I plan to write the final paper on The People of Paper, and I find that I don’t really know what to say about it from an English major’s point of view. What I remember is concrete images, like how Frederico de la Fe and his wife Merced stuffed their mattress with fresh hay and mint leaves, how the enamel on Little Merced’s teeth starts to rot because of her addiction to limes, the way Cameroon dealt with the pain of her father’s abandonment by maintaining a constant fever induced by hundreds of stinging beesl.
While doing some initial research, I found this review from The Mumpsimus blog that was actually quoted in the inside of the novel (the paperback edition with the blue cover and the paper hands). The reviewer, Matthew Cheney (author/editor/high school teacher), had this to say about the experience of reading the book:
I will admit that I got so caught up in what the book was doing to me that I abandoned many of my analytical facilities and faculties in a fit of enchanted downsizing, that I didn’t stop to think about structure or symmetry, that I didn’t separate the elements based on visions of Intro to Lit textbooks dancing like sugarplums in my no-longer-New Critical brain. I read the book like a person in the first throes of love, blindly, enraptured, captured, chained, and, in the end, tortured and bereft.
That’s pretty much how I felt about reading this book. Now I have to go back and reread it with the goal of untangling its postmodern concepts and techniques, which I’m afraid will ruin the experience for me. Clearly, what interests me most (based on what I remember most) are all the ways that the characters deal with pain, and how that relates to the way Salvador Plascencia attempts to deal with his pain via writing the novel. Maybe that is where I will start thinking about the book for the paper.