Prof. Steven Alvarez
English 363: Experimental Hispanic Literatures
05 November 2011
Truth in between Fantasy: Reality Seen through Salvador Plascencia’s fictional narrative, The People of Paper
Salvador Plascencia, a genius at confusing and intriguing his audience, created a magical, and at the same time, realistic view of the world in his novel The People of Paper. Plascencia, many have criticized, uses too much art and runs away from a well written story and theme by putting artwork in his book, by devoting columns or rotated rectangles of texts for his characters, and even bold, black spots of ink in his story to perplex the reader. Instead, I believe all these delightful differences from normal, boring, left to right lines, creates a numinous way of reading literature.
In Manfred Jahn’s Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative, Jahn explains that Plascencia’s narrative is,
A fictional narrative [which] presents an imaginary narrator’s account of a story that happened in an imaginary world. A fictional narrative is appreciated for its entertainment and educational value, possibly also for providing a vision of characters who might exist or might have existed, and a vision of things that might happen or could have happened. Although a fictional narrative may freely refer to actual people, places and events, it cannot be used as evidence of what happened in the real world. (Jahn N2.2.2)
In other words, Plascencia’s novel is viewed as a fictional narrative because most of his characters, like Little Merced, Froggy, Sandra and more can be actual human beings, and ironically enough, the Rita Hayworth character is an actual human being. Plascencia’s focus on Mexican culture, like the Lucha Libre and lotería and then the Gangster culture, like the EMF characters, do exist in life. Therefore, how can the reader know when Plascencia’s magical realism stops, and when his reality plays a toll on the themes of the story? For example, one of my favorite passages from the novel is when Plascencia gives Sandra, Froggy’s girlfriend, power as a narrator and so she relays,
I was a quiet sleeper and did not thrash about or even snore, but I began to wake with welts on my arms and ribs sore and bruised. It was not until I looked in the mirror and noticed the black eye on my face that I knew I had been dreaming about my father. (Plascencia 55)
These lines are so wonderfully written because it is not until the end of Sandra’s thoughts that the reader realizes that this physical abuse that she wakes up to, is given to her in her dreams by her dead father. Also, Placenscia’s ways of convincing the reader into believing his enhancements of the truth are thoroughly disguised through poetry, like Sandra’s thoughts on how she understood that even through dreams, her father could still haunt her.
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” 28
May 2005. Web. 06 November 2011. <http://www.unikoeln.de/~ame02/pppn.htm>.
Plascencia, Salvador. The People of Paper. San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2005. Print
When I saw this video, it reminded me of Plascencia’s use of Saturn, of the power he had over each of the characters becuase Saturn/Plascencia can be seen as a reality architect, constructing illusions and chances for the reader by manipulating the characters.