Ethel Margaret's Reviews > The People of Paper

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
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Aug 30, 2009

Read in August, 2009

** spoiler alert ** It's on order from Skylight.

I read this at the insistence of a friend, who after reading the first four pages, emphatically enlisted others of us to read it as well. It's an engaging story that plays with the structure and process of literature, incorporating visual elements to good effect. The People of Paper is the meeting place of Magic Realism and Postmodernism. Avoid reading the back of the book — I think the experience of this one is enhanced by growing with the book.

Below are the notes I wrote in the margins along the way as I was trying to figure out the meaning of this, that, and the other...

*** Spoiler Alert ***

I'll add these notes later — I want a break from the internet right now.... Okay, I'm back. These are the unedited notes from my margins. They might show me to be insightful, or less than that. I haven't reviewed them so I don't know yet. Either way, this is just a haphazard history of my thoughts going through the book.

Impression from Prologue: rejection of god — mythological telling of atheism
Ch 1 + 2: treatment of the body + experience through the body. Intimate vulnerabilities presented w/ the accepting/detached familiarity. Display of emotion w/ economic use of words. More is said by saying less. by allowing room for varied experiences/emotions simultaneously (ie end of ch. 2)
Rejection of Saturn — another god.
Class consciousness.
To be happy — to be free

PAGE 112
Saturn/Author/God = grandson of Federico whom Saturn sees + whose mind he sees, except when concealed by lead (like x-ray vision)
a story of pain (glue sniffers, skin burners, lovers)
a story of love
a story of family
creation (paper people)
Where the supernatural (Saturn) meets the super/extremely natural (Saturn) — and bed wetting

Page 113

Whether it's true or not, I like to think of this book as a memoir (about a break up/or love)told as a myth — or in the magic realism style.
Part I is like the biographical/family history/growing up part of the memoir. But in telling the story, the author struggles with the role of "auteur" + so it comes out only at the end of the section that Saturn (the only narrative voice) is indeed the author.
And Federico's resistance to being watched by Saturn is an expression of the author's self-aware state. Intentionally the mythological design of the story telling distances the author from the role of protagonist. Rather, if this is a memoir, the choice to distance himself from the role of protagonist had to be intentional, although the motivation might be unknown.
blood as bodily, as lineage, as family, as history, as la historia/las cuentas — su historia y su cuenta como están la misma.
la cuenta suya y la cuenta de su familia como están la misma, blood as ink, as writing. The paper woman steps over her origami-surgeon-creator and drags his blood.
::pointing to the section Ralph and Elisa Landin:: Well, I guess this + the inset inventories below + on the next page are some evidence to build on everything else I wrote here.

PAGE 116
The telling of Merced leaving Federico, and his bed wetting, was also heartbreaking.

PAGE 119
Family Tree — Don Victoriano is great-grandfather of Saturn (author) p. 107 Ch. 9 gives family tree

1. I really like this book. The making of reality/family biographhy into fiction/mythology back into reality of the author's life experiences while in the process of writing something from which he has separated himself.
2. Is Saturn/Salvador related to Federico? No. He is the biographer of Federico + the other El Monte gang members + he owes them their own voice, not the domination of a biographer's so-called authoritative voice
3. Wrong again ::arrow pointing to #2::

PAGE 137
tu cuenta, tu historia (p. 113)

PAGE 138

PAGE 155
authority/all-seeing, controlling power
thecnological advances + (cultural) heritage
mechanical tractor greatest invention since Galileo's teslescope (in can see Saturn)
What of the chemical sprays from the planes?

PAGE 156
<3 stars/*** in corner>

PAGE 164
Who, or what, is Merced de Papel?
does "papel"double in meaning w/"role"? It doesn't have a connection to "Papal" does it? Different root words?

PAGE 166
Is EMF fighting Saturn/Salvador?
Are they fighting different things at different times?
Sadness? Love (lost)? Lives + homes given up?
I will not read the last sentence til I'm there
like Pickle

PAGE 176 and 177
stars next to: 3rd and 6th indented lines of p. 176 and 2nd indented line of p. 177

PAGE 182
people of paper: immigration?

PAGE 186
As in the first moment when his bed-wetting was revealed. Showing his vulnerability, weaved in fluidly with rest, not as focus/subplot, but one part of his character. It felt exposing of the sadness/vulnerability at one's core.

PAGE 202
Merced, Little Merced, Merced de Papel > Trinity

PAGE 210

PAGE 214

PAGE 216
Merced de Papel = Emodiment/Perpetrator of love
Saturn = Proponent of love
Natalia & Quinones = Proponent of love
Rita (Hayworth) abandons lettuce pickers for Hollywood
Merced leaves de la Fe for a tall white European
Elizabeth (named in the acknowledgment) leaves Salvador for a white man
<"Ethe end of Saturn was imminent. His role in the story had diminished. What was once a powerful planet was now shedding its mass, disintegrating into a trail of dust."> And so he gets less space on the page, as he disintegrates
Merced de Papel disintegrated, she burned.
She saved her voice/history by writing her story on fallen off layers of skin/paper, the way others wrote their (family) stories w/ blood/ink
<"No master pushed us forward or held us back."> Rejection of (rel.) authority as in prolog

PAGE 217
<"I stayed inside, watering the flowerpots and watching as Monte was slowly destroyed. Liberated from Saturn, from the order that for years had kept us in line, our narrative organized and mindful of the conventions of story. Now the order had been upset, lost in a melee of voice that for years wanted their freedom."> [Emphasis added by me.:] — identity politics, emancipatory theory, self-agency, postmodernism, anti-modernism, plurality (of voices) instead of meta-narratives, no masters (p. 216), but love
<"But Froggy remained brave and confident. 'don't worry, Julieta. This is how war is won,' he said, flakes of sky in his hair, mud on his shoes, smelling of incense. 'And after the war? What is left?' I asked. 'Reconstruction,' Froggy said. 'We sweep the streets, reseed the fields, and patch our roofs. We rebuild and live how we always wanted, with hammocks swinging from our backyards and cloth curtains hanging from our windows, only thin draperies between us and the world.'"> — to have a voice, a known identity.

PAGE 226-7

Here's what I said in an email, when I was near the end of the book:
I'm nearing the end of People of Paper. It's banal during moments of deep sadness, which makes it even sadder because it's more human, that underlying sadness that people carry around with them. [Omission of a real-life example, out of respect of others' privacy.:] At the beginning of the book, when it's first revealed that de la Fe wets the bed, it reminded me of that sadness [from said private experience:]. Where I'm at now, Little Merced has resurrected and people are joining en masse with their thoughts and voices. I wonder if Merced, Little Merced, and Merced de Papel are an intentional trinity. I've had these different ideas of what/who Saturn is. Saturn is Salvador. But de la Fe began feeling the weight of Saturn before there was a Salvador (an implicit Salvador) didn't he? I've been trying to figure out what makes Saturn multiple things at once (or maybe he's nothing more than the author and the authority represented by authorship). What is that thing that unites the different entities or forces Saturn represents — the way string theory represents the pulling together of determined gravitational force with the chaos of sub-atomic and electromagnetic forces! [I had watched a documentary on String Theory the night before.:]

In a follow-up text to the message above, I wrote:
Along with trying to fig out the meaning of saturn, i'm also trying to fig meaning of the title. Of a few ideas, my newest is that it means the people of love b/c mcd de papel embodies love.

To which she replied:
Interesting proposition! And the story of the author and the writing process is only about love as was about his love story." — I agree.

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Comments <span class="mediumText">(showing 1-12)</span>

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Brian That's awesome!

message 11: by Ethel (new) - added it

Ethel Margaret Well, I got a Good Reads recommendation from you and Katy, and I was at Skylight already. Actually, they were supposed to have one in store, but someone had been seen walking around with it earlier the same day I was there — so who knows where it was set down, but funny timing.

Brian the characters in the book may have used all of their might and placed themselves in a location where no one will find them. i'm happy you are going to read it and look forward to hearing what you think.

Brian oh mems...i cannot wait for you to read this.

Katy i see you have officially marked your book as "read" - a discussion is in order!

Brian it looks like it says "currently-reading" to me.

message 6: by Ethel (new) - added it

Ethel Margaret Yep, at last read I met Saturn. He had a conversation with Smiley, who had just found him.

Katy already rated it - thus my conclusion jump that you read it. what if you hate the ending? (you won't).

Katy i'm deleting my idiocy. it's too early in the morning for me. that's my rating system i was looking at.

Brian hmmm.

message 2: by Ethel (new) - added it

Ethel Margaret haha... it's all good.

Katy clever, you.

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