Not too long ago it was my pleasure to read Manuel Puig’s Borgesian-titled novel Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages. Except for a few documents that conclude the book, the story is told entirely through unattributed dialog between two characters–an elderly Argentenian exile now living in New York City and the 30-year-old man who is paid to push his wheelchair around.
The deal with this book is that each character seems uniquely suited to play a role in the other’s life. Both have repressed a lot of themselves and as the two chracters interact the begin to realize how entwined they are–even though they’re perfect strangers. It’s sort of like watching two strands of DNA meet and slowly wind into a double helix.
Puig gets a lot of mileage from the uncertainty created by dialog-only storytelling. I’m certain that a few of the chapters actually only feature one character, and are perhaps dreams or hallucinations, but it’s difficult to be sure. Also, there’s a fair amount of role-playing between the two characters, and it’s interesting to see their words tranform as they morph into these new personalities. Even though there’s very little scene setting and descriptive detail, Puig manages to draw robust characters, partly because of the uncertainty engendered by the way he approaches the dialog.
I’ll also say that this is an extremely Freudian book. The old man has son issues and the caretaker has father issues and, well, they’re pretty Freudian. Read the book and see what I mean.