D Reading Room, the online book club for people who like to read and riff about books. Our first title is Wonderful World by Javier Calvo, and it’s a fast ride. Some might say a bumpy ride. We say, let’s spend the next few months doing our best imitation of Michiko Kakutani and look at this book every which way. Calvo is one of Spain’s best new writers, and this is his first English translation. In the literary world, for what it is worth, this guy is hot stuff.
Hannah Linus has an “encounter” with the supersize Saudade. We begin the not-real Wonderful World by Stephen King and meet main character Chuck Kimball and his much-feared race of psychic beings. Pavel has a short stay in jail, then is released under mysterious terms. The Fanny-wants-Lucas-to-sign-over-the-business plotline is referenced, if not advanced, in a scene between Lucas and Fonseca, who reveals that Bocanegra and Koldo Cruz are the men in an old photograph with Lucas’s father (lots of web weaving going on here). Pavel endures a non-interrogation involving a drill and a sadist named Donald Duck. Lucas and Valentina’s mother, Marcia, attend Hannah Linus’s gallery opening and pay homage to the coveted St. Kieran panels. Fanny sends a new lawyer to make yet another play for Lucas’s stock in the business. Poor Valentina! Busted for her inane manuscript and a bread knife in her backpack. Hannah “encounters” Sausade again, and he makes a copy of her electronic key. Pavel babysits Panakian as he paints a copy of one of the St. Kiernan panels; they go for an outing, and Panakian slips away.
Christine:We have been talking about a cast of characters to play the main roles in the movie, but I think the scene at Hannah Linus’s gallery shows how this is already a better book than a movie, a story best suited to print. Calvo’s description of Lucas spotting Anibal Manta across the room as the “largest photographer he has ever seen” (p. 140) is silly but fabulous. It is where the book and its descriptions give the invisible narrator (Calvo) a chance to show off his wit and point of view in a way no camera or script could.
Discuss in the comments section below:
1. Any guesses about the significance of the photograph of Lorenzo Giraut, Koldo Cruz, and Bocanegra?
2. Are there any rules here? In many stories about criminals, we learn that perpetrators have rules. There are lines they do not cross; loyalties they insist upon. Is anything emerging here?
3. Venison sashimi?
Laura: I got carried away this week. I’ve read very far ahead, so I hope that I don’t inadvertently throw in some spoilers. But, please, promise me that we can talk about the Pennywise lamp next week.
If last week was all about everyone getting lucky (in a matter of speaking), this week is about the opposite of luck. The cops do everything to make Pavel look like a rat—giving him everything but hugs and kisses before releasing him into the world. And it’s not long before he’s picked up by a business associate. The beating he gets isn’t the worst part of his day; that would be Donald Duck. I want to learn more about this guy, don’t you? The speaking device? His whole predilection for drills and using them for more sinister projects than mere home improvement? Best part: he’s married and has a baby on the way. (Single girl aside: what am I doing wrong here?!)
Anibal Manta has a terrible time this week. He’s been charged with guarding Panakian while the forger works on the pieces for the upcoming heist. Poor Manta. He’s such a big guy, so bitter about childhood slights. Anyway, didn’t you know as soon as he got to the grocery store that something terrible would go down? The man loves food. There’s no way he could focus on guarding Panakian while standing in line at the deli. I did love when he yelled at the indecisive old woman. I have nothing against the elderly—just against those who don’t consider what they want while standing in line.
Anyway, I felt a little sad for poor Manta when he lost Panakian. I thought he would be killed, but not the case. He merely received a beating.
And nearly everyone gets beaten up, right? Hannah Linus gets her bum kicked by a jealous Mrs. Saudade. Honestly, who is this Juan de la Cruz Saudade? This man flexes in front of the mirror for hours, suggests bringing in prostitutes, and steals (and worse) for a living—and women go nuts over him. Sounds about right.
Poor Valentina’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. I hoped that Lucas might hit it off with her mother when they went on their date, but that didn’t happen. Even worse, Valentina’s teacher discovers a butter knife and a story wherein Valentina kills various members of her basketball team. Bad news.
The only other thing I have to comment on is the “Stephen King” chapter. I thought it was fun. But, Calvo, you are no King, sir.
Peggy: Good. We’re catching up with old friends and making connections between all these characters. A lot of people are getting beat up. Our friend Pavel, who raped his sister, gets a beating. Saudade’s wife goes after Hannah—you know she deserved it—and poor Manta gets it for losing Panakian.
Fonseca begs Lucas to sign the papers—alternately threatening and cajoling him—while Lucas makes him sit in the dark on a hard chair. In the perfect get-even scene, Lucas promises to sign the papers if Fonseca will tell him who set up his dad. When Lucas has what he wants, he kicks out Fonseca, who’s about to have a heart attack because he has to face the ferocious Fanny without signed papers.
Meanwhile, Hannah Linus has a grand opening at her gallery, and all the characters are here. Lucas escorts Marcia, who complains about the food and what everyone is wearing. The “largest photographer in the world” turns out to be Manta, and our handsome Eric Yanel is a waiter. The guy with his hand on super-cool Hannah’s butt is a cleaned-up Saudade. (I think Ashton Kutchner could play him; he can be goofy stupid and smoldering at the same time.) This could be a perfect scene from a James Bond movie.
Iris has decided to break out of the porn scene and get to know some writers and producers instead of hanging with the usual beautiful people. Too bad the writers and journalists have double chins, bad hair, and cheap clothes. (Are we really that bad?) And I think Yanel just got ditched.
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