Among gang warfare and paper cuts, this book is about the wounds made by first love and sharp objects. The People of Paper reveals the ever elusive prophesies of the Shandean Baby Nostradamus and the approximate temperature and incendiary potential of halos. Herein disillusioned and AWOL saints reclaim their crowns and fight purses, while a gang of flower pickers go off to war, led by a lonely man who cannot help but wet his bed in sadness. Part memoir, part lies, this is a story about loving a woman made of paper.
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 Garcia Marquez 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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.