Saturday, December 22, 2007

Kiss and Tango- novel by Marina Palmer

Did I find the book or the did the book find me?... Sounds like the title of a story by the Argentine writer Luis Borges?
I was in one of my exploratory walks in the jacaranda-clad avenues, filled with the aroma coming from the side-walk cafes of the elegant city of Buenos Aires. I came across a English bookshop. I stopped when I saw the title.."Kiss and Tango- diary of a dancehall seductress". It was instant seduction.
But when I saw name of the author... I hesitated. I thought it might be another one of those Gringa ( American woman ) package with lot of marketing hype and a bit of story. But I gambled, as my Argentine amigos do in love and life, and bought the book. .... Dios Mio... When I started reading, I could not stop. And when I was nearing the last pages, I did not want it to end. I wanted it to go on like all-night tango... It was sheer enjoyment from the beginning to the end.

The story is about a young American woman,who visits Buenos Aires for a week and gets introduction to Tango. After her return to New York, she starts learning, finds it interesting and becomes obsessed. She dances all night and yawns all day in the office. She loses interest in her advertising executive job, quits it and comes back to Buenos Aires to become a professional tango dancer.

Now tango becomes life ... or life becomes a tango. She discovers the meaning of the saying " two to tango". She might be a great dancer but she needs a partner. And she starts the pursuit of an ideal partner.. a dancer who will lead her on the dance floor perfectly, a macho who will take her to orgasmic heights, a husband who will be tender, loyal and blind to the other beauties and a man with the right age, height,length and without bad breath. But she gets one disappointment after another and goes through one desencuentro ( a meet which did not materialise because the guy forgot or got the date or place mixed up..) after an encuentro.

She goes through the every day ritual of finding a partner at the milonga ( dance hall). The woman has to wait for a " cabezeo" .. a nod inviting you to dance. So she hangs around desperate for a cabezeo. After dancing with one man, she wants to do with others. But when he dances with others, she cannott take it.

What happens after the all night tango? the man invites her for a little " mate"- the bitter Argentine herbal tea at 5 am. your place or mine?. It could be climax or anti-climax, she is never sure. When she finds out, that experience makes her wait for or dread the dance partnership with that guy the next night.

One dance, one night-stand ... Then she starts seeing beyond the night and the morning sex. She wants marriage but finds it as a mirage. Compromisso( commitment in spanish) is the word missing in the vocabulary of the tango Machos. She is frustrated, desperate and goes through jealousy, rivalry, fights and heart-breaks.

Tango becomes a nightmare. Life becomes like the tango lyrics.... sad, frustrating, bitter and nostalgic.

After dancing in many Milongas and a few shows and short of funds, she ends up as a street performer in Calle Florida, the famous shopping avenue of the city. She runs out of audience when the Argentines are hit by the economic crisis of December 2001. She flees Argentina and gets away from tango. She returns in 2005 to rediscover that Tango had never left her. It has become part of her body and soul and she remembers every "body" with whom she had danced

I found the book as a window to the world of Tango, Buenos Aires and the Argentine society. The author has given an authentic flavour of the life of Portenos, as the inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called.

I enjoyed her subtle British style wit and tongue- in- cheek American upfront articulations about sex and feelings. She is provocative and hilarious.
Her website is as interesting as I imagined about the author of Kiss and Tango. She lives in Buenos Aires.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

-She realises the law of physics: two bodies that rub against each other for four hours, three times a week cause friction; friction causes sparks; and sparks cause a fire. And by definition , tango is about containing the fire. you need a fire, because without it, there is nothing to contain. So tango is about playing with fire without getting burnt".

-Tango involves kicking the heels between the legs of the partner. When the the macho does not behave, he gets it up. But the machos dont flinch because either they dont have balls or they have become so numb after so many hits.

-Latin lovers love the chase more than the conquest.


Anjan said...

One of the earliest things that I had done after landing in Argentina (my maiden foray into South America) was to watch a Tango show in a pretty authentic setting. The experience opened up various facets of Argentine culture, their outlook towards life. Tango (which to me was like emotion in motion) is probably the best manifestation of the quintessential passion that pervades life in gereneral out here. This beautiful piece of blog helps reinforce that very thought.

Asian Indian said...

dear sir,
thanks for this post. its very informative and intersting.