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07 June 2010

Book Review: The House on Mango Street





The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros


Cisneros has, by her description, written a "series of stories that would make sense if read alone, or that could be read all together to tell one big story, each story contributing to the whole - like beads in a necklace."

It's like a pointillist portrait taken to some painterly extreme; the dots are themselves made up of dots of spare yet powerful prose, dripping with imagery and despondency despite its nebulousness.  Each chapter is a dot made of dots, barely formed yet when you let your eyes relax, in that way that can make the moving blades of a ceiling fan disappear, the dots coalesce into a vague shape.  And so does the story.

But the shape it takes has the consistency of an ever-changing amoeba, almost making the prose itself the shape; the spare song of despair and hope, sidling up to each other like the twins they are, form each dot within a dot within a dot until the whole picture matters not at all.

"Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Their strength is secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground. They grow up and they grow down and grab the earth between their hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is how they keep. When I am too sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees. Four who reach and do not forget to reach."