The author, Valeria Luiselli, was born in Mexico but as the daughter of
a diplomat grew up in South Africa, Costa Rica, India, Spain and France.
Now married, she lives in NYCs Spanish Harlem where her funky, cosmopolitan
view of the world fits right in with the surroundings.
Luiselli, who has published two previous books (Faces in the Crowd, Sidewalks),
wrote THE STORY OF MY TEETH for the workers in a juice factory outside
Mexico City which has an art gallery attached to it. There is, naturally,
a gap between the worlds: gallery and facility, artists and workers, artwork
and juice, she confides in an afterword. How could I link
the two distant but neighboring worlds, and could literature play a mediating
She answered these questions by employing the technique of a tobacco
reader, which originated in a l9th-century Cuban cigar factory,
when in order to reduce the tedium of repetitive labor, a reader
would read aloud to the other workers while they made cigars. (Emile
Zola and Victor Hugo were favorites).
Luiselli wrote a novel in installments for the juice workers, who then
read it out loud in the factory. The discussions that followed were relayed
to Luiselli in NY, who then took the comments into account before writing
the next chapter of TEETH. The formula, if there was one, would
be something like: Dickens + MP3 + Balzac + Jpeg, she said.
tale is every bit as fantastical, exhilarating and ground-breaking as
its origins, with a hero, Highway Sanchez, who walks around
the streets of Mexico City, smiling at people with the teeth of Marilyn
Monroe implanted in his gums. And thats just for starters: the novel
becomes even more imaginative, outrageous, and blissfully entertaining
as it unfolds.
(Coffee House Press, ppbk. $16.95)