The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Telex from Cuba, by Rachel Kushner

My first “real” job out of college was working as a white-collar minion for United Fruit, back when they were based in Boston. Of course, this was long after the company had been expelled from Cuba in the late 1950s, but I knew they had a dark and difficult past. One of the things I love about Telex from Cuba is how it tells that very story. Kushner writes with such skill and grace that it’s almost impossible to believe that this is a first novel.

Told from multiple points of view — including through the eyes of a few children, which I normally don’t like but which works well here — Telex begins by slowly laying out the background of the privileged few, who were white, American, and often brutal. Compassion was not a value in the company towns of Preston and Nicaro. Kushner then layers on the stories of the workers, who were essentially slaves, and the rebels, along with some of those operating along the sides. The latter include an unethical Frenchman and an erotic dancer. Add Batista, the Castro brothers, and grave doubts about those introduced earlier, and you have a roiling, boiling tale of pain, anger, and revolution.

Most of us only know Cuba as this strange and forbidden island to the south of the United States. Kushner offers a vivid and exciting history lesson that adds many necessary dimensions. I recommend this book very highly, with one caveat.

And here is the caveat: one of the primary purposes of this blog is to screen books for people who can’t stand to read about violence to animals, sad animal scenes, etc. If violence against animals bothers you so much that it’s a criteria in choosing what and what not to read, then you can’t read this book. It is COMPLETELY UNSAFE for animal lovers. I found it quite disturbing in that regard, and there’s so much of it that I can’t isolate pages to skip or otherwise give advice that might make it readable for animal lovers.  Birds, pigs, monkeys, you name it, the species probably does very poorly in this book. I loved Kushner’s writing and, especially, storytelling abilities. And I hope she dials back the animal violence and neglect in future efforts.

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August 10, 2009 - Posted by | animals, birds, Book Reviews, historical fiction, travel | , , , ,

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