The Story of My Teeth | Granta

  • Published: 02/04/2015
  • ISBN: 9781783780839
  • Granta Books
  • 208 pages

The Story of My Teeth

Valeria Luiselli

Translated by Christina MacSweeney

Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sánchez is a man with a mission: he is planning to replace every last one of his unsightly teeth. He has a few skills that might help him on his way: he can imitate Janis Joplin after two rums, he can interpret Chinese fortune cookies, he can stand an egg upright on a table, and he can float on his back. And, of course, he is the world’s best auction caller – although other people might not realise this, because he is, by nature, very discreet.

Studying auctioneering under Grandmaster Oklahoma and the famous country singer Leroy Van Dyke, Highway travels the world, amassing his collection of ‘Collectibles’ and perfecting his own specialty: the allegoric auction. In his quest for a perfect set of pearly whites, he finds unusual ways to raise the funds, culminating in the sale of the jewels of his collection: the teeth of the ‘notorious infamous’ – Plato, Petrarch, Chesterton, Virginia Woolf et al.

Written with elegance, wit and exhilarating boldness, Valeria Luiselli takes us on an idiosyncratic and hugely enjoyable journey that offers an insightful meditation on value, worth and creation, and the points at which they overlap.

[Luiselli is a] gifted young Mexican writer... [The Story of My Teeth] is like a papier-mâché figurine: the story of a life told as an assemblage of quotation, anecdotes, famous names and auctioneer's lots. It's a clever trick - producing both a slim magical realist 'essay-novel' and simultaneously a dense, allegorical art object... The effect is quite moving

Philip Maughan, Literary Review

A combination of memoir, fiction, art criticism and autobiographical reflection, this is a remarkable story about stories... The Story of My Teeth is a testament to eccentricity. If eccentricity is deviation from a known curve, then Luiselli has created an exceptional 'novel-essay' that irradiates beyond the orthodoxies of literary genre

Natalie Ferris, Frieze

Postmodernism has barely begun to look retro and here it is again, subtly restyled in [The Story of My Teeth]... The prose is confident, playful, learned; and it is translated into utterly convincing English via Luiselli's collaboration with Christina MacSweeney

Claire Lowden, TLS

The Author

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of the essay collection Sidewalks; the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth; and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions. She is the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and an American Book Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and McSweeney’s, among other publications, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in New York City.

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The Translator

Christina MacSweeney is an award-winning translator of Latin American literature. She has worked with authors such as Valeria Luiselli, Daniel Saldaña París, Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Julián Herbert and Jazmina Barrera. She has also contributed to anthologies of Latin American literature and published articles and interviews on a wide variety of platforms.

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‘Perhaps it is the way he’s able to delicately tap into the most disturbing layers of reality and turn our conception of what is normal inside out. Perhaps it’s because he’s always telling a deeper, sadder, more disquieting story while pretending to narrate another.’