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192 pages, Paperback
First published November 1, 2013
How does distancing an object or name from its context...affect its meaning and interpretation? How do discourse, narrative, and authorial signatures or names modify the way we perceive artwork and literary text?Teeth becomes the very impressive and erudite journey towards attempting to answer that question. There is an interesting exchange between Highway and Voragine when Highway begins dictating short stories to accompany each piece of the artwork they steal from the gallery:
But if we use the real artists names, Voragine said, we’ll get caught.Highway creates short stories that are irrelevant to the actual artists intention for their work, but the cumulative effect produces something uniquely beautiful on it’s own. This technique often occurs in literature, writing poetry from the experience of seeing a painting or adopting photographs and altering their truth to fit and illuminate the fiction of a work (recently Mario Bellatin, who is briefly mentioned in the novel, did this in his Shiki Nagaoka: A Nose For Fiction).
Yes, good thinking young man. We will have to modify them.
But if we modify them, he went on, the objects will lose their value.
No they won’t.
Yes they will.
Voragine, please shut up and write this down.¹
I could restore an object’s value through “an elegant surpassing of the truth.” This meant that the stories I would tell about the lots would all be based on facts that were, occasionally, exaggerated or, to put it another way, better illuminated.Is this not essentially the purpose and effect of fiction? It may not be the Truth, but it is perhaps as equally valid and more adaptable. Parables are a common theme of the novel, which are a great way of expressing a moral or a message by elucidating it through story. Parables were the great tool of Jesus in the Bible. The parables he told were not real events, but stories that were more meaningful than a simple lie, stories that delivered a message we can all understand and shape. It is, perhaps, another element of collaboration in which the creativity of the teller and the intellect of the receiver must connect to discern the truth behind the fiction.
i've always thought that hell is the people you could one day become.*translated from the spanish by christina macsweeney (faces in the crowd & sidewalks), whom also penned the book's seventh part ("the chronologic"), a timeline of the story, related details, and relevant moments in literary history.
I’m the best auctioneer in the world, but no one knows it because I’m a discreet sort of man. My name is Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez, though people call me Highway, I believe with affection. I can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums. I can interpret Chinese fortune cookies. I can stand an egg upright on a table, the way Christopher Columbus did in the famous anecdote. I know how to count to eight in Japanese: ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi. I can float on my back. This is the story of my teeth, and my treatise on collectibles and the variable value of objects.
I wasn’t just a lowly seller of objects but, first and foremost, a lover and collector of good stories, which is the only honest way of modifying the value of an object. End of declaration.
I need you to write my story, the story of my teeth. I tell it to you, you just write it. We sell millions, and I get my teeth fixed for good. Then, when I die, you write about that too. Because a man's story is never complete until he dies. End of that task.
When the bar was starting to close the owner would let Highway auction his stories. It was at Secret of Night that Highway finally put into practice the now full-fledged theory of his famous allegoric method, where it is not objects that are sold, but the stories that give them value and meaning.
"Some men have luck, some men have charisma. I've got both. I'm the best auction caller in the world, my name is Gustavo Sanchez Sanchez, and this is the story of my teeth."If that makes you laugh the rest of the book probably will too. Because of how the book was written, the entire thing feels rather meta and episodic. The author wrote it in a serial form with feedback from factory workers in Mexico, and I think it feels like that still. The translator added a little section in the back on her own. Within the story of Gustavo Sanchez Sanchez are other stories, and in many ways the major theme of the book is that of storytelling - the stories we tell others and how we present ourselves, the stories of others we tell and what we are trying to get across in doing so, and how we spin the stories that may or may not be true. And Sanchez tells stories, to sell items at an auction, to tell about his dreams, to tell about himself.