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The People of Paper


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ISBN13: 9780156032117
ISBN10: 0156032112
Condition: Standard
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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

blackmoldhouse, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by blackmoldhouse)
I became addicted to limes after finishing this book, full of grief at the passing.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
Ursula Marinelli, January 8, 2013 (view all comments by Ursula Marinelli)
This is my all-time favorite book!
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Kathryn Hathaway, January 16, 2010 (view all comments by Kathryn Hathaway)
Surreal, character driven, a new voice.
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(2 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
olivasdan, November 12, 2006 (view all comments by olivasdan)
Book Review

By Daniel Olivas

Salvador Plascencia?s debut novel, The People of Paper (McSweeney?s Books), is a wonderfully strange, hallucinogenic and hypertextual blending of fiction and autobiography. The Prologue?s first sentences thrust us into an almost familiar yet purely mythical world while introducing Plascencia?s sly brand of humor: ?She was made after the time of ribs and mud. By papal decree there were to be no more people born of the ground or from the marrow of bones. All would be created from the propulsions and mounts performed underneath bedsheets?rare exceptions granted for immaculate conceptions.?

The papal decree shuts down the monk-run factory where people were made so that humans could be free to populate the world in a more organic fashion. They begin a march that ?was to proceed until the monks forgot the location of the factory?an impossible task for a tribe that had been trained to memorize not only scripture but also the subtle curvature of every cathedral archway they encountered.?

But one monk, the fifty-third in the procession to be exact, sneaks away from the formation and wanders off. He eventually gives the coordinates of the padlocked factory to the brilliant paper surgeon, Antonio, who uses the factory to create his masterpiece, the ?she? of the first sentence. Antonio, when finished, collapses on the factory floor, blood dripping from his hands. The paper woman silently steps over him, leaves the factory and walks into a storm: ?The print of her arms smeared; her soaked feet tattered as they scrapped against wet pavement and turned her toes to pulp.?

Now comes the strange part (or the first of a series of strange parts). Chapter One switches from standard book-page format to what will become a recurring visual motif: columns (similar to the look of a typical newspaper), each one headlined by the name of a character and written either in the first or third person. We learn of Saturn, the omniscient presence who lets us see poor Federico de la Fe, a bed wetter who is married to the beautiful Merced. They have a daughter, Little Merced, who sucks limes like her mother and who loves her father very much. Merced cannot stand the bedwetting (at least that is Federico de la Fe?s belief) so she leaves him for another man. To quell his heartbreak, Federico de la Fe discovers a ?cure for remorse?: the infliction of pain through fire. He also decides to leave Mexico and head to Los Angeles where he and Little Merced can begin a new life. On the bus, they encounter the Baby Nostradamus whose columns are not filled with words but with black ink. They also meet the paper woman who tells Little Merced that she was never christened. So Little Merced dubs the woman Merced de Papel?a name that can translate loosely to ?paper favor? or ?at the mercy of paper? or even ?thanks to paper.?

Federico de la Fe and Little Merced eventually settle in El Monte, a predominantly Latino community about a dozen miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It is here that Federico de la Fe becomes the leader of an army to fight Saturn who lives in the sky and can read everyone?s thoughts. Federico de la Fe recruits a gang of cholos as his troops. Other story lines abound. There?s Margarita Cansino, the Mexican beauty who sleeps with lettuce pickers until Hollywood discovers her after she changes her appearance to look white; she becomes Rita Hayworth. Merced de Papel makes a home in Southern California and passes the time by sleeping with many men who cut their tongues and fingers on her private parts; these men belong to a secret society of those who have suffered such exquisite paper cuts. There?s also the wrestling saint, Napoleon Bonaparte, a curandero, flower pickers, Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, a glue sniffer, and a mechanic who makes robot tortoises whose lead shells Federico de la Fe uses to encase the homes of his troops to keep Saturn from penetrating their thoughts.

And who is this mysterious Saturn? As the novel progresses, we learn that he is Mexican who is dumped by his Mexican girlfriend, Liz, who falls for a white man. Saturn eventually attempts to fill the void with another woman, Camaroon. All the while, a curious cholo, Smiley, who doesn?t heed Federico de la Fe?s warnings, searches out Saturn to learn whether he is good or bad. How does he do this? He rips a whole in the sky and enters the bedroom of Saturn aka Salvador Plascencia. Saturn is really nothing more than a writer. And his creations are taking over his life. Smiley confronts Plascencia who sadly does not recognize him much to Smiley?s consternation. Is he not important enough a character that his creator should know him immediately? Too many characters, apologizes Plascencia. Too many to remember.

The battle continues. Plascencia fights heartbreak. His creations fight for autonomy. When Plascencia is too depressed to control his characters, their voices spill onto the page in haphazard fashion, columns running vertically and horizontally, all semblance of plot ripped apart by voices wanting to be free and heard. At one point, the novel begins again when Camaroon complains about being turned into a character in Plascencia?s book.

What an astonishing, strange and deeply moving novel this is. In all his playfulness, Plascencia nonetheless grapples with troubling issues of free will, religious fidelity, ethnic identity, failed love and the creative process which he melds into a dreamscape that is impossible to forget. Plascencia?the God of his paper people?has given us a startling work of fiction that stretches not only the norms of storytelling, but also the bounds of our imagination.

[This review first appeared in The Elegant Variation.]
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Product Details

Plascencia, Salvador
Harvest Books
Loss (psychology)
General Fiction
Experimental fiction
Psychological fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
9.25 x 6.5 in 0.78 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The People of Paper Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Harvest Books - English 9780156032117 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Plascencia's mannered but moving debut begins with an allegory for art and the loss that drives it: a butcher guts a boy's cat; the boy constructs paper organs for the feline, who is revivified; the boy thus becomes the world's first origami surgeon. Though Plascencia's book sometimes seems to take the form of an autobiographical attempt to come to terms with a lost love, little of this experimental work — a mischievous mix of Garca Mrquez magical realism and Tristram Shandy typographical tricks — is grounded in reality. Early on we meet a 'Baby Nostradamus' and a Catholic saint disguised as a wrestler while following the enuretic Fernando de la Fe and his lime-addicted daughter from Mexico to California. Fernando — whose wife, tired of waking in pools of piss, has left him — settles east of L.A. in El Monte. He gathers a gang of carnation pickers to wage a quixotic war against the planet Saturn and, in a Borges-like discovery, Saturn turns out to be Salvador Plascencia. Over a dozen characters narrate the story while fighting like Lilliputians to emancipate themselves from Plascencia's tyrannical authorial control. Playful and cheeky, the book is also violent and macabre: masochists burn themselves; a man bleeds horribly after performing cunnilingus on a woman made of paper. Plascencia's virtuosic first novel is explosively unreal, but bares human truths with devastating accuracy. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "A stunning debut by a once-in-a-generation talent. I don't know of a young American writer more original, innovative, or intense than Salvador Plascencia. The People of Paper is harrowing and gorgeous, experimental in the truest sense: it creates new means to explore essential and timeless emotional subjects." George Saunders
"Review" by , "Salvador Plascencia weaves together the daily life details of this world and the big ideas surrounding them to a stirring end effect. The People of Paper is a terrifically original debut." Aimee Bender
"Review" by , "Plascencia's surrealistic metanovel, styled a la Garcia Marquez, is a charming meditation on the relationship between reader, author, and story line, filled with mythic imagery...readers will find it hard to turn away."
"Review" by , "[I]t's sometimes difficult to follow the plotline. But, oh, is it fun."
"Review" by , "The People of Paper is impressive on terms anyone can appreciate. Behind all the devices, Plascencia still manages to construct a classic story."
"Review" by , "The People of Paper is a novel like no other, emerging from the chrysalis of magic and imagination to create a world of letters that seeps back into the world we know and then metamorphoses into something else altogether. Calvino, Borges, and Garcia Marquez will come to mind, but Plascencia's novel is a creature of its own, firmly grounded and soaring at the same time." T. C. Boyle
"Synopsis" by , The People of Paper is an astonishing debut novel about the anguish of lost love. Author Salvador Plascencia, a "once-in-a-generation talent" (George Saunders), weaves together the stories of a large cast of colorful characters, including: a disgruntled monk, a father and daughter, a gang of carnation pickers, and a woman made of paper.
"Synopsis" by ,
"The People of Paper is a novel like no other . . . Calvino, Borges, and García Márquez will come to mind, but Plascencia's novel is a creature of its own, firmly grounded and soaring at the same time."--T. C. Boyle

Federico de la Fe is a devoted husband and father, but his lime-loving wife, Merced, abandons him, and he and his daughter, Little Merced (who also loves limes), must start a new life together. They leave their home in Mexico and head for California, where they settle among a community of flower-pickers. Federico de la Fes sadness festers, and Little Merceds love for limes develops into a dangerous addiction.

All the while, an oppressive force bears down on the town. When the identity of this mysterious oppressor is finally revealed, the story takes an unexpected turn and moves toward its magical, breathtaking end. A mesmerizing debut novel about the anguish of lost love, The People of Paper marks the arrival of an incredibly talented new writer.

"Wondrous and comically inventive."—The New York Times Book Review

"[A] charming meditation on the relationship between reader, author, and story line, filled with mythic imagery and unforgettable personalities . . . Readers will find it hard to turn away from The People of Paper. A."--Entertainment Weekly

"A nervy new voice."—San Francisco Chronicle

"[I]mpressive on terms anyone can appreciate."--Los Angeles Times

SALVADOR PLASCENCIA was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Whittier College and holds an MFA from Syracuse University. The People of Paper is his first novel.

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