Birmingham Public Library: Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Uncover Secrets of the Universe
Sáenz’s method of amoral questioning serves readers and characters as the story progresses.
Readers and characters can challenge their preconceptions and experiment with ideas and lessons that, if phrased more directly, might end in twists of hands and knees rather than true understanding and recognition.
Of course, none of this subtlety and craftsmanship would get us anywhere without such vivid and fully developed characters. While the writers often abuse the trope of “opposites attract” to expand the current playing field, Sáenz’s color wheel is not exhausted on the main characters.
Although the story focuses on Aristotle and Dante, characters tangential to the story, like Gina Navarro and Aunt Ophelia, are clearly visible, even in part.
Perhaps no character is more masterfully drawn than Ari’s father, Mr. Mendoza.
His heavy silence weighs on Ari, but Sáenz has no difficulty in making it clear that he also weighs on Mr. Mendoza. Before long, the reader feels this weight. This fully formed but socially stunted man whose entire existence, except for fleeting references to his dreams, is painted in shades of darkness.
Yet, as with the rest of the themes and characters in the book, Sáenz slowly plays up Ari and Mr. Mendoza’s relationship, allowing Ari and the reader to process Mr. Mendoza’s current behavior and past actions that are shaping the here.
Ari’s relationship with his father illustrates one of the main themes of Aristotle and Dante Uncover the secrets of the universe, the theme of clear communication. Sáenz returns to this point several times.
As a repulsive to the expressive Dante, Mr. Mendoza’s austere silence forces readers to consider the consequences of silence. Yet the consequences of vocalization lead to their own calculations.
We find Ari often wallowing in solitude – not opening the envelope with information about his long-lost brother, ignoring Dante’s calls, feeling uncomfortable and angry at Dante’s will to to be frank – despite the violence of his own father’s silence towards him.
As the story progresses, we see Ari fill in the gaps in his father’s peace of mind by creating conversations in his own mind. Not surprisingly, this behavior leads to resentment.
“I tried to talk in a trivial way,” Ari tells us at the end of the book, “I tried to pretend that I hadn’t had this imaginary conversation with him. Not that he knew what I was doing. ‘had said. But I knew it. And I knew that I wanted to say these things even though I hadn’t. “
Somehow, even though Ari reluctantly accepts his father’s silence, he feels more secure, covered in his own silence, hiding his feelings for himself and Dante. When Dante moves to Chicago, their relationship unfolds over a series of letters.
This technique shifts the quality of conversations from everyday events to more philosophical and social conversations, which is pure genius.
Sáenz chooses to ditch the quick dialogue he masters so well to reveal a deeper look into the psyche of two teenage boys discovering their bodies. Fittingly, this section of the novel becomes Dante’s story despite being told through Ari’s voice.
Ari’s fear prevents him from writing as often as Dante, cleverly replacing Ari’s beliefs and values with those of Dante. As Dante continues to be vulnerable in his letters, even without Ari responding, we see the terror and angst that drives Ari to hide from himself and others.
Typical teenage topics like kissing, masturbating, and the kind of attraction to someone cause Ari to shut down. The more he closes with Dante (and, to a lesser extent, Dante’s parents), the more he finds himself pursuing ideas in which he does not fully believe.
When Dante’s family returns from Chicago, Dante finds himself in a hospital bed due to his willingness to be transparent about who he is. This opens the way for Aristotle to choose between his family history, his cultural mores and his past beliefs; or the luck of present and future happiness.
As the end draws near, the revelations begin to come. However, as often happens in real life, by the time the revelations come in, they are less about today’s news and more about the steps that have occurred in between.
Beautifully written, this book can resonate with any reader regardless of race, age or sexual orientation.
But for those of us who have struggled with our own demons over love, gender, sex, and race, this work of fiction is a powerful and moving tale of self-discovery and love. self love.
Aristotle reminds us at the beginning of the novel: “Some boys live by different rules.
The answer, while not explicitly written, is the whole of this book.
Sáenz tells readers in letters painted in neon pink and measuring twenty feet tall, “It’s okay. You’re fine.”
Our blog today is written by Caleb Calhoun, an avid reader, author and poet. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his partner and their newly rescued Beveron rabbit, Jayber Crow, and works for the Birmingham Public Library at the Powder Branch.
If you want to get in touch, you can reach him by e-mail at the address [email protected].
This press release was produced by Birmingham Public Library. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.