Kirkus Reviews
January 2008



DRAINING THE SEA

FICTION


Whiting Writers' Award-winner Marcom (The Daydreaming Boy, 2004,
etc.) obsessively explores the atrocities committed during the
Guatemalan civil war.


An unnamed middle-aged man, overweight and with kidney problems,
drives around Los Angeles picking up the carcasses of dead dogs. He
eats great quantities of fatty foods, he drinks, he watches TV. But
mostly he remembers, or imagines, a woman named Marta from the
village of Acul in Guatemala. Marta died in 1982 after being
tortured. Her hands were cut off. She was mutilated and raped.
Perhaps the man was involved in killing her. Perhaps he was her
torturer. Or her lover. Or he is imagining her existence and
experiencing generalized guilt. The man, who is half-Armenian, also
reflects on his mother's memories of the 1915 genocide. But mostly he
talks to Marta, spilling forth his worst sexual fantasies in coarsely
graphic detail. Or are they fantasies? As lovemaking and torture are
described and redescribed, the images pile up into a confusing
nightmare. What happens in the first few pages is embellished, then
embellished again. There is little forward motion; Marcom is not
going for a story. The book is an indictment of Guatemalan dictators,
U.S. expansionism and American values in general. The text includes a
historical timeline and photographs of Los Angeles, Acul and the Der
Zor Desert. Marcom's language is always fervent, whether gorgeous or
foul. But slogging through page after page of atrocities becomes
grueling.


As Marcom notes in her peculiar diction, "In paradise the suffering
is real and you no more real than this unreadable and unread book
(will you read it, Reader? Do you?)". Despite good intentions, most
won't.

Publication Date: 3/13/2008 0:00:00
Publisher: Riverhead