cover image Larva: Midsummer Night's Babel

Larva: Midsummer Night's Babel

Julian Rios. Dalkey Archive Press, $27.5 (585pp) ISBN 978-0-916583-66-8

As a subtitle, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy would have done just as well. Ostensibly about the shenanigans of Don Juan with fairy tale figures and boot-wearing fetishists, Rios's tale is actually about words--using puns and palindromes, portmanteau and nonce words--in a flow that ignores the boundaries of language and, at times, taste, at which points it turns sophomoric. A masturbating friar is a ``semenarist;'' a search in the night is ``seekwalking'' as Rios, prolific Spanish novelist and essayist, blends and mashes words in an synergic mix of sound and meaning. Facing each page of text are notes--a scholarly device subverted in order to continue the word play. Some notes refer readers to the final section of the book, the 71 Pillow Notes which, taken together, form the tale of the misadventures of two young women (Babelle and Milalias) in London. Kudos to the translators and caveats to readers: this is fare for serious readers (with serious time) who do not take themselves too seriously. (Dec.)