Book buzz: ‘The Story of My Teeth’

In Valeria Luiselli’s second novel, “The Story of My Teeth,” the protagonist, Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sanchez is on a quest to replace his unsightly teeth, one by one. The self-proclaimed “best auctioneer in the world,” amasses enough money through his allegoric auctioneer technique to purchase the teeth of none other than Marilyn Monroe, teeth which he has implanted in his own mouth. The image of Highway walking the streets of Mexico City with his new set of choppers is an image readers won’t soon forget.

This is a wildly and mildly insane notion, but I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities. I mean, let’s face it: once you reach a certain age (an age reached sooner than you might imagine), your body surprises you with its ultimate mortality, and one-by-one, things start to deteriorate. What if, faced with the prospect of replacing a tooth that has abandoned its solid foundation, you could replace it with the tooth of a no-longer living legend? 

Clearly, Luiselli’s experimental novel has the ability to take readers for quite an interesting ride. The book, translated by Christina MacSweeney, is comprised of several installments, each one a little zanier than the other. An interesting side note: the book began as catalog copy for an exhibition at an art gallery at Mexico’s Jumex juice factory. The author worked in conjunction with the factory workers, resulting in this collaborative novel. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award (with winners scheduled to be announced March 16), “The Story of My Teeth” shares the fiction nomination with Lauren Groff’s “Fates and Furies,” Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout,” Anthony Marra’s “The Tsar of Love and Techno,” and Ottessa Moshfegh’s “Eileen.” If you’ve found yourself in a reading rut, this just might be one of the most interesting books you have yet to read.

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