J.I.'s Reviews > The People of Paper

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
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's review
Dec 17, 2012

bookshelves: read-2011
Read in July, 2011

This is a book that has torn me a bit. It starts off beautifully: the writing is strong, the imagery is powerful and the gimmicks make logical sense in the story and seem to add a dimension to the reading. Quickly, though, things get off track. Most of the time, the sections narrated by characters sounds exactly like the sections narrated by other characters. There is no real difference in voice. But okay, that's fine, the book is still quite good.

What happens, though, is that the book decides that it is going to be heavily, heavily metatextual. This is why people are bringing up Calvino's name all of the time. Unfortunately, this novel doesn't say anything about writing or reading that is particularly interesting. In it, the characters rise up against the writer, and they succeed? Or something? Only the novel has been written, so they've failed? The whole precious concept comes crashing down. There are also blacked out sections and a picture, and overlaps in what has happened in the author's life (the author within the novel, not necessarily the author who wrote the novel) and all kinds of things, but I couldn't find a way to really care about that.

The People of Paper starts off being this story about loss and suffering and sadness and then it becomes a story about an author writing about suffering and sadness, and then it is about characters rebelling and more sadness? Characters start getting added at the end, events come together in a rush of random pieces and while some may feel that there is a sort of a party atmosphere, to me, it feels disjointed and a little bit broken.

Unlike something like If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, I do not understand and explore the act of reading or of writing, nor does this glimpse behind the curtain feel like a new kind of a narrative. Rather, it feels very much like a discussion where someone says how cool it would be if in the novel the characters act up and the author gets sucked in and blahblahblah until they pass out from alcohol consumption. There are more wonderful ideas within this novel than I can count, but it feels like too many tubes of paint mushed together, so that they lose their individual uniqueness and everything mixes to a kind of a brownish mire and the direction that the work was heading and the intention of the artist become an implied question mark.

Which is to say, in a long, rambling, negative way, that I truly enjoyed this novel and I think that there is so much going for it, but that it is so intent on being clever that it trips up and stumbles and forgets what it was saying. I hope to read Plascencia's next novel and I hope that by then he has found his feet.

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