I picked up Daniel A. Olivas’ novel The Book of Want on a whim. The slim volume caught my eye and when I flipped through it and saw what appeared to be a variety of different genres rolled into one novel, I was intrigued.
Turns out I had good reason to be interested in this novel. It follows a group of somewhat intertwined characters through a short period of their lives, focusing in on their desires (as the title implies) throughout. These desires range from lovers to recognition to belonging, and everything in between. Perhaps the stage directions in the last section (yes, stage directions — the text ranges from prose fiction to metafictional interviews to drama to IM conversations…and more) say it best:
The audience should not assume that these characters represent anything but themselves. They are not archetypes, paradigms, or metaphors for anything beyond themselves. They want comfort, love, sex, good foot, etc. Nothing magic, there. Yes, Moisés professes to want killing to stop. Most people want that, to be sure. Not all, but most. In any event, Conchita and Moisés will continue to live their lives together, never marrying because neither needs to. Conchita will eventually die first, many years from now, making Moisés curse God for taking another woman from him. But this is normal, such anger when we lose someone we love. ¿No?
This idea of the universality of desire — coupled with the difference between wanting and needing — runs under the surface of many of the vignettes in Olivas’ work. The title is right on: this book is all about want. Being wanted, wanting, etc.
GOOD FOR: Lovers of experimental fiction, nosy readers who like to glimpse juicy bits of characters’ lives, people looking for an introspective experience.
BAD FOR: Anyone looking for light fiction, fans of conventional storylines, firm believers that the world is black and white (as opposed to shades of gray).