Monday, August 12, 2013

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia

Have you ever read a book that you didn't quite know how to describe?  Have you ever tried to write a review of that book?

So, yeah.

The People of Paper is a tough one.  If pressed, I suppose I could say it's a post-modern meta-narrative that plays with technique and form.  But I would like people to read it so I'm not going to describe it that way.  At the end of the day it's a story about jilted lovers.  It's a story about a man whose wife leaves him and his daughter.  It's a story about the author, Salvador Plascencia writing himself and his relationship troubles into his own novel.  It's about a gang of flower-pickers, a living woman made of paper, an oppressive planet, an omniscient baby whose thoughts are literally blacked out in the text.  Try to stay with me.  It really does make sense...kind of. 

The story itself is odd, as I'm sure you've guessed.  So telling the story requires some innovation.  Most of the book jumps from perspective to perspective and to keep it all straight the character being highlighted is listed at the top of a column of text.  Two or three columns are on each page so you know who you're reading about and when.  This book appealed to me because I can have a short attention span with some stories so reading something that did not go anywhere I expected and using interesting techniques (there is a name that has been physically cut out of several passages) had me turning the pages.  All of the characters are likeable and a little tragic in their own ways.  And I related to characters trying to shield their thoughts and lives from the author who created them.  I can only hope that Plascencia didn't put everything he had into his debut so maybe we can get another interesting novel out of him sometime.

For another book with unique storytelling you could check out The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz from the Virginia Beach Public Library.

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