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New Yorker Fiction Review #175: "Spiderweb" by Mariana Enriquez

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Review of a short story from the Dec. 19 & 26, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

This story, "Spiderweb," by Mariana Enriquez, combines a lot of what is great about Latin American fiction -- mysticism, the gothic, a deep mistrust of authority -- without the overdoses of magical realism that I've never particularly been able to get on board with.

In this story, a young Argentine woman, her husband, and her neice, all take a trip into Paraguay (which sits on Argentina's northeastern border), have some car trouble, get spooked by some Paraguayan soldiers, and the main character's husband walks off into the night inexplicably.

In the meantime while all this is happening, the main character laments the fact that she's married the wrong person. In fact, if nothing else, the story is a pitch-perfect glimpse into the psychology of someone trapped in a relationship with someone they've come to loathe.

The main character's desperate wish that when she comes out of her shower, "the cigarette would have set the sheets on fire and [her husband] would die there, in the Clorinda hotel" is so frank and macabre it's almost funny. And most importantly, it's honest writing.

Carrying through the story is the main character's running obsession with insects and their names. She seems to be fixated on the names of insects and how certain of the names are inappropriate, such as firefly vs. lightning bug.

I don't know how to feel about this gag. I don't think it particularly ties into the story very closely, or very well, but all the same: it kind of works. It gives the main character a sort of dreaminess that sort of goes along with the fact that, at least at this moment in her life, she is not in this world, not living her life, but rather a life that she hates, as she dreams of a way out of it. She wants life to be better, more beautiful, but at this point in time she is powerless to make that happen.

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