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The People of Paper (Salvador Plascencia)

November 7, 2010

This is one of my favorite novels, and it’s also one that I’m definitely including in my dissertation. That being said, I still feel that I haven’t gleaned everything I can glean from it even now, after the 3rd reading. It’s an unusual novel to be sure, and very intriguing in its form.

When I read it this time, I was really interested by the mechanical tortoise and its actions regarding the US-Mexico border. I am curious about the way it compresses the land, literally shrinking the distance between LA and Tijuana. I’m thinking about this, mulling it over as I prepare to write the portion of my chapter dealing with this.

Another issue I was fascinated by was the parallel between metafiction and colonization that Plascencia makes throughout the novel, and which I intend to explore in greater detail in my chapter. I like the inclusion of Napoleon here, and the way Plascencia goes about building him into the novel in a way that isn’t immediately understandable, but eventually becomes apparent.

The religious aspect of the story is one of the parts that I know I could use a deeper understanding of. I have some ideas about it, but the way it crops up in the form of monks and nuns and saints and papal decrees is just…well, it permeates the texts and I know it’s important, but I haven’t yet developed my ideas regarding this enough to form coherent thoughts.

I’m still enamored with the characters Little Merced and Merced de Papel, mostly because of Little Merced’s unusual addiction to limes, and Merced de Papel’s status as a person of paper. These characters are fascinating, and there’s something about these two women (perhaps the only two women Saturn does not condemn for their sexual exploits) that predisposes me to be sympathetic to their plights. As for the third (and original) Merced, she’s not quite so sympathetic given her abandonment of Little Merced and Federico de la Fe.

The playfulness of Plascencia’s novel and the blurring of lines between fiction and reality, our world and theirs, the US and Mexico…there’s so much going on here that’s complex and understated, and I think that there’s a lot of room for exploration. In any case, it you’re looking for an unconventional read, this is a great book to check out. You can thank McSweeney’s for publishing the first edition (and Harcourt for picking it up after that).

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