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Faces in the Crowd
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Group Reads > September 2019: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

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Agnese | 55 comments This is the discussion thread for Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (translated by Christina MacSweeney), our group selection for September. Happy reading!


Michael (knowledgelost) | 31 comments Wonder if I should read it again. But my podcast did one of its very first episodes on this book: https://translationspod.podbean.com/e...

Shameless plug


Agnese | 55 comments Michael wrote: "Wonder if I should read it again. But my podcast did one of its very first episodes on this book: https://translationspod.podbean.com/e...

Shameless plug"


A great episode. If you enjoyed it, why not? In any case, I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the book.


Michael (knowledgelost) | 31 comments Still need to read Lost Children Archive and Sidewalks too


message 5: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charleyroxy) | 9 comments Exciting. Will be home from holiday tomorrow and have it on my shelf to read asap. It is a small one so should not take long.


Aubrey (korrick) Looks like my hunch was correct. Now I just need my hold to come in.


message 7: by Nell (new) - added it

Nell (sackvillepanza) | 10 comments You'd like my library system, Aubrey. I placed a hold yesterday and it just came in today, so looks like I'll be getting some early reading in.


Aubrey (korrick) Nell wrote: "You'd like my library system, Aubrey. I placed a hold yesterday and it just came in today, so looks like I'll be getting some early reading in."

Well, I'm making them ship it to the branch I usually use, so I don't mind. I'm just glad it has a copy.


Sookie | 1 comments I read this last year for WIT month and absolutely loved it. I am looking forward to group's discussion on this one.

Happy reading everyone!


Vipassana | 2 comments This is so exciting! I read it a few years ago and just before I moved to NYC. Looking forward to revisiting after reading several of her other works.


message 11: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 37 comments I just got the text from the library that my copy está aquí, so I'll be able to start this week. Yay!


Aubrey (korrick) Ella wrote: "I just got the text from the library that my copy está aquí, so I'll be able to start this week. Yay!"

Mine just became available to pick up, so once I do that I'll be able to start as well.


message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa | 3 comments The only copy I could track down in time for this is an audio version – not a style of reading I am used to. I have to train myself to pay more attention while I listen!


message 14: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 37 comments Well, I started this, planning on just reading a page or two, and before I knew it, I'd finished the book.

I have it for another couple weeks, so I am going to read it again, and I've requested a Spanish copy if they can find me one, so I think I may try reading it in the original too, but I thought the translation was wonderful because it kept so much of the original flavor (for lack of a better word.) I could almost hear the accented English as I read -- really loved it.


Aubrey (korrick) Just started. We'll see how it goes.


message 16: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Dixon (pvdixon) | 7 comments I read Los ingrávidos a few years ago. While I appreciated some of the imagery and writing, overall I didn't really connect with it. I’ve since read Sidewalks, The Story of My Teeth, and Tell Me How it Ends.

Re-reading this in translation, I feel about the same as I did before. It’s my least favorite of her works, though I can certainly see it being a favorite for a different kind of reader.

I’ll also add that I think Faces is the Crowd is the better title.


message 17: by Nell (new) - added it

Nell (sackvillepanza) | 10 comments I finished today and am ready to discuss when everyone else is.

I was interested with the fragmentation at the start, particularly with the sustained breath/motherhood analogy, but the increasingly intertextual narrative wrapping that continued to halt and twist around itself wasn't something I'm usually drawn to.

I still look forward to our discussion!


Laurie Nell, you rated it 3 stars as I did. It took me a while to adjust to the narrative but eventually it became less jarring. I got quite confused when the architect husband left for Philadelphia and then later asked why he was written out of the story. I apparently got lost in the story within the story because I really thought he left.


message 19: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 37 comments I don't know why that didn't confuse me. I never really get lost in a book that switches time/perspective etc, but I've been known to get lost in totally linear ones before.


message 20: by Nell (last edited Sep 12, 2019 05:16PM) (new) - added it

Nell (sackvillepanza) | 10 comments Laurie wrote: "It took me a while to adjust to the narrative but eventually it became less jarring..."

Ah, our experience was in reverse! I quite liked the start and the multiple narratives — it reminded me of an experimental postmodern styling on Sleepless Nights, and I found the insights on translating Latin American authors in an American setting interesting, as well as the slice-of-arts and expatriate social disjunction.

The narrative started to lose me (spoiler alert!) about half-way through, when the narrator and her husband start to fragment into cycles of breakups throughout the Federico time-lapse additions, multiple of which I was hoping would lead to a new thread, or perspective, but which seemed to be more interested in experimental ambiguity and literary world name-drops. I would have found this interesting if the reflections within it pulled out new dynamics, but outside of the theory of narrative deaths, it seemed to wind more into relationship milieu and social circle description for its own ambiguous sake. And this is where I lost interest.

This goes back to my personal taste. I am not a flatness for flatness' sake kind of critic, and while I do like the unconventional, I am drawn to an experimental style that blends with distinct noticings. This I found in plenitude in the earlier part (the Hiroshima/Joy Division/Raining Hamburgers style conversations, pg. 41), but less and less so as the narratives started to intertwine and fragment.

I would be curious to discuss this more from a plot and narrative perspective, though, as it wouldn't hurt to separate my review from my id. :)


Aubrey (korrick) Three stars for me as well. If anything, I understood it too well, and found it rather ridiculous that so experimental a structure could have such stereotyped assumptions regarding certain paradigms. I'll wait till the Luiselli hype train (in certain sectors) dies down a tad before I try anything more by her.


message 22: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 37 comments I have a big problem evaluating translated books in languages I read. I tend to blur my reaction to the translation with my reaction to the book. I was blown away by the translation in Faces in the Crowd. Less blown away by the actual book though. In my humble opinion, Christina MacSweeney is a pretty wonderful (and busy) translator.

I really loved Lost Children Archive and it has held up well to almost a year of rereading and scrutinizing from me. In fact it's gotten better with age/familiarity. But it feels to me like almost everything else I've read from Luiselli is working up to that - sometimes explicitly (parts of this wound up in that book, in different form but they are in there, as are parts of nearly everything I've read from her - even The Story of My Teeth) -- subtle but there. I know certain authors will always be interested in certain themes, but this is different. It's interesting to see that (particularly backwards, which is the way I've experienced it) but I haven't liked any of her books as much as the first I read from her: the most recent Lost Children Archive.

She's working on something - I can feel it stirring underneath, but I'm not sure I could say what that was. Perhaps it was this latest book. Dunno.

It's interesting that the structure reminded you of Sleepless Nights, Nell - because I said that about Lost Children Archive. Hmm. She has some big heroes, and maybe she needs the space to find her own place. My enjoyment of her work seems to dip the more she seems to be trying to emulate some of her influences.


Laurie I haven't read anything else by Luiselli, but I plan on reading Lost Children Archive since it not translated. I want to see how I view her writing without seeing it through a translator's lens.


Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 7 comments I've just started as well. I'm looking forward to discussing it already.


Aubrey (korrick) A frustratingly serendipitous thing happened today: a copy of this book showed up this morning at my regular book sale, just as I had my library copy in the car ready to return. I think I may have to hold off on getting library copies of future group reads until the book sale gods have finished consulting.


message 26: by June (last edited Sep 16, 2019 02:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

June | 8 comments I'm about 40 pages in and enjoying very much so far. The only other book I've read by Luiselli is Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions.

I appreciate the interplay of texts/narratives here, but I hope that I'm keeping sufficient track of the various strands. I have a pretty high tolerance for temporal and spatial shifts, partly because I am a lazy reader who just lets the narrative wash over me without sorting too much out. :-) This could soon cause problems as from the comments above, it sounds as though things are about to become considerably more fragmented!


Vipassana | 2 comments I just started it and I'm really enjoying it. I'm re-reading it though and have read all her translated/English fiction at this point. So far it reminds me of why I love her writing – she has a nebulous sense of time and space and I find myself entirely in the novel. This isn't always true, I did not enjoy The Story of my Teeth much.

I saw her speak at the National Book festival and she claimed that her novels are all very different. I think Faces in the Crowd is pretty similar in style to Lost Children's archive, TSOMT was the odd one. That's it for my disjointed thoughts now. Hopefully I'll have something more coherent to say at the end of it :)


Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 7 comments I finished and I liked it a lot. It was definitely difficult at times to track the different strands, but I liked the challenge and concentration it took to pay full attention to the way each part was written and whose story was being told. I also read Lost Children Archive first and I saw glimmers of it in this book. She seemed to try out many of the techniques that she fleshed out further in Lost Children Archive. I really enjoyed that!


message 29: by Nell (new) - added it

Nell (sackvillepanza) | 10 comments I came across an interesting interview with Valeria Luiselli for Democracy Now, if it appeals to anyone: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/3/8....

This is more relevant for those who've read the Lost Children Archive, although she talks about the English/Spanish translation crossovers around the 20-minute mark.


message 30: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa | 3 comments This was hard to listen to as an audio book. I lost track of the threads and never really warmed to the audio narrator, or to the characters. I enjoyed the occasional bits of wry humour but otherwise didn’t really get into the story. I’d have to tackle it again in written form to see if the change in format makes it more engaging.


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