[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
[I had to take the slip cover off of the book when reading it because of this nakie lady, here. Last thing I wanted was for people to see me carrying around what I’m sure they’d assume was smut]
“Ríos takes us into the eerie existence of the painter Victor Mons, who has created a series of works titled Monstruary, a menagerie of personal demons summoned from the disturbing and often erotic images of his past. We follow Mons on nocturnal outings and infernal escapades, as he encounters fiendish figures, otherworldly phantasms, and the beautiful models and prostitutes who serve as his muses. And we meet a host of fascinating and haunting characters: the architect who attempts to deconstruct a real city by constructing imaginary ones; the anonymous patron who commissions his portrait to be painted on his mistress’s skin; Mons’s ethereal lover, who torments him by recounting her infidelities–which he then paints; the mysterious itinerant collector, who may be only an actress playing the role of a lifetime.”
This is another one of those synopsii that made me be like:
This is another book that I found at a thrift store that has been sitting on my shelf for awhile that was in my collection of ‘just fucking read them or donate them’ that I’ve been slowly making my way through the last year and a half or so.
The title was what first intrigued me. A Monster Sanctuary = Monstruary = sweeeeet [though it’s surprisingly hard to say without sounding garbled for some reason]
Then I saw the nakie lady on the cover and was like ‘hmmm’ and after reading the synopsis, decided that it was going to be up my alley.
I… don’t know if I was wrong or not. I still actually don’t know what the hell I just read.
The book highlights that it’s been translated into English, which usually I haven’t found to be an issue in previous translated books except for a rare example here and there. I can’t say the same with Monstruary. I’ve read online that some of the first editions of the book still didn’t have the best translation-to-print and I haven’t even checked to see if my copy falls within that but it definitely feels like it. I’m conflicted about it though because it could also just definitely be the writing style of the book [more on that later], but other than some of the sentence structure just doesn’t make sense, there are a ton of run-on sentences and general strange punctuation. Also! It’s not until the very end/last section of the book that speech/conversations have quotations around them. Which I have never encountered in a book before. It’s actually really awful, and caused me to have to re-read sections to try and figure out where a conversation started/ended since it didn’t have quotes around it.
I also started to get extremely frustrated because apparently the main language was translated [Spanish] but all throughout the book, other languages are used besides English that aren’t translated. Which wouldn’t have been a huge issue IF a translation had been offered at the bottom of the page with a * index or even the translation in ( ) afterwards but nooope. And I’m not talking about a word or two every so often, I’m talking full sentences and even small paragraphs in non-English that also don’t have context clues. So if you’re going to be reading this, make sure to have a translator of some kind at the ready.
So now finally to the actual story. I still don’t really know what the hell I read. The entire book to me seemed to be written almost like someone describes a dream that they can’t quite remember. Some parts were very detailed, vivid, and clear to understand. But then other parts were all over the place, kinda vague, and hard to follow. The story mostly follows an artist named Mons, who creates monstrous versions of people and events and he collects these in his ‘Monstruary.’ It also surrounds his interactions with other artists that he semi/regularly mingles with who have their own strange lives and their creations, and a surprising number of these other artists either meet untimely ends or suffer physically in some way, usually relating to the art project they were working on.
The book also, as the synopsis suggests, gets a bit erotic. But by ‘a bit’ and ‘erotic,’ it means ‘full on smut’ because there is actual just straight up pornographic written scenes in the book. And of course it felt like every time I got to one of these scenes, I was reading my book in public, and people were behind me. I often had to shrivel into my seat with my book closer to myself than I actually read it because it just felt weird to be reading porn in public places lmao. An additional content warning for the book is that it was written late 90’s/early 2000’s and in a different country. A lot of the descriptions of people are cringe-y. Expect racism and sexism, and lots of slut shaming [despite that most of the male characters are the ones who are working with sex workers and trying to get women to sleep with them.]
I seriously considered stopping and giving this book up five different times while reading. But for some reason, right as I was about to give up and mark it as ‘DNF’ and put it in the donate pile, I got to a part that drew me back in. Some of the descriptions of the various strange monsters and happenings in the book and the weird adventures of Mons are genuinely interesting. But you have to wade through the ‘unclear/vague/hard to follow’ parts to get to the good ones. I decided finally I should finish the book to get through it and not have wasted time in all my attempts to read it when I could have read other books by now.
I give Monstruary 2/5 Tauromachies
“Perhaps as the result of another Bloody Mary, he was out like a light, submerged in a soft eggshell from which his blond head peered out like a pale yolk in the half-light of strange spiders that hung like lamps and moved up and down luminous threads in the rocokitsch room crowded with strange furniture and repulsive objects like the beetle or cockroach telephone that dragged itself across the rug. And while he was still nodding it seemed to him that a wig or hairy round black spider smiled at him with the smile of the Cheshire Cat.”
“She would not permit anyone, not even her husband, to see her on Saturdays, because on that day her beautiful legs were transformed into a serpent’s tail. Melusine’s Striptease is the title of the painting in which a naked Armelle holds up a stocking that looks like a snakeskin.”
“Death is also a funky facepainter.”