Valeria Luiselli is a rising star in Mexican literary circles and this novella is published by Granta. The blurbs praise her intellect and her mastery of prose. The book itself is a postmodern pastiche of styles which come together to explore the value of the things we buy and the way that celebrity attaches itself to consumer goods to inflate the price. All you need is a good story, and the narrator of this book, auctioneer Gustavo Sanchez Sanchez, tells stories of increasing absurdity to achieve ridiculous prices for the goods he auctions…
Which happen to be teeth. Sanchez himself has bought Marilyn Monroe’s teeth to replace his own, and thus he auctions his teeth with stories about them having belonged to everyone from Plato to Enrique Vila-Matas. Yes, it is meant to be absurd, and yes you are meant to get the connections with the literary borrowings from Proust and Shakespeare et al.
It’s less than 200 pages altogether and some of that is B&W photos of scenes from the novel and a timeline at the back. It’s littered with quotations and quasi-quotations but it’s not actually difficult to read though the shift from the mostly light-hearted and optimistic first person narration to the darker, perhaps posthumous concluding chapter is a bit of a jolt. Its quirkiness reminded me of the style of Cesar Aira’s Varamo. But – maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – but I didn’t find it amusing. Or especially illuminating…
I see from GoodReads that it polarises opinion.
Author: Valeria Luiselli
Title: The Story of My Teeth
Translated by Christina MacSweeney
Publisher: Granta 2015
Review copy courtesy of Allen and Unwin Australia.