Books

Wet Petals

Faces in the Crowd Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Arranged in short stream-of-consciousness style vignettes, this book is pretending not to be a novel, though what it is in disguise as is hard to pin down; is it a journal? A memoir? I am not very patient with plotless characterless fiction and I increasingly skimmed, but I did enjoy the presence of the toddler; his leavening questions and opinions.

What distinguishes the book from others and makes it contemporary is its close-to-the-boneness, its disturbingly risky-seeming self-referentiality. In this, it reminded me of Stevie Smith’s autobiographical not-really-novels, and it might also claim The Hour of the Star among its relations in terms of subject and tone. However, in contrast to Lispector’s, Luiselli’s narrator lives a literary texture, haunted by poets and poetry.

Luiselli made me feel my own emotional inadequacy at least; she made me feel that there was someone to feel for in the protagonist, even if I could not actually feel for her. The anecdote about the deleted lines of Ezra Pound’s heartfelt poem was my favourite thought. The faces in the crowd, the wet petals, the shadows of love and memory: here Lusielli manages literature’s magic trick, the resurrection of feeling.

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