Plascencia, Salvador 1976–
Plascencia, Salvador 1976–
Born 1976, in Guadalajara, Mexico. Education: Attended Whittier College; Syracuse University, M.F.A.
Home— Los Angeles, CA.
Bard Fiction Prize, Bard College, 2008, for The People of Paper.
The People of Paper(novel), Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Salvador Plascencia's first novel,The People of Paper, received the Bard College Fiction Prize for 2008. The award recognized promising young writers and includes a one-semester residency at the college. An article on the Bard College Web site announcing the award noted that the prize committee wrote in their description of the book that it "is a novel of exceptional inventiveness and beauty, in which formal innovation lives side by side with extraordinary storytelling." The committee also noted:"The categories of magic realism, postmodernism, or urban fabulism, while applicable, are utterly inadequate to describe this metafictional marvel."
The People of Paper ostensibly tells the story of Federico de la Fe and his daughter, Little Merced. Federico's wife leaves him because of his uncontrollable bladder, which leads to her often waking up in a wet bed. The heartbroken Federico decides to move from the town of Las Tortugas in Mexico to El Monte, California, near Los Angeles. Once there, the father and daughter become part of an epic battle against the planet of Saturn in an effort to find a cure for sadness. Because the residents of El Monte are "people of paper," that is, they only exist on the page, their battle is also against the book's author and all the readers who voyeuristically read about their lives. Described by a Publishers Weekly contributor as "a mischievous mix of García Márquez magical realism and Tristram Shandy typographical tricks" the novel features a wide range of fantastic characters, including "Baby Nostradamus," who can barely function because of everything that he knows, a woman made of paper whose sharp edges cut her lovers, and a mechanic who makes mechanical tortoises in which Federico hides.
The novel also includes the El Mone Flores (EMF), a street gang that works picking flowers and uses carnation knives. The town of El Monte and the street gang are based on real life, with a street gang in the once farming town of El Monte going by the name of Flores, or Flowers. "I don't know why they're called the flowers," Plascencia told Ben Ehrenreich in an article for the LA Weekly Web site. The author went on to note: "My history is murky and I wanted it to be that way so I could just be free to do whatever I wanted."
In addition to fantastic characters and use of magical realism, the author also incorporates various typographical devices, including, as noted by New York Times contributor Nathaniel Rich, "blotted-out text; razored-out text; sideways text; text split into as many as five columns across two pages, each column representing a different character's narrative." LA Weekly Web site contributor Ehrenreich noted: "For all its feverish typographical energy though,The People of Paper is, at its most basic level, a story about heartbreak." Plascencia also commented on his use of typographical devices in an interview with Daniel Olivas for the Elegant Variation Web site. The author said: "I don't really see The People of Paper as a deviation from tradition. If anything, I see it as a throwback to the spirit of early books and to the playfulness that existed before industrialized printing presses. If you look at early books they are very varied in their typography and design. It's a shame that technology has actually limited and uniformed our conception of the book instead of expanding the possibilities."
The People of Paper received high praise from several reviewers. Channing Joseph, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted that "readers will find it hard to turn away" from the novel. Karl Allen wrote on About.com Contemporary Literature that the author's "sense of humor and his ability to gently wring new meaning out of old forms and phrases makes every step of The People of Paper a refreshing experience—and one that is more rewarding with repeated reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bomb, winter, 2007, Max Benavidez, "Salvadore Plascencia."
City Pages(Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN), July 6, 2005, William Waltz, "Salvador Plascencia, Meet Salvador Plascencia."
Entertainment Weekly, June 17, 2005, Channing Joseph, review of The People of Paper, p. 85.
New York Times, June 10, 2005, Nathaniel Rich, "Cal-Mex," review of The People of Paper.
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005, review of The People of Paper, p. 38.
About.com Contemporary Literature,http://contemporarylit.about.com/ (December 4, 2007), Karl Allen, review of The People of Paper.
AV Club,http://www.avclub.com/ (July 5, 2005), Andy Battaglia, review of The People of Paper.
Bard College Web site,http://www.bard.edu/ (December 4, 2007), "Bard College Awards Its Seventh Annual Bard Fiction Prize to Salvador Plascencia."
BBC Web site,http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (November 30, 2006), Chris Power, review of The People of Paper.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (December 4, 2007), Angela Stubbs, "An Interview with Salvador Plascencia."
Elegant Variation,http://marksarvas.blogs.com/elegvar/ (December 1, 2006), Daniel Olivas, "Guest Interview: Salvador Plascencia."
Hobart,http://www.hobartpulp.com/ (December 4, 2007), George Ducker, "An Interview with Salvador Plascencia."
LA Observed,http://www.laobserved.com/ (December 1, 2006), Kevin Roderick, "Interview with Salvador Plascencia."
LA Weekly,http://www.laweekly.com/ (July 14, 2005), Ben Ehrenreich, "Salvador Plascencia on his People of Paper."
McSweeney's Internet Tendency,http://www.mcsweeneys.net/ (December 4, 2007), brief biography of author.