Ride the Snake
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Published in: July-August 2023 issue.

by João Gilberto Noll
Translated by Edgar Garbelotto
Two Lines Press. 274 pages, $14.95


AT ONE POINT in João Gilberto Noll’s bizarre, surreal, and sexy novel Hugs and Cuddles, the narrator finds himself in the dark room of a bathhouse. “You couldn’t see anything at all,” he writes. “You were touched and could reciprocate the touch or not. The body that wanted to play with me had a calm demeanor; once in a while it would just tell me come, come, and I’d ask myself where the hell does this guy want to take me? Isn’t he satisfied with kissing, our close breaths, masturbating each other, my finger wrecking his ass? Where else do I need to go? Our random pairing alone could embody an obscene graciousness all by itself.”

            “Obscene graciousness” quite aptly describes, as well, the plot and style of this modern Brazilian “epic written in a trance.” It’s a novel that many readers will find, as this reviewer certainly did, both immensely entertaining and utterly mystifying throughout its single, unbroken, almost 300-page paragraph. Exploring the interplay between reality and imagination, Noll pulls out all the stops, taking his narrator, whose name is also João, on an “itinerary of … interior action.”

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Philip Gambone is the author of five books, including the novel Beijing and the memoir As Far As I Can Tell: Finding My Father in World War II.