Writers Never Show Their Teeth

THE STORY OF MY TEETH
Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Granta, $24.99
April 2015

Story of my teeth

Firstly, if clowns and questionable dentistry are not your thing I am just going to warn you that there is a scene in Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth containing both creepy clowns and discussion of teeth and dentistry—enough so that you will be falling asleep with your mouth firmly closed and keeping one eye on all large projection screens in the near future. However, do not let that put you off entering the world of Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sánchez, main narrator of The Story of My Teeth and self-proclaimed best auctioneer in the world, who on the first page announces that he wishes to tell the story of his teeth. This tale is also Highway’s life story–and not just for the fact that teeth generally being in one’s mouth throughout one’s life imply that the teeth and the owner of the mouth have the same story.

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We Russians, We Have Only Our Winter

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO

Boris Pasternak (trans. Max Hayward and Manya Harai, Vintage, 2002 (first published Collins and Harvill, 1958)) ISBN: 9780099448426

Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago has been lauded for almost 60 years as one of the greatest love stories of all time.  An epic set during the Russian Revolution, it saw its author awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and has been adapted several times for the screen in both Russian and English.  With the weight of its renown, but without much notion of what the story was actually about, I looked forward to falling in love with this book.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.

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I Will Be Called Murderer

MY NAME IS RED

Orhan Pamuk (Knopf, 1998) ISBN: 0-571-20047-8

My Name is Red is a complex murder mystery set in 16th century Istanbul.  It has taken me 4 attempts to read.  I can’t really point to why.  I suspect it might be a combination of my fundamental disinterest in the murder mystery genre, and a general failure to relate to very many of the characters.  Perhaps, too, it might just be that Orhan Pamuk’s prose, while beautiful, makes it difficult for me to feel the emotional pull of the story.  Since I can’t read Turkish it’s impossible for me to say whether this issue arises from the translation or from the author’s style itself.

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