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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Cut Guavas

Robert Antoni

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To purchase Cut Guavas

Title: Cut Guavas
Author: Robert Antoni
Genre: Novel
Written: 2018
Length: 195 pages
Availability: Cut Guavas - US
Cut Guavas - UK
Cut Guavas - Canada
Goyaves coupées - France
directly from: Peepal Tree Press
  • Or ... Postscript to the Civilization of the Simians
  • A novel shapeshifting as a screenplay
  • With numerous photographs and film-stills

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Our Assessment:

B : creative approach but not ideally realized

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Cut Guavas is presented as: A novel shapeshifting as a screenplay. It stars real-life Trinidadian-American actor Austin Stoker (1930-2022) -- best-known for his roles in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). The novel is set in 2016, when, as Austin tells wife Robin: "They're finally doing that ASSAULT sequel, after forty-three years". Not Assault on Precinct 13 but rather: "The SIMIAN one"; as the back-cover copy to the book notes, Antoni is paying "fan-fiction homage to that famous simian brand", while: "Evading the wrath of company lawyers zealously protecting their franchise" -- hence the avoidance of mention of anything 'Planet of the Apes' ..... But is is certainly Battle for the Planet of the Apes -- the final movie in the original quintet (1968-1973) of the simian series (with a 2001 Planet of the Apes remake then followed by a new series of films starting in 2011) -- that is meant here, with the fictional sequel proposed here called: Postscript to the Civilization of the Simians.
       Cut Guavas is, however, not simply the screenplay of the proposed movie, but also a behind-the-scenes script of Stoker's domestic life, as well as of the making of parts of the movie. So, for example, early scenes include Austin and his wife having breakfast, and then Austin in the MGM Casting Studio, reading for the part.
       The part is the crux of the matter, as Cut Guavas explores questions of identity -- from national and racial identity to questions of paternity (regarding Austin both as son and as father). So when Austin reads for the part:

Let's try that again,
this time give me Stoker.

You mean Anderson.

I mean what I say.
I want STOKER.
       When Austin gets home he tells his wife it looks like he got the part -- an African American human called Stoker:
     "Stoker," he repeats. "I'm playing Stoker."
     Robin holds up her empty chopsticks. She stares at him -- surprisingly, complicatedly upset: frightened, frustrated, flabbergasted.
     "Stoker ?" she says. "How can you play Stoker ?"
     She takes a deep breath, tries to calm herself.
     There's a brief, tense silence.
     Suddenly Robin slams her chopsticks down -- flat beneath her palm -- a loud smacking noise against the primitive wood table.
     "Austin, you ARE Stoker."
       Postscript to the Civilization of the Simians is set in 2680 AD, where the simian Maximos: "convinces Anderson to go with him to Forbidden City in search of the tape"; as Maximos tells Stoker: "we're going to look for your tape in the Archives of Forbidden City. Same way you helped me find my tape ten years ago" -- referencing the events from Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which was indeed set in 2670 AD.
       Austin plays Anderson (and himself, as the director wants); he corresponds to the character of MacDonald from Battle for the Planet of the Apes (the character the actual Austin Stoker played in that movie), while Maximos corresponds to simian leader Caesar (and Homer corresponds to the Virgil of the original). As in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, a nuclear bomb destroyed what is now Forbidden City; "the place still buzzes with radioactivity", but humans -- called mutants -- still survive there.
       The film in the archive documents that Austin Stoker is the son of Governor Kirk Sr. (the Governor Kolp of the actual movie) -- mirroring also the actual Austin's illegitimacy, which is also explored in the novel, these two strands together allowing for a journey of discovery that culminates in Austin telling his wife that he finally has: "a better sense of where I came from".
       A full adventure-movie also plays out across the novel's five parts, including that foray into Forbidden City. Woven in is some of Antoni's own family history -- with the authorial presence also making itself felt in footnote-asides, as in explaining the line: "Stoker nudges Homer into dialectic action" with the observation:
author disclaims the term "dialectic action" as somewhat overblown, but retains it here to remain faithful to the script of the simian ASSAULT
       The screenplay(s) really are multilayered -- with even that for Postscript to the Civilization of the Simians presented not only in its cinematic form but also coffee-shop table readings of some of its scenes. Throughout, characters are in and out of character -- emphasizing yet again the question of the nature of identity, in its various forms. And there's even an off-screen cameo by "Chewbacca and Han Solo (Harrison Ford)".
       Racial identity also comes up in various forms -- not least in this version of Forbidden City, whose true father is presented as Donald J Drumpf (Donald J Trump having "reinstated his family surname with the ancestral 'Drumpf'" back in the day) and where now -- and unlike in Battle for the Planet of the Apes --: "there are no blacks, no multi-racial, non-white humans". They're radiation damaged and: "all zealously self-identify as whites"; they also all sport MAGA-type red baseball caps ("with the Greek letters 'Tau-Rho' inscribed" on them).
       Antoni's is an interesting approach to presenting this story, but falls a bit short in that he has difficulty fully committing to and embracing the screenplay-format, the novelist in him coming too much to the fore. The scenes between Austin and his wife, presented somewhat differently on the page, already show that, but the screenplay-proper itself also bogs down some. There's too much description, too much telling rather than letting the dialogue and action speak for itself; Cut Guavas is more art- than action-film, and as such more difficult to present in mere words. (The film stills and pictures interspersed in the text only limitedly help out here, too.)
       Antoni's coy copyright-issue-avoiding changes were presumably legally necessary but also are somewhat distracting -- though they help make Cut Guavas a good case study of some of what's wrong with the contemporary legal regime of copyright protection.
       It all makes for an interesting experiment -- with a solid underlying story and addressing-of-themes -- that just doesn't quite work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 April 2024

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Cut Guavas: Robert Antoni: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       West Indian-American author Robert Antoni was born in 1958.

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© 2024 the complete review

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