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The People of Paper Hardcover – June 6, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Plascencia's mannered but moving debut begins with an allegory for art and the loss that drives it: a butcher guts a boy's cat; the boy constructs paper organs for the feline, who is revivified; the boy thus becomes the world's first origami surgeon. Though Plascencia's book sometimes seems to take the form of an autobiographical attempt to come to terms with a lost love, little of this experimental work—a mischievous mix of García Márquez magical realism and Tristram Shandy typographical tricks—is grounded in reality. Early on we meet a "Baby Nostradamus" and a Catholic saint disguised as a wrestler while following the enuretic Fernando de la Fe and his lime-addicted daughter from Mexico to California. Fernando—whose wife, tired of waking in pools of piss, has left him—settles east of L.A. in El Monte. He gathers a gang of carnation pickers to wage a quixotic war against the planet Saturn and, in a Borges-like discovery, Saturn turns out to be Salvador Plascencia. Over a dozen characters narrate the story while fighting like Lilliputians to emancipate themselves from Plascencia's tyrannical authorial control. Playful and cheeky, the book is also violent and macabre: masochists burn themselves; a man bleeds horribly after performing cunnilingus on a woman made of paper. Plascencia's virtuosic first novel is explosively unreal, but bares human truths with devastating accuracy. (June)
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'A stunning debut by a once-in-a-generation talent. I don't know of a young American writer more original, innovative or intense than Salvador Plascencia. The People of Paper is harrowing and gorgeous, experimental in the truest sense: it creates new means to explore essential and timeless emotional subjects' George Saunders 'Original, strange and beautifully written ... affecting and spellbinding reading' The Times 'The People of Paper is a novel like no other, emerging from the chrysalis of magic and imagination to create a world of letters that seeps back into the world we know and then metamorphoses into something else altogether. Calvino, Borges and Garcia Marquez will come to mind, but Plascencia's novel is a creature of its own, firmly grounded and soaring at the same time' T. C. Boyle 'Plascencia has stitched together an American patchwork quilt that will enchant all readers' Financial Times --This text refers to the Print on Demand (Paperback) edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: McSweeney's; 1St Edition edition (June 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932416218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932416213
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It is beautifully written and full of complex layers.
MaryKate Messimer
It's a highly experimental novel, ambitious, a mesh of fiction and fact, a meditation on art, the debut of Salvador Plascencia, and it should be a total mess.
It is a book that you will continue to think about long after you have read the last page.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Olivas on June 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Salvador Plascencia's debut novel is a wonderfully strange, hallucinogenic and hypertextual blending of fiction and autobiography. The Prologue's first sentences thrust us into an almost familiar yet purely mythical world while introducing Plascencia's sly brand of humor: "She was made after the time of ribs and mud. By papal decree there were to be no more people born of the ground or from the marrow of bones. All would be created from the propulsions and mounts performed underneath bedsheets-rare exceptions granted for immaculate conceptions." What an astonishing, strange and deeply moving novel this is. In all his playfulness, Plascencia nonetheless grapples with troubling issues of free will, religious fidelity, ethnic identity, failed love and the creative process which he melds into a dreamscape that is impossible to forget. Plascencia-the God of his paper people-has given us a startling work of fiction that stretches not only the norms of storytelling, but also the bounds of our imagination. [The full review of this book first appeared in The Elegant Variation.]
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By bentmax on August 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This inaugural book by Salvador Plascencia is mind bending, reality altering, wickedly witty, ruthlessly clever, disarmingly charming, extraordinarily inventive and irreverently humorous. I am sure I have forgotten a few adjectives as well. With remarkable characters, Plascencia moves the reader through his own reality, dreams, conjectures and thoughts of events that happened, might have happened and couldn't possibly have happened. His dialog runs stealthily from religion and sex to field workers, Hollywood starlets, broken romances, planetary movement, physical disabilities and war and revenge. It will blast you out of your seat and take you on the wildest literary ride imaginable. It is a rare, astonishing and totally satisfying book to consume.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric Brelsford on July 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book feels great. Whatever they did, I wish more books felt like it. It may be the canvas on which the beautiful illustration rests or the ink or the tight binding, but I love cradling it, sometimes even when I'm not in the middle of reading it.

And this is surely intentional--much of the book cries and pleads for you to hold it close and to remember that it is physical, whether this be through typography or cuts in pages or the use of multiple perspectives per page. It hops, taunting: "Try to make me digital! Try to make me audio! Try!"

I could talk about the story, but if you're not sucked in by the romance of the artifact, you're not worth it.

Also, the red ink that makes up the flowers on both covers bleeds onto your hands while you grip the book and read, and you become as one of El Monte's many flower pickers, stained and sometimes bleeding their own ink. The black, the outline of 53 and Baby Nostradamus, smudges like so many notes left on Merced de Papel, more so when wet. Either way you become one of those made of paper.

Bleeding ink is likely accidental, but intention doesn't matter.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on August 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Federico de la Fe is grieving for his wife who left him because he wets the bed. And he is leading an insane, futile, and destructive war against Saturn. Who is not only the planet Saturn but the author, Salvador Plascencia. That's the plot, I suppose. The book is packed with character sketches, meditations on the creative process, mind-bending inventions, including mechanical turtles, origami surgery, papercuts in intimate parts of the body, and its recurring theme, the pain of love and loss.

Author Plascencia is a fountain of creativity, but he is also repetitive and sometimes too clever. It is hard to really connect with the characters because the characters are too busy fighting a war with the author to develop themselves as three dimensional persons. They remain, mostly, people of paper.

The book is like a combination of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and James Joyce. It's intriguing, but hard to read, and hard to assimilate. It is a most novel novel. I recommend it but not for everyone. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By F. Curt Allday on August 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I also have not written a review for a book and have bought many on this site.

The "People of Paper" takes you into the mind of a lovesick author battling his own characters (literally) who in some ways represent his own psyche; thereby fighting himself. The author has created a work where your own imagination will not solely carry you through this brilliant and awe inspiring book, but the author creates and brings you into his world by using the page, using its space, in ways I have never seen, never thought of. It could have seemed pretentious but it comes off sincere, as if we couldn't think of this story to be fashioned otherwise.

As many have said, there is nothing quite like this fiction. I was astounded by the subtle, unique characters, the universe, the concept of Saturn, the war among ganglands in Southern California, and the manner in which the characters wish to be free from Salavdore, the omniscient narrator/author. It's an incredible journey, when completed, you feel a longing for the book, and connect as anyone has lost love, had a rebound, pontificating on the reasons for her/his departure.

Honestly, in many ways the small vinettes created to describe the adventures and thoughts of his characters reminds me of Vonnegut, just in universal theme and quick pace from plot line to plot line. It speaks in actions and moods unlike any novel I have read.

If there is one book to read this year and beyond, I cannot imagine a fictional work more appropriate. I tried my hand at a generic popular fiction book afterwards and almost longed for the fun, imaginative roller coaster ride of "The People of Paper."

A worthy investment and a gift for anyone looking for something new and refreshing!
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