“Luiselli follows in the imaginative tradition of writers like Borges and Márquez, but her style and concerns are unmistakably her own. This deeply playful novel is about the passion and obsession of collecting, the nature of storytelling, the value of objects, and the complicated bonds of family. . . Luiselli has become a writer to watch, in part because it’s truly hard to know (but exciting to wonder about) where she will go next.”—The New York Times
I was born in Pachuca, the Beautiful Windy City, with four premature teeth and my body completely covered in a very fine coat of fuzz. But I'm grateful for that inauspicious start because ugliness, as my other uncle, Eurípides López Sánchez, was given to saying, is character forming.
Highway is a late-in-life world traveler, yarn spinner, collector, and legendary auctioneer. His most precious possessions are the teeth of the "notorious infamous" like Plato, Petrarch, and Virginia Woolf. Written in collaboration with the workers at a Jumex juice factory, Teeth is an elegant, witty, exhilarating romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli's own literary influences.
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City in 1983 and grew up in South Africa. Her work has been translated into many languages and has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney's. Her novel, The Story of My Teeth, is the winner of the LA Times Book Prize in Fiction.
One of the most unforgettable images in any book this year is that of Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez, the protagonist of Luiselli’s delightfully unclassifiable novel, walking around the streets of Mexico City, smiling at people with the teeth of Marilyn Monroe installed in his mouth—teeth he won at an “auction of contraband memorabilia in a karaoke bar in Little Havana.” Auctioneering is Highway’s trade, and, according to him, he’s the best at what he does because he’s a “lover and collector of good stories, which is the only honest way of modifying the value of an object.” Luiselli’s novel takes the same liberties with traditional storytelling as Highway: this isn’t so much a novel as a contorted collection of narrative yarns. In one section, Highway auctions 10 of his original teeth (remember, he has Marilyn Monroe’s in his mouth), passing them off as the teeth of Virginia Woolf, Plato, and G.K. Chesterton, among others. In another section, Highway creates allegories using various auction lots, including a prosthetic leg, as starting points, which quickly spin out and feature a who’s who of real Spanish-language writers. In one, the Argentine writer Alan Pauls talks about horse depression; in another, Mexican novelist Yuri Herrera is a policewoman; Luiselli’s parents put on rat and mouse costumes and have “outlandish, noisy, uninterrupted coitus.” These off-the-wall turns are surprising and charming, but, above all, there is an insatiable hunger for storytelling in these pages. Luiselli’s (Faces in the Crowd) novel so completely buys into its conceit—the author herself makes an appearance in an allegory as a 15-year-old “mediocre high school student [who] stammered and overused the suffix -ly”—that it’s difficult not to follow wherever it takes you.