Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

A man and his imagination build a world for himself

Gustavo Highway Sanchez Sanchez is the eccentric hook on which hangs this intellectually impressive literary compendium. He is an itinerant auctioneer, a loquacious story teller, starting from the Beginning, the story of his birth, as a “tiny brown swollen blog fish”, then wandering into the Hyperbolics, the Parabolics, the Circulars, the Allegorics, the Elliptics and finally the Chronologics. There’s an extended sequence of a church sanctioned auction of some old teeth to a congregation of dementia patients. Highway manages to link the teeth to the greatest minds/mouths of European civilization. The book is a mosaic of off-the-wall tall tales. Finally there is an Afterword, (actually a graphical timeline) which Luiselli’s translator contributed.  The entire work is based on collaboration, in fact, with the employees of Jumex, a Mexican juice factory.

This book felt very Latin American, that is, taking silliness extremely seriously, using the flights of fancy as springboard to communicate life truths. There’s loads here, packed into 200 pages (and plenty of white space.) This is not a book the reader can blast through, the stories needs to be savored, to be considered. I’m not completely sure this was my cup of tea, however. I viewed the story of Highway and his troubles with a detached amusement and I prefer being passionately transported.

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