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moving under skies

NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy:  you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com. 

Faces in the Crowd, Valeria Luiselli

Faces in the Crowd - Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli's Faces in the Crowd was the first book from the Best Translated Book Award 2015 Longlist that I read. It is one of my favorite books that I have ever read from the BTBA titles, and will probably be one of the top books of my year. I will definitely look for Luiselli's next novel--due out this fall--and look forward to seeking out her collection of essays, Sidewalks.


It's just that good. 


I wasn't sure at first. On the first evening of reading, I remarked to my gentleman caller that it was a shame that it had been published so close to Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation--at first, the two books felt very similar:  both about young mothers with artistic goals; both told in a series of brief, elliptical vignettes. "It's not bad at all," I remarked, "It's just very similar. Like the same book, except told from an international perspective." 


I'm not sure when, exactly, it happened, but the similarities began to fall away very quickly, and by midbook--when the story takes a very unexpected turn--I was no longer comparing the two. This is not just the story of a young woman trying to balance motherhood and art; it is a meditation on influence, on places, on language, on the line between fiction and reality. This is a book that could probably be read back-to-front and work just as wel. It's a ghost story, Luiselli's narrator tells her family when they ask what she is writing, and it is:  a consideration of how literature and imagination conjures ghosts, on the fine line between writing or reading and being haunted. Much as I liked Dept. of Speculation, this is a book that I loved.